Humans rely on the ocean, but can the ocean really say the same for us?
It plays a crucial role in tackling the climate crisis, generating oxygen we need while absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
So for #WorldOceanDay, we spoke with marine biologists Emma Thwaites and Jasmine Stone to find out the best and worst bits about having their office underwater and why it’s more important than ever that we keep pushing for action.
Here’s what they had to say:
It’d be great to hear a little bit about yourselves and why you decided to become marine biologists?
ET: I’m from a little village in the South of England and since I was a kid I remember wanting to spend my time in the ocean. At age 12 I’d already decided I would dedicate my life to being a marine biologist or oceanographer or environmental scientist – I just couldn’t decide which one!
JS: I’m originally from Portsmouth, so always near the sea as well, but I’m currently based in the Maldives! When I was younger, I wanted to be a dolphin trainer, probably like most 5 year olds, so my dad planted the seed of ‘you need to study marine biology to do that’. As I got older, I realised a dolphin trainer probably wasn’t as good of a job as it sounded and I didn’t want to see them used for entertainment.
What’s the best thing about working in the ocean?
ET: I’d say experiencing a whole other world that most people can’t comprehend or imagine, being able to call the ocean my “office” is my childhood dream so it doesn’t really feel like a job.
JS: For me the best thing is that everyday is different. Even if you go to the same reef everyday, there will always be a different animal or behaviour than you’ve ever seen before.
…And the worst?
ET: The worst part has to be seeing the damage that people have caused. Even in small towns, the pollution we can create from fishing, littering and chemicals is devastating.
JS: I completely agree. The worst thing is seeing the damage over time caused by humans and feeling quite helpless about it; coral bleaching for example. (Also, the sun burns!)
How would say the climate crisis effects your day-to-day work?
ET: I worked on the Great Barrier Reef for over a year, and seeing first hand how the impacts of rising water temperatures, more frequent storms and increased tourism can affect those reefs can be disheartening.
JS: There is not a day that goes by that I do not see trash in the ocean, or some type of fishing line! On the plus side, the next generation of politicians, CEO’s and the ‘people’ are more aware and are more proactive in making a change.
Do you have any tips for people wanting to help tackle climate change’s impact on the oceans?
ET: Get involved in educating yourself about your local coastline, most educational platforms are free and easy to use- you can reach out to organisation such as PADI to see what you can do to get involved. Spread your awareness with the people around you, have those tough conversations with the people who don’t want to listen. The more people who have the knowledge the more powerful it becomes.
JS: Small differences do make a change even if they feel silly ie. those annoying paper straws. Reusable bags, avoiding single use plastic, using public transportation, electric cars/scooters, reducing your intake of fish/sea food, recycling and ultimately holding your local council/government accountable to make greener choices for your town/city/country. It all helps more than you’d probably think.
And lastly, we have to ask what your favourite sea creature is?
ET: A tough question to answer from someone who loves everything about it! I can’t give you one favourite but I’ll give you a few instead: I always enjoy bumping into inquisitive octopus and cuttlefish, I explain to my students how amazing giant clams are (even though they don’t believe me), the elusive nautilus is one I love to read about, and of course you can’t forget the majestic oceanic manta ray. There’s too many to mention…
JS: Hmm, it’s tough but my all time favourite animal is a Blue Whale, and I would love to see them one day. I can’t even begin to comprehend how big they are is, it is the largest living creature in the world! 30m!!
However my current favourite are sea turtles. They just eat and sleep all day (the dream!), and I find each one I encounter has a different personality. I have been lucky enough to see all the stages of their life cycles this year; Nesting mother, babies hatching, juveniles and sadly death. So it’s been a big year for me and the sea turtles.
For more information about which organisations you can join to help take action for #WorldOceanDay and beyond, head to the link our bio.