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 ~

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Team Building

The last couple days have all been marked with special experiences…. I went to see the play ‘guess who’s coming to dinner’ in the Guthrie theatre in Minneapolis. That play reminds me once again how prejudiced we can be to those that are different. An old movie with a very relevant theme. It’s hard to accept those that are different to us, whether it’s because of culture, beliefs or skin colour. I know I don’t see different skin tones, but I can’t say I never feel prejudiced towards others with different customs and believes!

Tonight was our work team building event. Not everyone was able to make it..but for those that could…we went axe throwing… not something I would choose to do, and of course I suck at it big time… but it taught me something… I don’t need to be good at something in order for me to enjoy it. Quite a different thought for me…as my husband reminded me, I can be rather competitive…. today I could rejoice in the fact that everyone was achieving well, except for me.. and that’s ok! The teams were fun, friendly banter…and an opportunity to see colleagues away from the seriousness and business of work.

Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and have fun with those whom we spend so much time with. Life is more than hitting deadlines and achieving at work… also this was an opportunity to let go of preconceived ideas and prejudices about colleagues… see them in a different way. As I hope they will see me in a different way also.

Team… that rocked… let’s do it again some day (when I can move my arms and shoulders again!)

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!!

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Christian in Science

Being a christian in a science world can be hard…it has led to many questions and led to me doubting my faith and everything that I thought I knew. My experience really started when I left for university for my undergrad degree.

Moving hours away from my parents (I studied in Bangor, Wales whilst living near London) meant that I would be far away from my parents and my church. It was the first time that I would be living out of my parents house, so not only would I have to adapt to  living on my own but I would finally be studying something that I have always had a passion for, knowing that it would be difficult.

I remember one of my first lectures so vividly, it was an introduction to the course and an overview of what the module would be teaching. I knew going in that there would be a lot of evolution but what threw me was that the lecturer in a class of 500 said ‘those that believe in creation are stupid’. I know I was not the only christian sitting in that room…I felt personally attacked.

Yes I believe in creation but I also believe in evolution. I don’t think that we all come from monkeys but there is evidence of microevolution and theres no denying that! What irritated me was that the lecturer had no respect for other points of view. It tainted my opinion on scientists…However, after speaking with dad that evening I realised that not all scientists would think that way…I was now a scientist and I wasn’t like that!

Yes I am one of the rare few that are christian in a scientific world. A world that teaches us to question everything and only believe something that we can see or undeniably prove. This contradicts the christian part of me…the part that blindly believes in something that we cannot ‘see’. Would I change either side…no! Absolutely not!

My scientific side has taught me so much. How to question things, how to prove things, how to argue my point, and it has opened my eyes to all the wonderful things on this planet. My christian side has also taught me a lot though. It has taught me that I am never alone, that I am always loved, no matter all my mistakes, and that there is hope in my darkest days. I am a miracle baby, science couldn’t understand how I came to exist, but here I am…26 years old, healthy (ish…) but alive and well.

Do I have all the answers? No. Do I still question my beliefs every day when science makes so much sense? Of course! But I also believe that you can’t grow in your faith unless you are tested. Not everyone will get tested in the same way…For me my journey isn’t anywhere near being done. But I think its important to be a christian in science. It has given me a whole new perspective on life and made me very open to new thoughts and ideas. Lets see what the rest of my life will throw at me…no doubt there will be plenty of questions! One thing I know for certain…my faith and science do not contradict one another…they go hand in hand and help me understand things in a deeper level.

What about you? Are you a christian in science? What’s your experience? And if you’re not a christian in science…what do you struggle with in your daily life? And if you’re a scientist…have you had to deal with any christians in science…and if so…whats been your experience? Let me know in the comments or message me privately!

~ The more I study science…the more I believe in God – Albert Einstein ~

Science is a Gift

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!!

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Japan

I was blessed to add another country adventure to my belt. Another work trip, to Japan this time. A real long flight and a crazy time difference.

Japan is not a country I ever thought I would visit. Asia is so different from what I am used to. But as it turns out, I loved my time there.

Yes, I went there for work, so did not get the full sightseeing adventure. But there are things I have fallen in love with. Cakes!!!! They certainly know how to make delicious cakes. Not too sweet, actually just perfect!

The cherry blossom season is upon then so all was spring like in the stores. Another thing I loved! Beautiful flower patterns, well thought out lunch boxes and cups. Pretty!!!

