Turtle Spotting Do’s and Dont’s

So I thought I would start a series on the do’s and dont’s that are associated with wildlife. For the first one I thought I would go with turtles. Now as you may know, I am a marine biologist with a huge love and passion for conservation. This has led me to take multiple trips around the world with focus on conservation and eco tourism. One thing that I noticed a lot was animal eco tourism trips and specifically those with the focus on sea turtles.

So over the years I have been on multiple trips where turtle spotting has been part of it. Whether it was working on a turtle conservation project with Archelon in Zakynthos or turtle spotting in Tobago. I have picked up certain behaviours from tourists that inspired me to write this.

So lets start with the Dont’s:

  1. If you are fortunate enough to see one in the ocean whilst on a boat…do NOT go near it with the boat…keep a safe distance and don’t drive over them!
  2. If you see one whilst swimming/snorkelling/diving…again keep a safe distance. Turtles can be very quick swimmers so if they get stressed by you, they will swim away but always give them space. DO NOT touch them!
  3. If you encounter an adult on the beach, give her space as it will most likely be an adult female who is getting ready to lay her nest. This will occur at night (or very rarely at sunrise) so do not shine your torches as that stresses them out and again give them plenty of space. Do not use any light at all, this includes phone lights, flashes from cameras and normal torches.
  4. If you are lucky enough to see hatchlings coming out of the nest. No matter how tempting it may be. DO NOT pick them up. They use their journey from the nest to the ocean to ‘learn’ where to come back to to lay their own nests.
  5. Don’t litter…This is an easy one. Even if you aren’t seeing any turtles, the litter you drop on a beach will inevitably affect a turtle at some stage. Whether its an adult or a hatchling, they all are effected by litter on the beaches and in the ocean.
  6. Do not buy turtleshell products when travelling. They are normally caught by poachers and are always illegally and inhumanely sourced.

Now for the do’s:

  1. If you are fortunate enough to see them…enjoy the moment! Do it responsibly but enjoy it none the less! They are beautiful creatures and I will never get bored of seeing them.
  2. If you spot a hatchling going the wrong way…pick them up and turn them around. If it is during the day…try and shade them so that the sun doesn’t roast them. And if it is at night, try and block out the lights that are disorientating them.
  3. Do a beach clean every time you go to the beach. Even if you only pick up 5 pieces of litter each time it will make a huge difference.
  4. If you decide to go on a turtle spotting boat…make sure you go with a reputable company that is known for its eco tourism. If you aren’t sure which company to chose, there are companies in most countries that are there for the sole purpose for turtle conservation, such as Archelon in Greece and Save our Turtles in Tobago, they will be able to tell you companies that they recommend.
  5. Use recyclable straws or reusable straws. Straws are some of the biggest culprits of turtles dying. Making a small change to reusable straws or no straws at all will make a huge difference.
  6. Eat locally sourced sustainable seafood. Companies that are locally sourced tend to use better fishing techniques so less turtles get caught in fishing lines. The sustainable companies will use more turtle friendly fishing gear.
  7. Last but not least. Donate to local turtle conservation projects. Most are NGO’s and need the money to keep running. If you can’t give money, maybe you can give some time and volunteer with them. I can’t recommend that enough. My time volunteering with Archelon in Zakynthos was one of the best summers I’ve had. The information I learnt then have stuck by me and have changed my daily habits.

Overall, enjoy them! They are truly beautiful creatures, so lets protect them so that we and the future generations can still enjoy them!

Camera 14MP-9PC
Camera 14MP-9PC

Costa Rica Adventure

Did you know that some hummingbirds are as small as bees? They are the most amazing little creatures, with their ability to fly backwards and flap their wings so fast you can’t see them…

Costa Rica has these beautiful little birds in abundance and this weekend Melody and myself were privileged to be taken out by friends where we saw loads.

