This month I chatted with Bethan Thomas, Communications and Engagement Officer at Project Seagrass. As you might know, I am supporting Project Seagrass this year, so it's great to be able to share more about that do.
What does Project Seagrass do?
We are a marine conservation charity dedicated to the protection and restoration of seagrass ecosystems.
Why do you care about the ocean?
I think I could go on forever here! The environment is fundamental to our life on this planet. A healthy environment goes hand in hand with our health and wellbeing. When we damage the environment we only serve to damage ourselves, so it is vital that we work to protect our ecosystems, not only for ourselves but for every species on this planet. We have to stop seeing ourselves as removed from nature but instead as intertwined with our environment. The way we treat the world around us directly impacts our own lives. The ocean plays a huge role in this. All life depends on healthy oceans. From providing food and water to regulating our climate; not to mention the positive wellbeing impacts from just being near to the sea.
What inspired you to work in the conservation sector?
Seeing the impacts of climate change already taking its toll on the planet. I wanted to do as much as I can to help mitigate these impacts and take this passion into my work as well as my personal life.
What's a typical day like for you?
My work is quite varied so no week is the same, which is exciting. The majority of my work involves working on our projects, talking to different partners and supporters and communicating the importance of seagrass and why it’s important that we protect these ecosystems. I’ll often be out in the field too, keeping an eye on existing seagrass meadows and planting new ones.
How did you get into conservation?
I studied biology at university but wasn’t sure which branch of biology I wanted to specialise in. The more I learnt about the environment, the more I wanted to do my part to help save it. I decided to do an additional year of my degree, known as a Professional Training Year, where you spend time in a practical setting putting your skills to use. I was fortunate to spend this year with Project Seagrass and haven’t looked back since.
What's your favourite marine creature and why?
I love nudibranchs. They’re incredible creatures and have so many different interesting shapes and colours.
What's the most surprising fact you can share about the ocean?
Keeping with the seagrass theme, it has to be that seagrass has flowers! Yep, just like plants on land, seagrass has underwater flowers which can be pollinated by marine invertebrates, sometimes called 'the bees of the sea'.
Do you think communications is an important part of your conservation work?
Absolutely! The majority of my job is communications. We conduct a lot of research that informs our projects but if we can’t communicate this science then the impact of the research is so much smaller. We have to shout as loud as we can about the issues facing our planet and we have to do this as effectively as we can. The projects that are working to benefit our planet couldn’t happen if the reasons that they are needed weren’t communicated effectively.
What communications challenges do you face at your organisation?
Seagrass has declined extensively in recent years and is only found in the shallow, sheltered areas of our seas. This means that many people have not seen a seagrass meadow and it can be tricky to convince people why it’s vital to save a habitat that they may not have even heard of before.
What are your hopes for the future of the ocean?
I hope to see our ocean full of abundant, healthy and biodiverse life where ecosystems thrive. Where rather than ignoring and destroying our ocean, humans respect, enjoy and live in harmony with it.
What's the one thing you wish people knew about protecting the ocean?
"Little drops of water make a mighty ocean". We all have to make conscious choices in our everyday life to protect our ocean, no matter how small these actions might seem. We can't give up!
What tips do you have for someone who wants to work in the conservation sector?
Look out for voluntary positions near you and keep finding reasons to keep your passion for conservation alive.
What unanswered question do you still have about the ocean?
One thing we'd love to know more about here at Project Seagrass is where seagrass is currently distributed. If you'd like to help us answer this question please upload any sightings of seagrass to SeagrassSpotter.org!
Anything you'd like to add?
Seagrass is a rapidly disappearing habitat and it is so important that we keep raising awareness and doing what we can to save seagrass and our oceans. If you have read this blog and want to find out more, please feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org - I'd love to hear from you!