So I start my blog for the last time looking back at how far I have come in just over eight weeks, having been introduced to the ZEP and the Green fins initiative back at our original base of Marine Conservation Philippines in Zamboanguita, before heading here to Panglao in Bohol.
We still have a lot to achieve and get done before we leave in just over one weeks’ time, but we are working hard on conducting the remaining training presentations and assessments for the dive centres. We have met some fantastic people with great attitudes towards protecting and maintaining their local marine ecosystems, and are prepared to commit to working on lowering environmental impacts and educating guests alike.
The response from local officials within the Municipality about our presence and what we set out to achieve whilst working with dive and snorkel centres has been a positive one of acceptance and of support to help us when needed.
There have been long days working into the evenings and for some into the early hours of the morning, but we will get out of this experience what we put in. Nine weeks sound like a long time but it soon passes leaving you wondering where the time went. Our team’s success of building relationships and being the first team to work the area of Panglao, introducing and implementing the Green Fins initiative is something I feel particularly proud to be a part of.
There have been busy days, frustrating days and then the happy days when it all starts to fall into place. At times patience has been the key skill, working around ever changing schedules of dive centres and being prepared to reschedule sometimes on multiple occasions so that we can deliver the training and assessments. At the end we now have many new happy, excited and enthusiastic members determined to work and follow the Green Fins initiative to mitigate environmental impacts across their operations and educate their guests in best practice.
If I was asked to sum up my experience of what the ZEP has been for me, I would say the ZEP is designed to give you an experience of real life marine conservation, the scope of work that is involved across a broad area of disciplines from raising and applying for funding, to logistics, to carrying out the conservation surveys and studies themselves. Until I came on the programme I had no idea at all of how much work goes on behind the scenes with administration and other tasks that without these, the conservation tasks themselves would never happen.
I came on to the ZEP with a keen interest in habitat management wanting to work somewhere and somehow, in this particular field looking at protecting coral reefs. Having spent eight weeks working on the initiative I am still interested in habitat management, but my interest has shifted more towards mangroves and seagrass. Having a greater understanding of their roles within marine ecosystems, their overall importance and the devastation to them globally, I now plan to focus on finding a career in this area.
In all, the whole experience has been eye opening into the marine conservation sector, what is actually involved and what it takes to run a survey or project, and it has helped me focus on the direction I wish to take my career, in the industry.
It is an experience I am happy to have had and believe it will prove valuable when applying for jobs in the near future.