The first 2 weeks of the Zoox program were a series of lectures that provided a whirlwind tour of the knowledge that somebody working in the marine conservation sector would need to know. The lecture names were:
Marine Monitoring is about the power of citizen science and how to conduct reef and seagrass surveys
Marine Conservation and Diving covers the threats that diving can pose on marine ecosystems and how to mitigate those threats
Global Marine Conservation was the longest lecture and went into detail about the different organizations that are responsible for conservation issues whether it being in terms of policy making or funding, etc.
Blue Carbon were we learned about how marine ecosystems act as effective carbon sinks and can play a major role in mitigating climate change.
Shark Conservation was all about the issues and regulations pertaining to the conservation of sharks and other elasmobranches.
Green Fins project training was where we learned how to do the job we’d be doing once we arrived in Panglao.
Professional Development was and remains an ongoing module that deals with how we present ourselves to potential employers, what skills they are looking for and how we can make ourselves as desirable a candidate as possible. We also learned how to investigate the job market, as reading job descriptions takes a certain specific literacy as well.
These training modules took place at Marine Conservation Philippines (MCP) which is a field station in Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental. The lifestyle at MCP is pretty relaxed as most dive jobs likely are. Last year I spent the summer collecting benthic data in Akumal, Mexico and after the daily dives were done we just laid back in our hammocks and let the nitrogen leave our bodies. There were about 2 dozen volunteers with MCP that shared their living space with us while conducting their dive surveys. Most were from Northern Europe and all were very friendly.
On one of the free nights, Some of us went on a night dive where we saw cuttlefish (the first I’ve ever seen!), octopuses, loads of crabs, and even a squid that swam directly into my mask, which was startling to say the least.
This was the most relaxed time with Zoox when compared to what we’d be doing in Panglao, though we still had some projects and assignments to do. One assignment involved coming up with a proposal for a conservation project that would require funding from a government body. This was a very interesting exercise as we had to think about what sorts of things would appeal to investors and how best to sell your project. This along with the reading and dissection of job descriptions I mentioned earlier fall under the category of “Why didn’t they teach us this in University?!”. The more time I spend here with Zoox, the more apparent it becomes that Uni is mostly training us to follow assignments and memorize theory but job searching and professional consultation skills are things you’re expected to learn elsewhere.
We wrapped up our time with MCP with a big feast which included a full spit-roasted pork which was delicious. The next chapter is where we start to really develop skills and the stress will likely kick in soon. For my Personal Project, I have been assigned the task of organizing a beach clean-up in Panglao that will involve multiple stake-holders and community groups. I’m excited to be in charge of something real and to develop my project planning and management skills. communicating and negotiating with stake-holders is an important skill to have and I look forward to leaving the project with an enriched set of knowledge and ability.