An Interview with WiseOceans… Maren Toor from Velaa Private Island
This week we are with Maren Toor, Coral Biologist at Velaa Private Island Maldives. As someone still in the first steps of achieving their career goals Maren has some great advice to get experience in different parts of the world and doing different aspects of marine conservation to find out what you are really passionate about.
Name: Maren Toor
Job Title: Coral Biologist
Organisation: Velaa Private Island
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
Honestly, I just really love coral and the ocean as a whole but especially coral. I didn’t really know that for a while though. I started diving at 16 but didn’t realize until university that I could incorporate diving into a scientific career. I worked in Madagascar after graduating doing reef surveys and it was there that I started to really appreciate coral and decided to focus my career on coral research and restoration.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
Well I would definitely say that I am still in the first steps of achieving my career goals but to start out it was definitely getting experience in different parts of the world and doing different aspects of marine conservation to find what I was really passionate about. Most of my marine knowledge is based in the Indian Ocean but I also have some experience in the Caribbean and Florida that has boosted my knowledge of species and reef systems in different areas. I am hoping to move towards conservation on a more global scale later in my career so for now my goals are to build a solid foundation in field experience and knowledge that can be applied later on.
- How did you land your current job/position?
I think it had a lot to do with good timing and appropriate experience. I was just finishing a coral restoration internship in Florida and they were looking for someone to start within the month so the timing was perfect. By then I also had experience studying corals, doing restoration work, knowledge of Indian Ocean reef systems, and was willing to leave 3 weeks later.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Diving in our coral nurseries. Right now we are still in the nursery phase of our restoration project (transplantation is set to start in June!) but it is absolutely amazing to be in the nursery and see thousands of beautifully growing corals. As with any job there are times where it’s overwhelming and challenging but diving in the nurseries is such a great reminder that the effort put in is worth it and it’s very inspiring for the future.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
Definitely, I would say there are a few. One being working in the nurseries, seeing so many corals thriving and the change in size from when they were first put in is extremely encouraging. I can’t wait to start transplantation and see these beauties on the reef. Also working with and teaching other staff members here about the project and corals. I have already seen some sharing this information with others and if that continues to spread it will make a huge difference.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
How to be patient, I suppose. I have never been the most patient person but it was absolutely necessary when it came to applying for jobs, learning new skills, and making solid progress in my current job. Also I’ve found that I am a happier person when I am more patient with everyone and everything.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Good networking skills. I’m sure other people have mentioned this as well but it is key in this field and I am definitely still working on mine.
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Get as much field experience as possible. Dive in different places and conditions, participate in citizen science programs or research projects, and take the time to find what really interests you.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
I know this should be a coral, and trust me I love quite a few, but it’s the robust ghost pipefish. I will never cease to be amazed by their ability to mimic seagrass movement perfectly. I just think they’re beautiful and fascinating and a rarity for me so I love them.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
This one is tough but I think it has to be from when I worked in Madagascar and I was convinced that there were seahorses in the area even though no one on the project had seen any. It took 9 months of searching but on a random exploratory dive in the middle of the channel near us I miraculously descended essentially on top of a juvenile Reunion seahorse (Hippocampus borboniensis) that was only about an inch long. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited on a dive.
Thanks Maren, plenty of helpful, handy advice in there. We also totally share your passion for coral!
If you are love coral and need to get some experience then Maren and Velaa Private Island are currently looking for a Coral Restoration Intern – apply today! Closing date is 25th February 2017
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