The Power of the Presentation

With the June – August Zoox Experience Programme just a few months away, our Programmes Officer Alan provides some of his best tips for successful delivery of training and presentations.

Dress to fit the role and expectation.

As much as I hate to admit it, being the same person in each of the above photos, fromAlan.jpg an external perspective, the only person I would trust to present to government staff on environmental policy is the person wearing smart trousers and a shirt (Picture 3). But it is all about tailoring your look to the role. If you fit in with your audience they are much more likely to accept what you are saying as they already feel like they are on a social level with you. Training a dive centre’s staff in a suit is not the best way to action change just as attending a government meeting in a vest will not earn respect.

A good rule to live by is to be better dressed, than the least well-dressed person in the room. Look like you belong and you will be accepted as a peer, whatever the scenario (moustache and cravat optional!).

Give individual attention to each of the people you are speaking to.

This is especially true for smaller groups of up to 30 individuals. During a 45 minute presentation, you can give each audience member a cumulative minute of attention. By making eye contact and speaking directly to individuals they will feel much more engaged in the presentation or training and less likely to fall asleep! If it is only a small group in a classroom then get everyone to introduce themselves at the beginning, make them a part of the experience and get to know them. This way you can tailor the delivery of information to the individual. For example correct oil disposal to the compressor boy and boat captain, not throwing anchors to the boat crew and role model diving behaviour to the dive guides.

Minimise your use of notes – be guided by your tools

By remembering the verbal part of your presentation, it will allow it to flow more naturally rather than looking down at notes or cards and then losing your place, frantically searching and flipping cards, dropping them on the floor, attempting to reorder them unsuccessfully before crying and dying.

Instead be guided by your visual presentation, if using slides then “extend” your screen to the projector and keep track of what is next using the presenter mode on your laptop. This way you can guide your speech and whatever you do, never just read words off a slide!

Don’t Fidget

Usted 3e your hands to emphasise your points. Draw in your audience with body language. Keep your arms slighter wider than your body, face the palms up. While not fidgeting, don’t go the opposite way and make every move eccentric, leaping from one side of the screen to the other! Watch a couple of Ted Talks and look at how they move, how they talk and how they stand. Build this in to your presentation skills.

“Put down that clicky pen, leave the pocket fluff alone, keep your hair out of your face, and phone in your bag.”

Stick to the timing

Value other people’s time! If someone shows up to a 45-minute presentation and it takes an hour, then tdownload.jpghey will be frustrated and clock watching wanting to leave. If the presentation is shorter than scheduled, then people will not feel like you have given enough and will leave unsatisfied. Not sticking to the timing also has implications if you are speaking at a large conference. Everyone will be expected to speak within a carefully planned time slot and not sticking to the allotted time has knock effects for the rest of the program. So, make sure you are well rehearsed and don’t be tempted to add something in on the spur of the moment unless you know you can squeeze it in.

 Animations are ugly!

Boings, Lazers, Whizzes, Bouncing and Spins are best left in your high school IT classroom. No matter how fun you think they are it will make your presentation look amateurish despite all your hard work setting their timings. Making small amounts of text ‘appear’, as necessary, is the limit.

 Design it well

Comic Sans is ugly, Arial is (relatively) beautiful. Remember this!  Stick to simple fonts that are easy to read and your audience won’t be lost. Also think carefully This is in no way easy to read.jpgabout your colour scheme. Never use yellow and white together (I remember a terrible 2 hour lecture from a PhD student back when I was an undergraduate. I am sure her subject was
interesting but she has used yellow text on a white background. It was simply impossible to read) and spare a thought for the colour blind before you use red and green. Often it is best to stick to the basics. Dark blue or black on contrasting background is your safest bet. And don’t forget to include plenty of pictures. Visual stimuli are much better at capturing the attention than mountains of text which will go unread, or detract attention away from what you are saying.


But most of all relax and have fun. If you are enjoying the presentation then your audience will feel this and reciprocate. Be bright, smile lots and be safe in the knowledge that it will soon be over!

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Looking backward and forward!

After 8 weeks spent with my chaps of the Zoox Experience Programme, here I am… Cebu city! … where I am waiting for my flight that will bring me back to Manila in 24 hours.

It is quite weird to be back in a big city after 8 weeks of isolation near Zamboanguita and on Malapascua. Everything appears much more populated, bigger and noisier, which it’s obviously not just an appearance, but the difference is even more blatant!

