Marine Biologist, Environmental Educator, and Scuba Diver
CEC inspired me because it is connecting similar people all over the world. When I first heard about the CEC I knew that it would be the right international platform to learn, share and improve my environmental communication skills.
The success and sustainability of conservation programs depends on the development of a communications plan that is adaptable to the location in which it is implemented, and takes into account the ongoing activities in that place.
As such, communicating conservations efforts should be one of the top priorities of any conservation plan. Improved communications will lead to more efficient and more sustainable programs that prove to be more time- and cost-effective.
Key to this direction will be the utilization of existing groups, systems, and structures within a community—for example, women groups, schools, and community spaces.
It is my opinion that communications around conservation must lead communities towards positive, participatory solutions that include economic incentives. If this is absent, the goals of a project may vanish from the hearts and minds of the people involved once it is complete.
In 1997, I took underwater photographs to show to local school students. After completing my master’s degree in marine biology in 2002, I travelled—via an old motor bike—1,200 km along the coast of my home state to visit 590 fishing villages and share my knowledge of biodiversity. This involved distributing 5,000 conservation pamphlets that were prepared as part of a WWF-India sponsored for sea turtle awareness program, which also included street plays and songs. Next, I started an NGO — Organization for Marine Conservation, Awareness and Research (OMCAR Foundation). OMCAR has grown into a full-fledged grassroots conservation organization. We visit schools and villages of our region for marine education that builds a positive rapport with the local community. We use our community ties for participatory mangrove plantations, tree nursery management and coastal cleanup activities. In 2006, I completed a 600 km solo sea kayak expedition in Bay of Bengal and met thousands of children and fisher youths who will join us to protect the local coastal ecosystems. Along with my field work, I completed Ph.D. in seagrass ecology in 2009. Since I joined IUCN CEC, I have had the opportunity to share my thoughts and activities with the international conservation community. In 2012, CEC selected me for “Young Professional Award”, the first award I have received and which lead to my participation in in WCC.
With the support of National Geographic Conservation Trust (USA) and Light House Foundation (Germany) we are surveying seagrass beds in order to identify dugong feeding grounds in our coast. We use acoustic underwater equipments, scuba gears and underwater remote cameras for our research, all of which is very exciting for our team. We also show the pictures and videos of our research to local schools and fisher hamlets to create awareness of the importance of protecting our dugongs, local marine habitats and sustainable fishery. We are also developing follow-up dugong conservation research projects, with the Convention on Migratory Species of UNEP and the support of Indian and international marine mammal specialists. Communication with CMS has changed our exposure and approach — from local to international — and the team at CMS supports our development of new project proposals for incentive-based seagrass/dugong conservation and awareness in Palk Bay. I am mainly interested in developing our centre into and a multicultural marine conservation research institute that includes local, national and international conservationists. We regularly communicate with schools, colleges, independent conservationists and others in order to develop pamphlets, posters and other visual communication materials to be used for conservation of Palk Bay coastal ecosystems.
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