It was an early morning start.. breakfast in the hotel had only just started, so I was at least able to get some coffee… the first stop was therefore breakfast in San Jose.. with coffee in a traditional little coffee pot… then on to the national gardens about 2 hours south east. That’s where we saw the hummingbirds… I tried to take pictures, but that’s just not possible with a phone.. they move so fast!

We had a great walk through the forest, where we also saw beautiful woodpeckers.. if you are a bird watcher there was lots there!

After a slightly strenuous walk, we went to a trout farm for lunch.. we gave the fishing a miss.. but ate some very fresh trout freshly caught.

I love seeing and experiencing all these things on my travels. I know I am privileged and blessed that people are willing to show me around.

Below a selection of snaps of the day… minus the hummingbirds… you just have to believe I saw all different kinds!!

To end it all, there were several smaller earthquakes here… the bed shakes. Rather alarming!

img_9416
Melody is ready for a new adventure

img_9417

img_9419
The crew
img_9420
Coffee is served
img_9423
Costa Rica style

img_9418img_9544img_9495img_9443img_9453img_9504img_9482

img_9483
yum!
img_9447
Sigh…. how much further?
img_9458
Fern…..

img_9464img_9470img_9473img_9487img_9480img_9454img_9432

img_9489
Mels hair blends in
img_9434
Ready for the rain

img_9512

img_9514
Applepie!

img_9520

 

 

 

Why Are We Afraid of Sharks…Should We Be?

When you think about the ocean…what words spring to mind? Water? Fish? Dolphins? What about words such as fear? Scary? Deep? Intimidating? Everyone has their own opinion on the ocean and what words they associate with the ocean. One word we all have in common though…and that is sharks. Everyone can name at least one species of shark, whether that is the famous Great White Shark or Whale Shark, we all know one.

Now when it comes to sharks what word springs to mind? Killer? Scary? Fear? Have you ever wondered where that fear came from? Why are we so scared of sharks? Should we be scared of them? Now I am no expert on sharks, but I have extensively studied them recently and have been fascinated by them since I was 10 years old. The one question that everyone asks me is ‘are sharks really the ruthless killer we think they are?’. Isn’t that the question everyone wants to know?

I know for myself that it was the question that I wanted answered 16 years ago. At that point all I really knew about sharks was what my parents knew (the internet had only just become widely available but it was still dialup so it was either the phone or the computer…the phone won). My parents realised that I had a hunger for knowledge on sharks and ended up buying me a book on them and I remember so clearly that the pages on shark attacks and survivors is what really held my attention. Specifically it was the story of Rodney Fox and how he survived. Now what really surprised me was that after his attack, he became a shark advocate…he admitted that he was not the victim in this attack, the shark was!

This set me off on what I thought was a great detective story. Turned out that the majority of shark victims didn’t blame the shark at all and actually became advocates themselves! Now if people who were attacked by them aren’t afraid of them…why should we be?

So the big question is, where did this fear come from? Many would say, and I would agree, that the media have made sharks these ruthless killers that we are all afraid of. Whether this all started with the film ‘Jaws’ or not is another question. But the author of ‘Jaws’ Peter Benchley also became a shark advocate and regretted writing his book so much that he wrote another book talking about how important the oceans are and what lives in them.

Yes sharks look scary, they are apex predators so they are ‘designed’ to perfection for their environment. But just because they look scary it doesn’t mean that they are ‘cold-blooded killers’. In fact the chance of a shark killing you is so small, you are more likely to die from a cow or a coconut falling on your head! Those that do get attacked are mainly surfers, and that is because surfers tend to go out at dawn and dusk, prime shark feeding time. Plus the major reason surfers get attacked, is because they look like seals in the water, seals being the number one food source for many sharks.

So does this mean we should be scared of them? To an extent yes, they are the apex predators of the oceans and it is their environment. When we step foot into the ocean, we are going into their environment. But, that fear shouldn’t stop us from exploring or understanding the oceans and especially studying and understanding sharks more! The media has made us scared of sharks with behaviours that aren’t natural to them, we love being scared of monsters, they intrigue us. But instead of being scared of seeing them in the wild, lets be amazed! It is not often that you can come face to face with these beautiful creatures!