I had to leave Malapascua a bit sooner than expected. Two days of fever and an infection provided me with the “nice” opportunity of visiting Cebu’s hospital; thankfully, nothing too serious, with antibiotics becoming my new best friend for seven days.

The early departure has resulted in a longer stay in Cebu for waiting for my flight. In the meantime, it has provided me with more time for some reflections on the two months I have just spent in the Philippines, as well as the next ones!


It may be the end of ZEP, but for me it’s also the start of a 7 month travel through Southeast Asia: Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos … here we come! This is also only a goodbye to the Philippines, as we will end up here again before going back to Europe.


I am now in this weird situation where nostalgia and excitement are mixing.

Looking backward… the ZEP was an experience I will not forget!


Steph, Kate, myself, Jenny and Angie on our first week in the Philippines.


On one hand, I will miss the other volunteers Kate, Steph, Jenny and Angie, as well as the Zoox team, Alan and Sam, with whom I have learnt a lot and had a lot of fun. I have so many good memories that it is not possible to list all of them; all I can say now is THANK YOU for this amazing experience!



On the other hand, I will miss my time spent on Malapascua collaborating with dive centres and local dive guides, while getting all this practical and professional experience working on marine conservation projects. It was sometimes intense and tiring, but always interesting and rewarding, and this experience has given me useful new perspectives on my professional career.


Beautiful view of Malapascua from the boat !

Looking forward… I must not complain… it does not look bad at all!

7 month of freedom through Southeast Asia is quite a nice perspective.

At the very beginning of ZEP, I presented myself as being a sponge, absorbing and digesting all the useful information provided during the training.


I have enjoyed it so much, that I don’t see any reason to stop. However, I may decide to evolve and become another species of sponge. Indeed, instead of digesting new information and professional experience about marine conservation, I will start absorbing new Asian cultures, adventures and encounters to make me grow!

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A little shark love

I wasn’t always such a shark lover. After watching Jaws as a child, I refused to go in the swimming pool for weeks. Those days are long gone though and I have become an avid shark advocate.

As I am sure you are all aware there is a war on sharks right now. A full blown war that sharks, all types of sharks are facing. They are caught for their fins, their oily livers, used for food and of course because they are perceived to be big, bad, human eating predators.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that 50% of sharks are threatened or near threatened ( The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world. With its strong scientific base, the IUCN Red List is recognized as the most authoritative guide to the status of biological diversity.


Shark liver oil is sometimes used in cosmetics and vaccines. So a shark may have died for your vanity. Many brands of sunscreen, make up and moisturizers contain shark liver oil or squalene. It’s favoured for it’s moisturizing properties. A United Nations report lists more than 50 shark species that are fished for their oil, several of which are currently listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Sharks have oily livers which helps them maintain their buoyancy without the need for an air bladder. There are lots of alternatives to squalene, including olive oil or wheat germ. However alternatives are usually more expensive than shark oil. Like Unilever, L’Oreal is currently completing the phase-out of production with shark-based squalene and its substitution with the plant-based ingredient. Beiersdorf, LVMH, Henkel, Boots, Clarins, Sisley and La Mer (an Estée Lauder brand) also have either made the decision to stop using shark-based squalene or had a policy to never use it in the first place, according to information the European headquarters of these companies provided to Oceana. 

Sharks are also prized for their fins, which is made into shark fin soup. Shark finning targets 23-73 million sharks a year and the majority of the shark is thrown back in the ocean. Less than 10% of the shark is used, it is extremely wasteful. Many finning operations are illegal operations and most sharks are alive when their fins are cut off and they are thrown back in the ocean to drown. The top shark fin importers are Hong Kong (58%) and China(38%). The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization identified the top 20 countries that are responsible for 80% of the Global Shark Catch. Indonesia, India, Spain and Taiwan account for over 35% of that catch. These figures are also probably a conservative estimate of what is actually going on.


Sharks are slow to reproduce with most species of sharks only reaching sexual maturity after 12-15 years. They also have a lengthy pregnancy of 9 to 22 months with a resting period between litters. Furthering the shark crisis.

