Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Stepping Stones of Life; Passion for Marine Conservation

Waves Crashing into Rocks; San Salvador, Bahamas 05.2005

As my understanding for the marine environment grew during my junior year of college I began exploring my options of finding a program that would satisfy my marine biology craving. Since the Pennsylvania State University had various programs that fit mostly everyone’s main interests it was evident that I would find something that was suitable for me as well. To my surprise, not only did I discover a greater appreciation for PSU, but I also gained a deeper knowledge about the underwater world! Since the saltwater research field is and was very small on campus, I jumped on an opportunity to participate in every community that focused on saltwater. In result, I helped to tend to the saltwater fish at PSU’s main social location… The Hub. In addition, I joined the Marine Science Club and met some awesome future researchers who were almost as fascinated about the marine environment as much as I was! I did mention ALMOST, right?

This in return led me to a program that intensified and gratified my interest in marine life… a Marine Science Minor. My minor provided me the opportunity to not only journey below the incredible endless depths of the ocean, but I was also guided to a place where Marine Biologists dream about exploring… a world where serenity exposes itself  and a path of self-discovery is unfolded in every moment.

I am referring to a location where vibrant colors of fish are found within the ocean’s depths, an abundance of coral reefs can be unearthed, and the greatest state of peace and tranquility is attained.  A magical underwater world where life unfolds in front of your very own eyes and you can unlock the mystery that surrounds you.

During the minor it was encouraged to attend several lectures on the research and conservation of the marine world. I attended a lecture at PSU’s branch campus of Altoona. The lecture was based on the “Conservation and Status of the Hammerhead Shark.” As I watched the researcher discuss his recent events with hammerheads, the enthusiasm that he contained was uncontrollable. He spoke very fondly of these creatures and was desperately seeking ways to preserve their habitat.  I remember thinking that more researchers should be participating in talks like this to the general public and students on campus. I was really intrigued in his entire lecture; he highlighted the population dynamics of the fish and what the future holds for this magnificent creature. On an end note he brought up the Great White! An important concluding sentence that had stuck with me since this discussion was how the Great White was portrayed in the movie “JAWS.” JAWS are an abbreviation for Just Another White Shark. I thought this was brilliant! After the lecture he had mentioned an internship available for his company. I inquired some basic details about it and discovered that while he was at sea, the lucky contestant would be sitting in an office sorting through all his weekly data. I know that you have to start somewhere, but I knew in my soul that I could start working in the marine environment right after I graduated college. 

I brought the last few minutes of his lecture because I want to research Carcharodan carcharias or Great Whites. Ironically, the timing of his lecture landed on the week of “Shark Week!” You have heard of Expedition Leaders Chris and Monique Fallows, right? In my eyes, they are the “hottest” husband-and-wife team that enthusiastically lives a daily adventure! One of their specialties is to photograph a dramatically display of nature: Great White sharks hurtling through the air as they rocket with great velocity from murky depths to catch seals near the surface. These two researchers are exploiting the Great White sharks breaching patterns near Seal Island. For the last decade Chris Fallows has worked at the most well known Great White Shark sites in South Africa. Initially at Dyer Island & Struis Baai for four and a half years and since then at Seal island, False Bay. 

Throughout this period his interest has been twofold, firstly an incredible passion for these magnificent predators that has concentrated his efforts into trying to conserve and protect these poorly understood animals. Chris Fallows mission is to continue on a quest that helps him capture through still photographs the unique behavior that keeps people fascinated by the world’s most revered shark. In my eyes, his drive in this field and to efforts into helping to save these glorious creatures reflects his passion and undying love for these animals. Together with Monique Fallows this couple enjoys all that nature has to offer and hope that in some way their photographs will capture not only your interest, but also your hearts to help conserve and appreciate the ever-dwindling natural environment. I can only hope to one day meet them both in Cape Town, South Africa and discuss a research position on their team. A quick update, this is in the works!

More articles about Chris and Monique Fallows:

•                     CNN Live Sunday - Interview With Chris Fallows, Monique Fallows:

•                     National Geographic: Photographing Africa's "Flying Sharks" :

•                     National Geographic: Photographing Africa's "Flying Sharks (Part 2)" :

•                     Where White Sharks Fly: