Our Ambassador Projects
We’ve had a fantastic start to the Ambassador Projects. So many people all over the world have wanted to get involved, spreading the Ocean Bottle mission to their community all the way from the UK to the Maldives. We’ve really enjoyed meeting every single one of you, but that’s enough about us!
Katy Jane and her OB!
This month, to celebrate the success of the first three months of our projects we’d like to share some snippets of our recent chat with OB Ambassador, Katy. Katy is one of our founding OB Ambassadors, a Shark Guardian trustee, a diving instructor, a blog writer and also works for a large environmental charity in the UK.
OB: Tell us a little more about your background in conservation and diving
KJ: I have a degree in Zoology and went straight into working in education in zoos and sanctuaries within the UK after University. After 6 years, I left to go and experience wildlife conservation on the frontline in Costa Rica, acting as a volunteer research assistant in Tortuguero National Park. It was in Tortuguero where I began to really fall in love with the ocean.
Our base was on the coastal edge of the national park which was some of the most primitive coastal habitats that I had ever seen. Bull sharks would often swim into the estuaries and you would regularly see impressive saltwater crocodiles basking on the beach. Here there was a really interesting interaction between jaguars and sea turtles that the base was collecting data on to assist with the research of a local NGO – an absolute eye-opener to the natural interactions between two species, from completely different habitats that you would never imagine interacting.
Jaguar footprints on the beach
Soon after I joined Global Vision International in South Thailand as their Coastal Conservation Coordinator. I ran environmental education classes in the local communities, assisted with the care and welfare enrichment of sea turtles at head start centers, trained volunteers on data collection techniques, and surveyed the biodiversity of the nearby national parks. One of our tasks was collecting data from local dive shops that had been recorded whilst out diving and uploading this data to the online platforms. We did this through our partnership with Shark Guardian.
Sea turtle release - Thailand
Before I came back to England I did my PADI Open Water and Advanced courses and planned to continue with this back home. I completed my Rescue Course, and soon after I entered an online competition with a prize of full training and dive equipment, and was announced the winner in July 2018! I flew out to Koh Tao 3 weeks later to begin my training at the dive centre Master Divers and was a fully qualified instructor by the end of the year.
I have been working with Shark Guardian as one of their Trustees since the start of the year and have been heavily involved in leading their Finspire Change Campaign, to ban the shark fin import into the UK.
OB: Tell us a bit more about your diving experiences
KJ: Koh Tao has some super dive sites, but a downfall to this little island is that it is very dive-centric which can lead to overuse of some of the sites. However, it is an extremely eco-conscious island and the individuals working there work well with the local communities and government organisations to continue to increase its conservation.
There is a dive site further off Koh Tao, almost closer to Koh Phangan which is called Sail Rock. It booms with marine life and is so diverse. It is a great dive and there is so much to see. I was lucky enough to bump into not one, but two whale sharks there in one dive! The beauty and size of these youngsters blew my mind.
I then took on the role of Eco-Instructor at the dive centre. One of the biggest island events of the year is Koh Tao Earth Day. I helped organise and coordinate the inland and underwater clean up. The underwater clean up was conducted as part of the Project AWARE Dive Against Debris, so all rubbish collected was counted, separated, and recorded. This was really amazing to be a part of and showed that with real cooperation and dedication, so much can be achieved. We cleared 796kg from the land including 386 kg of recyclable materials and 219kg collected from underwater – all in a day!
Eco-Instructor at the dive centre
OB: How have you seen first hand the effects of plastic pollution when you are diving?
KJ: Unfortunately, it is all too common now. Almost every dive we do we spot rubbish and whilst I was working in Koh Tao I would make it an important part of my dive briefings for everyone to keep an eye out for rubbish and signal to me if they see some so I can remove it. I would carry a net bag in my BCD and collect as much as possible. Fishing nets and lines are also extremely common and would often be seen entangling coral. Removal of this kind was often impossible without creating further damage to the reef.
OB: What do you think is the most important message to get across to people about the ocean?
KJ: The simple fact that we need the ocean to survive. We need marine species within the ocean to survive. Healthy marine ecosystems keep the ocean in balance, as the ocean
does to the rest of the planet. It really is a case of to survive or not to survive. If we want a healthy planet for future generations, we really need to start by looking after the ocean and respecting everything within it. Every little piece of life on our planet is so interconnected and we must understand that what we do in one place will affect others in another place. Think back to the jaguar – sea turtle interactions I mentioned earlier. The interconnectedness sometimes isn’t obvious, but it’s there, and it’s extremely important to all life on earth.
OB: And finally, what do you like about being an OB Ambassador?
KJ: Ocean Bottle to me signifies the future. It focuses on real direct change by firstly recognising that most of the world’s plastic ends up in our oceans because of the lack of waste management infrastructure. The efforts focus on really treating the root of the problem, rather than adding a bandage to the wound. It takes preventative action, rather than treating the problem after it’s occurred. Ultimately, it turns a negative into a positive, which is what the world needs. Being an ambassador allows me to educate people on all of this and promote a system that offers real change.
If you are interested in becoming an OB Ambassador and would like to join a community of like-minded people, you can sign up here.