Sharks aren’t the man eating, killing machines they are portrayed as in the media. 98 people last year were attacked by sharks with 6 being killed. Considering the number of people who enter the oceans, if sharks wanted to kill more of us, they easily could. Shark attacks are reported world wide and with more people having phones can check those articles more quickly, increasing the fear. Humans kill more sharks in a minute than sharks kill people in a year. 
One study in 2014 by Tulane University put the chance at dying from a shark at 1 in 8 million, compared with 1 in 90 for a car accident, 1 in 1,600,000 for impact by a space rock, or 1 in 195 million for winning the PowerBall lottery. Cows, vending machines and ants all kill more people annually than sharks. 
How can you help sharks?
Research the ingredients in your cosmetics, everything from hair conditioners to lip gloss. Don’t buy cosmetics that use shark oil in their products.
Don’t eat at restaurants that serve shark fin soup.
When you order fish and chips and they tell you that it’s made of flake, you are probably eating shark (especially in the UK and Australia). Tell them you don’t want to be contributing to the extinction of a species.
Don’t use Fed Ex for shipping. Switch to UPS who does not accept shark fins. 
Don’t fly with airlines that allow shark fins to be transported. 
Support companies that are fighting for sharks, my favourite is:
You can make a difference in the survival of sharks. Spread the word, get involved.


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Why Malapascua?

Dear friends, my time in the Philippines is almost over. This tiny island called Malapascua has been my base for the last 6 weeks working as a Green Fins Coordinator. But why did the conservation program bring us here? There are 7107 islands in the Philippines, why Malapascua?

Malapascua has a thriving dive industry. There used to be 8 dive operators on the island, now there are 21. Diving is the only reason to make the effort to come here, to be more specific Thresher Sharks are the reason divers come to Malapascua – to dive at Monad Shoal. These sharks look very distinctive with a long tail fin that can be the same length as their bodies (2-3m). The tail fin is used like a whip to stun their prey.


Monad Shoal is famous for being the only place in the world where thresher sharks can be seen regularly at and just before sunrise. What is so special about Monad Shoal that the sharks go there every day? These sharks are a nocturnal and pelagic (deep water) species but they come up to shallower depths of 25-30m between 05:30-07:30, not to find food, but to be cleaned. Small wrasse fish clean the gills and mouth of the sharks and remove parasites from their bodies.


This week, I went to Monad Shoal for the first time and it was amazing!!

I was so thrilled to see a thresher shark I almost forgot to breathe! (the number one rule of scuba diving is never hold your breath!). The sharks circle around the seamount (underwater mountain) waiting to be cleaned and our guide strategically positioned us in a sandy area so we’d have a great view and cause no damage to the reef – very important to remember while diving! As we swam back towards our boat, we saw another shark at 15m, which apparently is not very common to see at that depth so that was extra exciting and we all did a little happy wiggle dance underwater! Our group emerged from the water with big smiles and feeling exhilarated.

The diving industry on Malapascua is dependent on Monad Shoal and the regular presence of the thresher sharks. The sharks are the reason divers come to Malapascua. The tourists who come to Malapascua sustain the livelihoods of the locals. Fact. Because of the sharks and the diving industry, the locals have jobs and can provide for their families.

All businesses benefit from those who come to dive, from local accommodations to bars, restaurants, shops and of course the dive centres. Tourism however is both an opportunity and a threat and must be controlled if it is to be sustainable. If the locals benefit from tourism, then how is it a threat?

To put it bluntly, divers are damaging the coral reefs around Malapascua. How is this happening?

  • fins coming into contact with fragile coral and breaking it (this is the most common cause of damage)
  • fins stirring up sand which then smothers the coral, this can also disturb animals that live in the sand
  • sitting/standing on the reefs which can break the coral
  • equipment such as depth gauge, spare regulator and camera hanging down which then can hit corals, causing them to break
  • touching corals which can break them
  • resting camera equipment on corals to take photographs
  • not being aware of surroundings while taking photographs can cause damage
  • not having good buoyancy skills means you are less able to control your position in the water

How are these threats controlled and minimised? Green Fins is the solution!

During these past 6 weeks, we have trained almost 200 dive centre staff on the island to empower them to help change the behaviour of divers so the above situations do not happen. As well as training we also gave the dive centres lots of materials they can use to help get the message across to their customers, such as this poster:


Attention Divers! Follow these do’s and don’ts to protect all marine life and help keep the reefs healthy.

