Building Reefs Alongside The Manta Rays And Reef Sharks

By Lydia Glinski

_For Good: What’s your main inspiration when you were young, that drove your passion for the environment and marine life? 

It’s a funny story really. When I was little my favourite thing to watch on TV was Ocean Girl, this Australian show about a girl living alone on an island and being in the ocean every day and a research facility out in the ocean where people lived. I loved how she was like a mermaid and the ocean was her home. I really wanted to do the same and used any opportunity when I was near water to swim, dive and explore. From early on this has given me a curiosity towards the ocean. But I grew up near rivers, forests and mountains and never actually lived near the ocean until later in life (but always wanted to). I grew up in Germany and my family has always been living a simple and conscious life. Being environmentally conscious in Germany is quite common since recycling and reusing things is part of society. Later on I started on my own sustainability journey after seeing some documentaries and listening to podcasts. This initially started out as trying to live plastic free and later evolved into conservation projects and climate activism. But I knew deep down I want to work in marine conservation. Initially, this started as beach clean ups and underwater cleanups and after making some connections I got opportunities to gain hands-on experience. 

_For Good: Tell us your previous experience in the conservation project in Indonesia/Thailand/Maldives? (What was the project? What was your role? The impact of that program? Etc.)

I first started doing conservation work with my local dive centre in Bali. There I got involved with beach clean ups, underwater clean ups while diving, and coral conservation by cleaning and maintaining artificial reefs. Later on I moved to Bira (Sulawesi) where I joined Indo Ocean Project who offer in-depth conservation programmes. This is where I learnt the most from scientific diving, research methods, coral conservation, ocean conservation and so much more. Afterwards, I joined my friend’s coral project called Gaia One, a local programme she set up from scratch that focuses on coral conservation in South Sulawesi/Indonesia. I supported the team with daily activities such as coral maintenance and setting up new nurseries. The project has been growing very nicely over the last few years, involving the local community and now running regular coral conservation programmes to anyone who is interested to learn.

_For Good: How long have you been in the Maldives and what inspired you to move here?

I’ve been here for 4 months now. I was looking for an opportunity to grow and develop my skills. The Maldives is a great spot to carry out conservation work since most of the country is MPA (marine protected area) so the government and resorts really support conservation work. Marine life and reefs are also a big inspiration for me. Working alongside some of the local majestic creatures such as manta rays and reef sharks inspires me to keep their natural habitat healthy so I can enjoy seeing these animals. 

_For Good: Your main responsibility as a Marine Biologist at Vakkaru Maldives?

Establishing a new coral nursery, maintaining the existing and new coral nursery and artificial reef. Dive against debris (underwater clean ups, jetty clean ups and other clean ups such as sandbanks or local island beach clean ups). Educating guests on our marine ecosystems through weekly presentations and tailor-made snorkelling excursions. Having guests and staff shadow my work in order to get an introduction to marine life and conservation work. I also run the coral adoption programme where guests can actively make a difference and support our work here in the resort.

_For Good: What sort of impact do you want to bring to the local ecosystem through your work and why is this important for Vakkaru?

As mentioned I want to preserve natural habitats for marine life. The ocean gives us so much life and so many people are dependent on it whether it be through fishing or tourism, it is in everyone’s interest to keep the ocean healthy. Sadly, due to climate change and increasing ocean temperature and pollution, marine life is struggling. To keep enjoying our blue planet whether it be diving or snorkeling or just sitting at a clean beach enjoying sunsets gives me my main motivation to move forward and restore what can be restored. By building reefs I can give back to the ocean and also let others enjoy the reef. This is important for Vakkaru in order for guests to have an unforgettable experience enjoying the underwater world here in Baa Atoll.

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