Sharks are truly incredible creatures and I will spend my life protecting them and making people aware of just how amazing they are and that we shouldn’t be scared of them.

What about you? What about sharks scare you? What about the oceans scare you? Let me know in the comments below!

~ Fear is only as deep as the mind allows – Japanese Proverb ~

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some Much Needed Vitamin D

Spring has FINALLY arrived here in the UK!!! I have been keeping an eye on the weather forecast for the last week already and the promise of sunshine and warm weather stayed! Waking up this morning I was welcomed with the suns rays through my blinds and the excitement grew!

After a quick walk to the doctors (still in the process of getting my fibroids sorted – read ‘Living with a hidden – not so hidden illness’ if you want to know more) and then buying some fresh bread at the local bakery…I am now sat in the garden in the glorious sunshine, enjoying the weather!

I’m not the only one who is enjoying the outside life…the cats are both thoroughly enjoying it…lazing around in the sun, catching all the flies and being stung by wasps…

One thing I realised whilst being sat here in the sun is that even when life is dark and there are moments when I can’t see the end of the tunnel…just sitting outside in the fresh air, in the warmth of the sun and no threat of rain…life isn’t as dark as I thought. There is light at the end of the tunnel…whether that tunnel has led you to where you thought you were going to end up or not…isn’t that the exciting thing about life? You never know where your journey will take you!

Since finishing my masters degree I have been looking for a PhD or a job…not finding much luck in either…so right now I don’t know where my life is going to lead but I am excited to find out!

What about you? Is it sunny where you are? If so, what do you enjoy doing when its sunny? Let me know in the comments below!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What Can We Do In Our Everyday Life To Help

If you have been watching the news recently, or listen to the radio…then I’m sure that you have heard about the ‘plastics’ issue. We have become dependent on plastics and forget that we can’t recycle the majority of them. Whether it’s buying fruit in bags, or using plastic bags to transport goods. We use plastics in our lives daily. The question is…how can we stop it?

Over the last couple weeks, my facebook has been covered in posts about the ‘Plastic Island’ that is double the size of the state Texas that is drifting in the ocean. My heart sunk the first time I saw that because to me it’s not just the issue about plastic floating in the ocean…but more what it means to the animals that live in the ocean!

Turtles are some of the most well-known creatures that are being affected by the plastics issue. They love to eat jellyfish and a plastic bag floating in the ocean looks identical! But not only are they ingesting the plastics, they are also getting caught in it. But it isn’t just turtles. Many animals that have been washed ashore have been found to either be surrounded by plastic or having ingested plastic.

So the question is…what can we do in our day to day life to change this?

Simple…instead of drinking bottled water, buy a reusable bottle! In one year, on average per person, that would decrease the number of plastic bottles by 167. When you go and get a coffee, bring a reusable cup or when you go shopping, bring a reusable bag! These little things make a huge difference! You might not directly see the effects, but the environment definitely does!

We as a family have stopped using plastic water bottles, bring reusable shopping bags and reusable cups for our coffee. We also try and buy loose produce in the grocery store to minimise the amount of plastic we buy and when possible we buy food in glass jars rather than plastic containers. Yes, this might mean you pay more, but in the end what is money if the environment suffers?

So we’ve made the change…have you? What do you do to minimise the amount of plastic you use in your day to day life? Let us know in the comments!

Also if you want to support a great cause go to:

https://jettiesbracelets.grsm.io/MelodyTap

They sell super cute bracelets, clothing, towels, etc and 10% of every sale goes back to turtle conservation! Check them out!! They make awesome presents for yourself or loved ones and support a great cause!!

image1

My Top 10 Photos and the Stories Behind Them

In preparation for the release of the gallery part of the blog I decided to show my top 10 pictures and the stories behind them. Photography has been a huge part of my life and is one of the main ways in which I can be creative. I have been asked ‘why photography’ a lot and for me it allows me to show the world from my perspective. Something which you could walk past every day, is beautiful to the next person. So I try in my daily life to imagine what would make a good picture.