The above threats are all about corals and do not mention sharks so what is the connection between coral reefs and sharks? This diagram shows how corals support everything on the reef:


To relate this to Monad Shoal, if there is no healthy coral, there are no fish (fish live on the coral reefs), if there are no fish to clean them, there are no sharks.

One dive centre manager made this honest statement:

“no sharks, no divers, no business, no jobs”.

By following the Green Fins advice, the impact on the coral reefs is reduced. Fact.

Green Fins works! The results of our assessments on the dive centres have shown a decrease in the negative effect on the coral reefs, which is fantastic news. The dive centres on Malapascua are adopting the Green Fins guidelines enthusiastically and in so doing are protecting not only the reef and the thresher sharks but also their business and jobs and of course meaning that divers will have beautiful healthy reefs to visit for many years.


Thank you for reading!




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Have you been sunbathing? No, I have dengue fever!

I suppose after a summer of several accidents whilst working in Greece it was inevitable that I would end up in hospital at some point! However I could not have predicted how, why and when that would happen.

Accident number 1 – fell over backwards onto my bike and put out my right hand out to break my fall and ended up with a sprained wrist.

Accident number 2 – Sprained ankle this time. After stepping down off a coach my left ankle rolled over and I could hardly walk. I hobbled around on crutches for 3 days and relied on lifts to and from work, this was the most serious I had hurt myself ever.

Accident number 3 – I collided with a moped whilst riding my bike and hurt my left leg.

Accident number 4 – Whilst waiting in a queue of traffic on my bike for the lights to change, I was hit by a car, as I fell over, I just thought ‘not again!’ Luckily I wasn’t hurt at all but the bike was damaged. I just couldn’t believe my bad luck at being in yet another accident and 3 out of 4 of them involving my bike. After that I decided to walk to work!

I made it out of Greece in one piece in September and less than 2 months later I found myself admitted to hospital in the Philippines!

Having completed the 2 week studying part of the Zoox marine conservation course, we had moved to the small island of Malapascua to start the practical work experience as assessors for Green Fins as explained in my last blog (you don’t know what you don’t know 2 Nov). After 10 days on the island I began to feel unwell – big headache and my face, neck and chest felt very hot. I had to cancel my dive the next day and I spent the next 3 days in bed, taking paracetamol to try and reduce the fever. My manager Alan thought I had dengue fever and recommended I go to hospital on day 4 of the fever. He has had dengue and so recognised the symptoms and knew what to do.

With a temperature of 38.6 degrees I set off with Alan to go to the hospital. Malapascua does not have a hospital and so we had to go to one on the mainland in the city of Cebu. We took a small rowing boat out to the big boat that would take us across to the mainland port, however because of low tide we had to then step down off the big boat to another small rowing boat to take us to shore. There was quite a lot of swell so timing had to be right to step down into it, I was feeling quite shaky but with help was able to step down to the small boat, as we made our way to shore, we were hit sideways by more waves that almost capsized us! Thankfully the car journey of 3.5 hours was uneventful, just the normal Philippine way of driving – honking at everyone, overtaking every vehicle and sudden braking to avoid oncoming traffic whilst overtaking – often on bends or going up hill!

I was admitted to the hospital after blood tests confirmed I had dengue fever. I was a bit confused when they asked me if I had been sunbathing as my face was so red – err no people, I’ve been in bed for 3 days!

The staff who looked after me were lovely and competent even though they did all look about 12 years old but without fail came to check my vital signs (blood pressure, temperature and screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-17-12-12pulse) every 4 hours and I mean EVERY 4 hours. For the whole week I was in hospital I did not get a single night of good sleep. Every night I had at least three people coming in to see me between midnight and six am – to take blood, check the iv bag, take my temperature (in my armpit) and even though it was the middle of the night, they entered with a very cheery and loud ‘good morning m’am’. I’m sorry but it is not good morning when it is clearly the middle of the night and I am asleep, needless to say the response they got from me was far less enthusiastic!

Twice a day a small army of people (medical students, nurses) came to see me on their rounds, this involved about 9 of them coming in the room, looking at me then disappearing again just as quickly, usually one of them took a quick look at the IV bag but that was it – in and out in 10 seconds.

Shortly after their morning visit my doctor came to check on me. Doctor Bimbo Tequillo. I swear I am not making up that name!

