By the end of my undergraduate degree, I was doing research on the human impacts on coral reefs in Bonaire, a small island in the Caribbean. I graduated as the first marine and conservation biology study at my university and decided to attend graduate school in the next year.
I was very much an ecologist at heart, and I distanced myself from any kind of social science at the time. I’ll admit that I ignorantly blamed humans for everything wrong in the ocean, and I set out to be a marine scientist to protect the ocean and the ocean only.
In my master’s, though, I was challenged to think more holistically about the oceans and their dependent communities. For the first time, I focused more on the communities and less on the fish.
I became aware of how marine resource degradation negatively affects coastal communities in developing counties, threatening their livelihoods and food security. As I learned about the human rights abuses and labor violations running rampant in the fishing industry, I couldn’t ignore the social justice issues and inequities present in marine conservation any longer.
I quickly turned into a marine scientist who wanted to protect people, too.