I have done some interesting things in my life and so I thought about sharing my top 10 pictures and also why I took them. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some incredible places in the world and have seen and experienced so many different cultures and wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else.

  1. My First Long Exposure Shot – MadagascarIMG_8087

Back in 2012 I went for 10 weeks to Madagascar where I had an unforgettable time! It was genuinely one of the best trips of my life. Everything was super photogenic out there and one evening whilst sat watching the sunset, I just looked down and saw this log being washed ashore and saw the beautiful patterns and decided to try my first attempt at long exposure photography. This was the result. Yes the focus isn’t perfect, nor the composition, but it was my first attempt at something I had been too scared to try. The reason I chose to include this in my top 10 is not only because it was my first attempt, but I love the movement of the water and I love that it tells a story.

2. Ethiopian Man – Ethiopia

 1918173_212838377612_8228201_n

I took this picture whilst I was there for my first time in Ethiopia. During that trip we were taken to a religious festival in the middle of nowhere. Everyone was so happy and the people of Ethiopia are all just so beautiful! Whilst having lunch I looked up from my food and noticed this old man standing in a doorway just watching the celebrations and I just thought that that would make such a beautiful picture and I just couldn’t stop myself from grabbing my camera and taking the shot. This was the outcome…It still remains as one of my favourite pictures from my trip.

3.  Why Did the Bear Cross the Road – Yellowstone National Park, USA12698140_10153445388827613_5201671014563450931_o

A couple years ago, my parents and I decided to do a proper American road trip. Starting from Minnesota and passing through 5 states before coming back to Minnesota. One of the major stops on the road trip would be Yellowstone National Park. On our first morning in Yellowstone, we had breakfast in a diner where we spoke to a couple who had been going there for years and hadn’t seen anything other than bison and elks. Well the morning before we had already seen a baby bear, so we were having a good start. Later that day, whilst driving around we spotted a bear walking in the bushes and quickly decided to drive slowly whilst the other cars were parked. And that gamble paid off…the baby bear decided to walk next to the car and then cross the road right in front of us. What an awesome way to experience the wonderful wildlife of Yellowstone!

4.  Sisterly Love – UK17861959_10154584511697613_2200926202777938493_n

These 2 beauties are the gorgeous daughters of some family friends. They were the perfect models and behaved so well! Bare in mind that I did have a broken finger on my left hand and could barely carry my camera. So just before this moment, I had my back turned to the children whilst talking to the parents. I turned round to see the big sister tenderly touching her little sister and I caught this moment. I love taking pictures of children and babies as they are just so unpredictable. Blink and the moment is gone! Seeing the joy on the parents face when you show the final product, makes all the stress of shooting on the day, worthwhile!

5. Taking a Deep Breath – MadagascarCamera 14MP-9PC

Whilst on the trip in Madagascar, we visited one of the islands nearby to where our camp was and visited the reef there. Whilst snorkelling I suddenly spotted a turtle swimming really close to me and decided to swim alongside it for as long as it would let me (whilst keeping a respectable distance!). This moment was just so special for me as it was the first time I had seen a turtle in the wild, it also allowed me to swim with it for about 20 minutes! It was just amazing!

6. Conquering your fears – Costa Rica

DCIM101GOPROGOPR8738.JPG

Those of you who know me, know that I am PETRIFIED of heights! Yet this opportunity in Costa Rica, was one that I could not let slip! I took this picture with my GoPro to give the widest angle of where we were. Yes I was scared, but after one bridge that fear was gone! The nature was just so beautiful that I was distracted! When you are surrounded by the beautiful scenery, you can’t help but take pictures everywhere!