He assured me I wasn’t going to die (thanks doc!), explained the results of the blood tests and said I could stay as long as I wanted. After several days of fever, the platelets and white blood cells drop. The normal platelet count is between 140,000 to 440,000, when I was admitted my count was 58,000, over the next 2 days it continued to drop to 35,000. This did rather concern me but Dr Bimbo was not worried (he was a very cheerful chap!) so I trusted him. Dengue fever is treated just with an IV drip to keep you hydrated until the fever goes and the platelet count increases.

Dr Tequillo and the staff were wonderful, the food was not!


I am British, I don’t eat rice and vegetables for breakfast!

Here is an example of one of my meals – burnt roast potatoes with a slice of orange!


It was always amusing to see just a pile of carbs (usually mashed potato) on the plate. The salad or vegetables were always in a separate dish. One night I even got a four course dinner – soup, salad, spaghetti and a slice of pineapple for dessert!

After one week of lying in bed with the IV drip in my hand I was finally well enough to be discharged. Hurray! So here I am back on the island of Malapascua, enjoying the fresh sea breeze and sunshine and hoping the rest of the year will be accident & illness free!



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Capacity-building: one word for unlimited questioning!

While starting the work as Green Fins assessor on Malaspacua, I also got assigned to a personal project aiming to further develop my professional skills and support the Green Fins team in its activities.

Here is the title of this project:

Develop and deliver advanced capacity building for the Green Fins Ambassador Programme in consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Instead of detailing the various actions I am trying to put in place to achieve the project’s objectives, I prefer sharing my reflections on what capacity building means… what a challenge!

The first objective of the Green Fins ambassadors programme was to establish a permanent presence of Green Fins in different locations where there are active members. This would ensure a continuous support to dive centres and communities for minimising their environmental impact on the marine environment.

Of course, for achieving such objective, it was rightly deemed necessary to identify the motivated local people and to build their capacity for implementing Green Fins values.

When consulting my friend Wikipedia about capacity building, this is the definition he provided me:

Community capacity building (CCB), also referred to as capacity development, is a conceptual approach to social or personal development that focuses on understanding the obstacles that inhibit people, governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations from realizing their development goals while enhancing the abilities that will allow them to achieve measurable and sustainable results.

Thanks to the advices of my other friend Google, I have received the opportunity to consult an interesting book:

“Capacity-building: An Approach to People-centred Development” – Deborah Eade 1997

While the author insists on the fact that there is a panel of definition for capacity-building, this is her understanding of capacity-building:

Capacity building is an approach to development – Strengthening people’s capacity to determine their own values and priorities, and to organise themselves to act on them, is the basis of development. (Eade and Williams, 1995:9)

telechargementThe word “capacity building” is not new to me as you can hear it being used quite often by NGOs and politicians, often mentioned as THE solution to a lot of problems, especially in development cooperation. However, when I have started concretely working on it, I have realised how complex is the issue and started to think that a lot of people are using the word without really understanding all the ins and outs.

Don’t get me wrong… I don’t consider myself as an expert on capacity-building… far from it!

Let’s say that I have a lot of open questions that, in order to be answered, will probably need a lot more experience than the one I will acquired on Malapascua… which shows the complexity of the process.

I will not be able to develop all my current questions, so here is a sample:

Is capacity building only about training?

Training seems to be one important basis for capacity building, but what would happen if people are trained without knowing how using their newly acquired knowledge?

Whatever the quantity of training provided, if people don’t understand how it applies to their own reality, training may not have the expected impact.

So… training for the sake of training is probably not an appropriate option. On the contrary, complete different tools (other than training) may need to be developed. This cannot be identified without a deep understanding of people’s needs and gaps, based on their personal experience.


How can you be sure that the appropriate tools are provided?

Once people’s needs and gaps are identified, it sounds logical to develop the adapted training (or tools), but how can you ensure that to training/tool is adequate?

It has already happened that training/tools completely failed to tackle the related issues because it did not take into account all the aspects of people’s life.

cartoon_australia_2657338fIt is especially true when it comes to tackling environmental issues. Indeed, if some conservation work is done with local communities, but without taking into account their social, economic and cultural realities, the training/tool may not be appropriate.

Limiting your understanding to the needs and gaps is probably not enough and extending it to the global picture would then become a necessity. In addition, it also appears important to take some distance with your own way of thinking and functioning, as what works for you may not work for them.

