Life below water: How TBA has influenced my work in marine conservation

by Vanessa Didon

The TBA training has grown not only to influence the careers of many young scientists but also for many mid-career scientists and conservation managers working across several hotspots.   In increasing it’s far-reaching impact in capacity building, TBA is currently delivering its CEPF-funded project aimed at strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations for conservation in the Madagascar and Indian Ocean islands (MADIO) hotspot . Vanessa Didon is one of the many conservation managers  working across the MADIO hotspot who has received TBA training through this project. Today, she shares with us the impact of these trainings in her work in marine conservation 

Sea turtles are just one member of the ecosystem, but in an ecosystem, inter-dependence exists so each organism has its special role. As a sea turtle conservationist, amongst the many tasks I undertake at Marine Conservation Society Seychelles, my work principally entails leading the projects through routine monitoring on nesting beaches to collect sea turtle activities; tracks, encounters, marking of nests, and excavating hatched nests to check survival rates. I train colleagues as well as interns and volunteers within my organization to ensure that qualitative data is collected.

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During off-peak season (nesting season), I mostly engage in educational awareness with people in the community especially the youth; visiting schools for presentations and short workshops to educate about the necessity for sea turtle conservation. The main aim of my project is to create Seasonal Protected Areas to ensure that nesting female turtles as well as their off springs are protected during these crucial stages in their life cycle.

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By conserving sea turtles, we are trying to ensure that the marine ecosystem is preserved in general to maintain biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem. If sea turtles are eliminated, this can have a huge impact for example on corals: Hawksbill turtles feed on sponges that grow in between corals, thus maintaining the reef and ensuring healthy coral growth.

I have attended a master class and two site visit and learning exchanges delivered by TBA which have had positive impact on my work, exactly as intended.

vanThrough the TBA site exchanges, I have developed a greater understanding on corals and the role they play in the marine environment. This has also helped me to better create    the link between all the different species in the ecosystem, understand more about the function of interdependence and the effects of symbiosis. I have developed into a more proactive member within my organization, continuously passing on knowledge gathered to my peers.

The TBA Master class training remains the highlight of my career and it has made me even more appreciative of my work and more open-minded about the different opportunities to continue growing as an environmental conservationist and the possibilities of continued learning of a higher level in marine conservation.

The networking platform enabled through TBA has helped to broaden my ability to interact with members of the community and design and implement activities which involves their participation. This has really brought meaning to the community-based projects I’m working with.