7. Tree With a View – Minnesota, USADSC_0041

Whilst Canoeing down a river in Minnesota, we noticed this beautiful bird sitting in the tree. Now it isn’t crazy to see Bald Eagles in Minnesota, but there were hundreds of people below it and hadn’t spotted it. I’ve spent a lot of time in Minnesota over the last couple years and yet every single time I see them they blow my mind! I was so lucky to see such a beautiful bird so close by with such blue sky as the perfect background! I think I ended up taking about 50 pictures of this single Bald Eagle. It was clearly waiting to spot a fish!

8. Miniature World – Wisconsin, USA14525015_10154011743427613_4904568668393714772_o

A couple years ago, I treated myself to a macro lens, and this opened up a whole new world of photography for me! Whilst taking pictures in a garden in Wisconsin I suddenly spotted this tiny spider and I thought could I take a picture of it with my new lens? It was incredibly jumpy and I knew it had moved just as I took a picture. To my surprise when I looked back at it, it was staring right into the camera! It stays one of my favourite pictures I’ve taken with my macro lens as this spider was smaller than your little finger nail!

9. Curiosity Never Hurt Anyone – Madagascar544481_10150927775222613_1435884139_n

Whilst going on a walk in the forest in Madagascar, we came across this tiny chameleon! At the time it was the smallest known chameleon! This picture was taken whilst it was in my friends hand! And again just as I took the picture, it decided to move its head towards my camera to get a good look! I just loved the curious nature of this chameleon and that it really wasn’t scared!

10. Flashy Chameleon – Madagascar 529121_10150924222632613_1178186907_n

So as my last picture I couldn’t not chose this one! It has always been one of my proudest shots! The story behind this picture is that whilst we were at the camp, this panther chameleon strolled into the camp. My friend picked him up and I suddenly noticed how striking the colours were on the perfect background!! The dark background brought out his colours perfectly! A while back I actually entered this into the National Geographic photo of the year and it got into the top 10. It is one of my biggest achievements in my photography career!

So what about you? What is your favourite shot and why?

~ I love photography because I can show people the world through my lens ~

You Can’t Save What You Don’t Love…

The title is a quote made famous by Joel Sartore, who decided a couple years ago to start a project called the photo ark, and if you haven’t checked it out yet…you should!!! What an incredible project! But in the documentary, he mentioned the quote “You can’t save what you don’t love” and for me, it is a quote that resonated very deeply.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved animals, and the older I got, the more I realized that I loved animals more than people…It got to the stage that when a person died in a movie I was sad but didn’t cry…If an animal died, however, I would be crying for days on end.

There is just something about protecting animals who have no voice that meant a lot to me from very early on in my life…Movies like Free Willy and Flipper just sparked something inside me. So the earliest opportunity I got in life I wanted to make a difference. I will talk about this in future posts but I went to Madagascar for 3 months with Frontier to help with the research out there and educating the local people how to be sustainable without damaging the environment and then a couple years later I went to Zakynthos for a month to work with protecting the turtles there and again educating both tourists and locals about what they should and shouldn’t do to protect the turtles.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Every moment of my life, I am trying to think of ways in which I can do something to help protect not only the marine environment but all animals. It can start with a simple thing like adopting a pet from an animal shelter and giving them a new chance at life to shopping with reusable bags rather than plastic ones and shopping for sustainably sourced fish and knowing which fish are currently thriving and not eating a fish to extinction.

So back to this quote, Joel talks about the fact that we are not going to save an animal species or the environment as a whole without falling in love with it. Everyone has some animal that they love, why not try to protect that species, even if they aren’t endangered yet!

Maybe for Christmas instead of buying something material, why not buy an adoption pack of their favourite animal? Or buy something from a charity where the funds go to protecting our planet’s wildlife.

What is your favourite animal? And what are you going to do to make a difference?

~ When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal. I see a living being, I see a friend, I feel a soul – A. D. Williams ~