Who is actually learning?

Lots of people would think that capacity building is about having somebody who knows, teaching solutions to people who don’t know.

When looking at the current stage of my project, I am definitely learning more from the ambassadors than the contrary.

So, what if it was a win-win situation, where both parties were learning from each other?

From this perspective, some of the tools or procedures developed through the capacity-building activities can be adapted in other locations, and become the basis of a revolutionary process. However, we should keep in mind that this revolutionary process would never have been developed without the input of the local communities at first.

What this is all about then?

As you can see, my reflection is still scattered, not mature and needs some more development.

My current and personal understanding indicates that capacity-building is firstly about listening!

It’s appears essential to always listen carefully to the experience of local people … to their issues … to their successes … to their way of thinking … to their way of working … to their way of living.

Secondly, it is about taking the necessary time!

It will probably take years to develop revolutionary tools for capacity-building… to understand the local and global picture… to test the various ideas… to follow-up on them… and to see how it goes once you step out of the process.

I will definitely not have enough time to tackle all those aspects, but it’s a time I am really happy to devote on such interesting topic.


Still reflecting on the absorbed information !

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Where have all the fish gone?

I have just gotten back from a morning snorkel. The weather is warm and sunny, the water blue and I have been looking forward to being here in the heart of the coral triangle hoping to expand my fish identification skills. The only problem I didn’t anticipate, there are no fish. I’ve done a few dives and snorkels since my arrival last week and I am constantly alarmed by the fact that there are no fish. This is a slight exaggeration, there are fish but very, very few. The ones I do see, are small frys (baby fish) which don’t really have enough meat to be worth eating. It would be a gross under statement to say that it’s alarming. It’s terrifying.

The WWF describes the Coral Triangle like this.

The Coral Triangle, the global centre of marine biodiversity, is a 6 million km2 area spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands. Within this nursery of the seas live 76% of the world’s coral species, 6 of the world’s 7 marine turtle species, and at least 2,228 reef fish species.


2,228 species of reef fish! Then where are they? Why am I unable to see anything other than puffer fish (toxic to predators, including humans), the odd butterfly fish and I’ve seen exactly 3 file fish. And believe you me, I’m looking. The Coral Triangle is supposed to have more coral reef fish diversity than anywhere else in the world. 8% (235 species) of the coral reef fishes in the Coral Triangle are endemic (found nowhere else in the world).

Fish are an important source of food and livelihood for coastal communities. The reefs in the Coral Triangle support about 120 million people and of those some 2.25 million are fishermen. Overfishing is the first problem that comes to mind, overfishing is when we catch more fish than the system can support. There are craters from dynamite fishing visible on dives, as well as old fishing nets strung along the reefs. So why should you care? You don’t eat reef fish from the Coral Triangle. But you like breathing right? Do you use antibiotics or know someone who is suffering with Cancer?

New coral colonies need smooth, hard surfaces to settle on. If there are no fish to eat the algae, then there will be no suitable surfaces for coral to establish themselves. Algae, which grows faster than coral, will then compete with coral for sunlight to photosynthesize. No sunlight equals death to coral. Coral uses carbon dioxide from the ocean, along with Calcium ions to build their skeleton. This is important because it allows corals to become a carbon sink for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.


Algae taking over a coral reef. 

A Caribbean sponge that grows in coral reefs, is the backbone of Ara-C which is used in chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma and leukemia. Coral are stationary animals so a lot of them have evolved defensive chemicals that are showing promising results as treatments for heart disease, dementia and arthritis.


Species; tectitethya the species used in Ara-C 

Corals are helping us in a lot of ways, isn’t it time we help them? So what can you do? Educate yourself. Don’t support fish feeding when snorkeling or diving.

Eat responsibly. You vote with your dollar, chose restaurants that serve sustainable choices.

Chose reef safe sunscreen.

Volunteer when you are on holidays, do reef and beach clean ups.

Start a new holiday tradition of donating to NGO’s.

I remember walking along a beach in Thailand, and thinking I wish somebody would do something about the garbage littering the beach….until I realized, I am someone. And you are too.

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Attending policy meetings…. a good way for diving into a cultural panel !

On our third day of the ZEP’s placement, we had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the local policy makers. Armed with my experience of policy meetings at EU level, I had the interesting opportunity to compare the two types of organisation.