Kimonos! Even though I did resist the urge to buy one especially for tourists, I can’t help but be in wonder at the beautiful ladies in their gorgeous kimonos. So colourful and elegant, with their socks in wooden flip flops.

Shabu Shabu was not quite how I expected it. Clearly not like the western style in Wholefoods. But a great experience and delicious soup after!

Would I go back, given a chance? Absolutely!!

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

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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

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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 ~

Why the Marine World?

I have had a lot of people ask me “why do you like the ocean so much?” or “why marine biology?”. So I thought, why not tell my story…

It all started when I was a young girl…since I can remember, I have always loved swimming and the ocean. Whenever we would go on holiday near the ocean I would want to go in and watch all the fish! I still remember that the majority of the time either mum or dad would have to come in to the ocean to tell me to come and have food as I would go snorkelling for hours! Something about the marine world fascinated me!

My 7th birthday came and my parents decided to buy me the video boxset of Jacques Cousteau’s discoveries (in Dutch). I started watching them and within a couple minutes, I asked my parents “what does he do?” to which they responded that he was a marine biologist. As a 7 year old I had already dreamt about being an astronaut or a wedding planner, but something in me clicked whilst watching the video. I knew I was going to become a marine biologist!

That was it for me, my obsession started! I wanted to read all the books I could find on marine biology and the marine world, wanted to watch all the videos and wanted to talk to everyone about it! I don’t think my parents were fully aware what they had done!

Fast forward 10 years and it came time to think about university options and what I wanted to study. I knew it had to be marine biology but there were so many different courses within marine biology. But only 1 really stood out! Marine Vertebrate Zoology at Bangor University in North Wales. Now I wish I could say that it was an easy path for me to get into university. However, it really wasn’t! I didn’t do well with my final exams and that meant that I had to repeat a year and redo some of my exams. However, in that year I also realised that I wasn’t quite ready to go to university. So what then…here came the trusty google search. What could I do to postpone university for another year but also be something worth while! I stumbled upon Frontier Gap Year’s website and that was it. Multiple projects jumped out at me but only 1 really caught my attention. Madagascar. Marine conservation and diving…now that was something that I thought was worth it to postpone uni for.

After spending an incredible 3 months in Madagascar, my love for marine biology grew so much and I was ready to go to uni! My experience at university was a mix of amazing memories and times I wish I didn’t have to go through (check out my post about living with a hidden…not so hidden illness to learn more!). But 3 years later and I had completed my BSc and was applying for a masters degree! Who would have thought! But every time I finish something, my love for marine biology grows!

I speak with so many people who have no idea what to do with their lives and I know I am incredibly lucky to have figured out what I wanted to do at such a young age! You just never know how your actions affect the other person. You might just inspire someone and help them find their ideal career! I’d like to think that even if my parents hadn’t bought me that video boxset, I would have still ended up in marine biology.

I’ve done multiple presentations about my field and people always tell me that I glow when I talk about it and I know they’re right! When I talk about marine biology, something in me changes and I become more animated and can’t stop talking! Even just writing this I have a huge smile on my face…

I am now 26 years old, I have just completed my research masters and currently looking for PhDs…my journey is far from over but I know that I am in the right field!

What inspired you to get into your career? What do you love? Let me know in the comments or message us privately!

~  When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself – Jacques Yves Cousteau ~

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Christmas is coming!

Christmas…… I have these dreams of cozy family time, roaring fires, love for all, peace on Earth, home cooked meals etc. Am sure you get what I mean…

Instead, I find myself still on another business trip at the end of this year, wondering how I will manage all I want to accomplish before I fly home to spend a couple weeks in the UK. I have not bought any Christmas presents, although my emails are bombarded with ads, promises of cheap and cheerful presents. I have not decorated my apartment, other than the below Christmas trees in the window. No roaring fire, I don’t even have a fire place! Today in the news I saw a New York bomb attack, California wild fires.. peace on Earth is still far away.

What is Christmas really about? Why is there so much pressure on this season? Should we not be celebrating the fact that Jesus came to this Earth as a little babe, to reconcile us with our Heavenly Father? Would it not be sufficient to just be grateful for that, and let the rest pass by?

Maybe that’s what I will do this year.. just be… a little Mary, sitting at His feet, rather that Martha..always busy… I still have a couple weeks to ponder that some more…. what about you?

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.

 

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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.

 

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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 ~