From interviewee to Marine Ecologist
3 minute read
While working on a Marine Turtle Action Plan for Monsterrat, we met Veta Wade, an ocean conservationist from this small volcanic island.
Having seen Veta's passion, drive, and love of the ocean and marine conservation, we built a working relationship and have successfully secured a Darwin Fellowship for Veta to study in the UK.
We’re working with University of Exeter and the Government of Montserrat on 'A Marine Turtle Action Plan for Montserrat', a Darwin Plus project which aims to protect biodiversity and improve resilience to climate change in this UK Overseas Territory.
We’re using our tried-and-tested Community Voice Method (CVM) to engage with local communities, from whom we gain understanding, knowledge and valuable insight. Veta Wade was one of our interviewees.
Conducting our CVM interviews with interviewee, Veta Wade
Credit: Dr Peter Richardson
Veta came to live in the UK as a child in the late 1990’s, after being evacuated from Montserrat following a volcano eruption. In 2014, tired of our weather and keen to go back home, Veta returned to Montserrat and set up a non-profit organisation. Fish ‘N Fins Inc. rekindles Montserratians’ connection to the ocean and teaches them how to swim, snorkel and get involved in marine science.
Veta and her team have taught 3,000 people to swim, and run ocean conservation and blue economy activities through her NGO, AQUA Montserrat Ltd., and Fish ‘N Fins Inc.
It was clear when we first met Veta last August that our views, goals, and love of the ocean were completely aligned - so we discussed the possibility of working together.
Having previously managed a Darwin Fellowship in 2015, our Head of Ocean Recovery, Dr Peter Richardson, felt that a Fellowship would be a great option as it would enable Veta to come to the UK to study and further enhance her skills.
Dr Peter Richardson, Head of Ocean Recovery
Together with our long-term project partners at the University of Exeter, we successfully secured a Fellowship for Veta, who will be starting a one year MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation in September.
"It just goes to show that whoever you are, wherever you live, we're all responsible for the ocean, and we can all do something. Foremost in my mind, however, is that the Caribbean islands are uniquely vulnerable to climate change.
"There’s a real urgency to build scientific capacity within communities to help drive the action that is most needed by the people whose lives and livelihoods are being worst affected. Not only by super storms, but by other environmental stresses that will affect small-scale fisheries and ocean health such a rising sea level, ocean acidification, microplastic pollution, disease and invasive species."
Getting this fellowship is a huge milestone in my career – who would’ve thought Veta from Happy Hill, who didn’t see a coral reef up close until she was 31, would be well on her way to being a Marine Ecologist?Veta Wade, CEO at Fish ‘N Fins
"Together with the Marine Conservation Society, we’re creating a new model for equitable partnerships and through marine conservation in the UKOTs and pushing a little more ocean optimism – and I can’t wait to get stuck in.”
Veta Wade, CEO at Fish ‘N Fins.
Credit: Veta Wade
After she graduates next year, we hope that Veta and AQUA Montserrat Ltd. will work alongside our UKOT Conservation Officer, Amdeep Sanghera, throughout our portfolio of Caribbean UKOT projects to enhance and expand our international marine conservation impact.
Undertaking ground-breaking research
Veta is now raising funds for ground-breaking ocean research in Montserrat that will support her Fellowship MSc thesis at the University of Exeter.
Next spring, she'll lead a local team using Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) cameras to record and map sharks, rays and other marine mega-fauna species in Montserrat's waters. The data will help us understand what measures are needed to better protect Montserrat's spectacular ocean wildlife for the future.
This is the first ocean science project in Montserrat to be led by a local woman. Veta, a ocean activist and role model, wants to demonstrate to young people in the region that they have a crucial role to play in marine science and ocean protection.
You can support this research here.