Let’s start with the policy meetings at EU level…

Quite formal and organised, each Member State and stakeholder has a “table name” that is put on its vertical position for asking the floor. Suddenly, your name becomes the one from the country or organisation you represents.

> “Germany, you have the floor!” How sexy….

Reach conference, European Commission, 23 September

This is how EU meetings look like!

Even though some conflicting debates may come up, interruption rarely happens and the chair manages the speaking time so that everyone has a chance to express himself.

Micros are also dealt in an organised way, as it is not possible to use more than two micros at the same time. If someone forgets to turn it off or dares to speak without the micro, it is nicely but quickly highlighted to him.

Finally, presentations are rarely interrupted, with potential questions being asked at the end. In case someone does not correctly estimate the time of its presentation or exceeds the allocated time, the chairman gently intervene at one point.


What about the policy meetings in the Philippines?

I just had the opportunity to attend one at local level, so my judgement is more limited. However, this is what I could spot.


This is of course a parodic way of presenting the meeting !

Although it seems to be accepted that the chair has the priority, the person taking the floor is the one speaking the loudest.

Interruption seems to be accepted, either during presentation or debates, while jokes are commonly made during the discussions.

Micros are randomly used and, when used, the loudest then becomes… louder!

On the other hand, some people prefer to whisper questions to the presenters’ buddy rather than the whole assembly.

Finally, the chairman sometimes needs to use his gavel in order to request silence or adjourn the meeting.


This would be the best conclusion following this comparison:

Policy meetings are interesting indicators for cultural variation! In that particular case, there are two types of organisation for two quite opposite cultures.


Does that mean that what we would call the “un-organised” meeting is less efficient?

I am sure a lot of people would say so… and yet…

My limited experience in Philippino meetings does not allow me to judge them objectively, but when it comes to EU meetings, order and organisation do not always rhyme with efficiency.productivity

Some people can talk for hours without being interrupted, but does not necessarily provide relevant information. What I call the “blah blah” can be used quite often in order to show an appearance of “decision making” which in the end is not really concretised, or takes a lot of time for being implemented.

In any case, as final and personal statement, I would say that the Philippino meeting, although less organised, was much more interactive to see; not counting Philippino’s hospitality!


Obviously… still continuing to act like a sponge!


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Plastic world

I’m currently living on a small island in the Philippines called Malapascua. When I say small, I mean small, it’s 1 km by 3km and ringed by white sand beaches. If you aren’t a scuba diver you may not know that this island is the only place in the world with almost guaranteed sightings of thresher sharks. So this makes it a bit of a hotspot for divers from around the world. Now you may think that because it’s an island renowned for it’s marine environment, it is free of plastic pollution. However, you’d be wrong. Some of you know that I have traveled extensively often to off the beaten track locations and I have yet to find a place that isn’t polluted with plastic. And lots of it.



I recently read that the average person uses a plastic bag for 12 minutes before discarding it. Only 12 minutes. And most bags will not get recycled (1-3% worldwide and about 9% in the US). Plastic bags take between 10-20 years to degrade. A lot of those bags will end up as litter in our cities, in our forests and of course, our marine environments. So why should this matter to you? Why should you shake up your convenient routine?



Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage patch? This is an area characterized by a high level of pelagic plastics that are held in a patch by our ocean currents. Size estimates vary between the size of Texas to twice the size of the United States. And guess what, there is another one now, the North Atlantic Garbage Patch. Sit with that thought for a minute. Let that really sink in. There are two very large ocean patches filled with our 12 minutes of convenience. These plastics are getting banged around and break down into smaller and smaller pieces, called microplastics.


Microplastics are also very good at absorbing toxins. So as these particles are floating around they are collecting PCB’s, DDT and PAH’s. These toxic, plastic particles are then ingested by seabirds, fish and marine animals. If you are eating fish regularly then I strongly urge you find out more about the fish you are consuming. These microplastics are also estimated to kill 1 million seabirds a year and 100,000 marine animals like turtles, whales and manatees.

