Our products are meant to be enjoyed under the sun and out in nature, including our favorite place, the ocean. We believe protecting our skin should never come at the cost of harming our health or the environment, especially the delicate ecosystems that lie beneath the ocean's surface. Today, for World Oceans Day, we are thrilled to present an exclusive interview with Mermaid Jade, a respected and globally influential marine biologist, shedding light on the crucial topic of reef conservation and restoration.
As we kick off summer, let's discover how research, innovation, and responsible consumer choices can support a harmonious coexistence between human well-being and the vibrant underwater world we all love.
Marine Conservation + Reef Restoration with Marine Biologist from The EcoTrust at Roctopus Dive for World Oceans Day
STEPHANIE: When I was little, I wanted to be a marine biologist because I loved dolphins. Can you share your path to becoming a marine biologist and what inspired you to a career in marine science?
JADE: Similarly, my path to becoming a marine biologist started when I was little too! As a kid, I spent many family vacations rummaging through tidepools and snorkeling around the coast in France. Understanding the relationships between all of the critters that lived inside those tidepools fascinated me, and I was always very passionate about protecting the ocean and the animals that live there. I didn’t think being a marine biologist was a viable career, but soon I discovered universities that offered the training, and through lots of volunteer work, I built up skills and contacts and ended up where I am today.
STEPHANIE: Can you share with us what a day in the life of a marine biologist looks like? Are there any current projects you’re excited about?
JADE: One of the things I love about my job is that every day is different! Some days I could be delivering a lecture or workshop in the morning and then taking out the boat to train students in research diving and data collection for a number of our projects, or I could be at my computer all day writing up papers and reports, or even creating content for social media, to spread the word about the work we are doing here. One particular project I am very excited about at the moment is our Artificial Reef project. We have been working very closely with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources to plan and deliver a reef restoration project in the area in front of our dive shop, and we have just deployed some new structures with the goal of transplanting up to 500 fragments.
STEPHANIE: Ocean health is vital to our planet’s health. Being on the front lines every day, what are some of your biggest concerns and are there any exciting solutions on the horizon to address those concerns?
JADE: One of my largest concerns is irresponsible use of the marine environment by tour operators and tourism companies, especially here in Thailand where the tourism industry is so big. From noise pollution, to coastal development and physical destruction of reefs through sunscreen use, anchoring and trampling, the tourism industry has a huge negative impact on the marine environment. Thankfully, here in Koh Tao there is a huge emphasis on responsible tourism, especially in the diving industry. The ecoTrust at Roctopus Dive, of which I am the manager, is leading the way in setting the standard for responsible tourism through our marine ecology education programs, teaching our divers correct technique and environmental awareness, shutting down boat engines over dive sites and running weekly beach cleans to keep our area clean.
STEPHANIE: There are always headlines talking about ocean, reef and planet health. Are there any myths you hear that you’d like to dispel, as a marine biologist?
JADE: As a marine biologist working in a developing country, I want to emphasize the importance of collaboration and support of local stakeholders of the ocean, rather than blaming and pointing fingers. It is very easy to sit at home, watch TV documentaries on the worrying state of our ocean and blame others. I also would like to remind people that every little thing that they do can make a big difference. The world doesn’t need a handful of people to be perfect ocean guardians, it needs everybody to do at least something to reduce their negative impacts, as it all adds up.
STEPHANIE: Were you always drawn to a love of the ocean and if so, what are some places you’ve visited as a marine biologist that have changed your perspective? Are there any destinations that have inspired you personally, outside of your field of work?
JADE: I was always drawn in by the ocean from a very young age, as a child I was lucky to spend a lot of time in very clean well looked after waters around France and the south of the UK. It wasn’t until working in Northern Cyprus that I realized quite how polluted and in need of help some areas were. Outside of my field of work, my home town of Falmouth, in Cornwall, UK, inspires me continuously. The town is so rich with a community of people who care so passionately about their heritage, environment and wildlife and it was there that I really found my love for outreach and community engagement. I have also been extremely fortunate to live in the Galapagos Islands, where the community on San Cristobal island also wowed me with their passion and love of life, no matter what life throws their way.
STEPHANIE: As a brand we always say that even the smallest contributions add up to big impact. Ocean conservation is something anyone can support, even if they don’t live near an ocean / can’t participate in clean-up days. Can you share some simple ways that anyone reading can do their part? Please also share any organizations our community could help support.
JADE: Something as simple as selecting your food sustainably, as well as doing in-land clean ups (all water-ways lead to the ocean!) can really help. Financial contribution is also a big one, as organizations that do great work for marine conservation are rarely very well funded. I am a particular fan of Project Hiu, in Indonesia, that works on giving shark fisherman alternative livelihoods, through promoting shark eco- tourism.
STEPHANIE: I’m fascinated by the artificial reef project you are currently working on. Can you tell us more about that? What is an artificial reef and how does it work?
JADE: Artificial reefs can be anything from a shipwreck to a small concrete block, designed to create stable substrate for coral to thrive on in areas that might have previously been damaged. Our artificial reef project is a series of metal structures designed to fill gaps in areas of Sairee reef that have been historically damaged by disturbance and bleaching events. We are specifically transplanting naturally fallen fragments of species that have previously existed in the area in high abundance, but are struggling to survive now due to sedimentation or lack of robust substrate, such as Acropora sp.
STEPHANIE: I’ve never been diving, but my husband loves it. What was your most memorable dive? As a certified dive instructor, do you have any recommendations for beginner dive spots here in the US? Outside of the US?
JADE: I’ve been so fortunate to have many memorable, epic dives, but one of the best for me was diving with hundreds of schooling scalloped hammerhead sharks at Gordon Rocks, Galapagos. On the other hand, I’ve had some beautiful calming dives on the shallow reefs of Koh Tao also, the coral diversity here is incredible! Unfortunately, I haven’t done much diving in the US, but if people are looking for some relaxing, warm, beautiful beginner dive spots, Koh Tao, Thailand is the place.
STEPHANIE: We’re celebrating World Ocean Day today, but of course we believe our oceans deserve celebration + respect every day! As summer nears and beach vacations approach, do you have any tips for how we can all be good stewards of the sea?
JADE: A big one for me is sunscreen. If you’re going to wear sunscreen, please apply it plenty of time before entering the water, and choose a reef-safe brand that you can trust! Personally, I choose to cover my skin with rash guards and leggings if spending lots of time in the ocean, rather than risk sunscreen washing off and damaging the reef. Needless to say, when using the beach, leave only footsteps and take only memories, dead coral and empty shells on the beach are important parts of the ecosystem too, and should be left behind.
ASK THE EXPERT: FAST FACTS
JADE, MARINE BIOLOGIST + CONSERVATIONIST
- Favorite Dive Spot: Gordon Rocks, Galapagos
- Favorite Sea Creature: Scalloped Hammerhead Shark
- One Thing You Can't Live Without: My scuba diving headband to keep the hair out of my face!
- Most interesting sea creature you’ve experienced up close: Peacock Mantis Shrimp!