So what can we do? We can limit our use of plastics. This may seem overwhelming as plastic is everywhere but there are better choices out there. I’d also start small, the key here is changing behaviour and change takes getting used to. So maybe pick one plastic item you use often; plastic bags, cigarette lighters, water bottles, straws and look for an environmentally friendly alternative. Reusable bags are everywhere these days, invest in a Zippo lighter you really like or better yet, quit smoking. (Cigarette butts are consistently one of the main sources of ocean pollution). Ladies switch to tampons that don’t have plastic applicators (O.B. for example). Reusable water bottles and coffee mugs are fashionable and lightweight. Talk to people about plastics; ask your store to provide paper bags, write to your governments asking to ban plastics. You don’t have to do everything but you need to do something and you need to start today, with one thing. So what’s your one thing going to be?

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You don’t know what you don’t know

Greetings dear friends! In my first blog I told you how I am embarking on a career change from hospitality to marine conservation by spending 8 weeks in the Philippines learning about marine conservation and getting practical work experience.

Several people have asked me what I will do after the course finishes in December and my answer was I don’t know. This might seem a daft reply but the truth is I didn’t know many things, especially about employment opportunities for someone without a scientific education.

As a friend succinctly told me ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ and she was right.


I have completed the two weeks studying part of the course and I now know what I didn’t know, including the following:


The world’s oceans are more important than the rainforests when it comes to absorbing carbon dioxide – the cause of global warming.


How many destructive fishing techniques actually exist and how they are harmful to other animals and have led to fish stocks being depleted.


And this doesn’t even mention cyanide fishing or long line fishing!









The numerous organisations, initiatives, policies, agreements and conventions that exist to protect marine life.


How those international policies and agreements are implemented and managed nationally and regionally within each country.

One needs to have endless patience to see positive change both politically and in the sea – for governments to agree, for treaties to be signed and effected, for fish stocks to recover, for corals to grow.

Good conservation work is always based on sound science but communication is key – the results, conclusions and recommendations of research need to be communicated effectively to governments, policy makers and the general public. Public support cannot be underestimated in any campaign.



After a successful campaign, Lego ended its 50 year partnership with Shell. Due to public pressure Shell pulled out of drilling for oil in Alaska.








Marine conservation covers such a huge range, so where are people focusing their efforts? Here are some of the areas of marine conservation one could choose:

Habitat protection e.g. coral reefs, which are home to many species. Fisheries. Marine chemical pollution. Marine litter. Policy. Sharks/finning. Marine mammals. Invasive species. International trade and vulnerable species to name a few.

These many aspects of marine conservation require a multitude of approaches:

Laws and policies and their enforcement. Data collection and scientific research. Marine protected area management. Alternative livelihoods e.g. tourism, less destructive fishing methods. Area based management. Ecosystem based management and protection. Capacity development – education through awareness campaigns and involvement of stakeholders.


One of the most encouraging things our trainers have told me is that not having a science background is not a disadvantage, as marine conservation is as much about managing people as it is about scientific research.

So now I know what I didn’t know, am I any clearer to deciding what I want to do? There are different issues that interest me so for the time being I will do some further reading and research, however I am certainly feeling much more positive that I will be able to put my skills to use to make a positive impact.

Now the studying part of the eight week course has finished, the practical work experience begins! I’m working as a volunteer for a United Nations Environment Programme initiative called Green Fins.

This unique opportunity is the chance to develop some new valuable skills which will be needed to apply for conservation jobs.

Green Fins focuses on protecting coral reefs as they are a valuable habitat for many species and they are fragile and slow growing. A set of guidelines has been developed for diving centres to follow so they (and their scuba dive customers) can reduce their environmental impact. It is simple and effective. No scientific degree needed – just common sense!


The sad truth is that many divers act irresponsibly under water (standing and sitting on the delicate reef, touching/chasing animals) and are damaging the very environment they want to enjoy.


This is NOT acceptable behaviour!! This can stress the animal, transmit disease and remove their protective coating. 

The Green Fins guidelines empowers the dive staff to prevent this type of behaviour occurring as well as ensuring the general operation of the dive centre is as environmentally friendly as possible.

How do I fit into this? My role as a Green Fins coordinator is to assess, train and provide environmental consultation to the dive centres.

Every year the dive centre is assessed according to the guidelines; from this we are able to determine their impact on the environment and consequently offer advice on how to reduce that impact. It has been proven that those dive centres that follow the guidelines have less damaging impact on the coral reefs and marine life.


Protect me – dive the Green Fins way!

I hope I have enlightened you a little and perhaps now you know something new you didn’t know!

Thanks for reading!




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