Peter tells us all about his past experiences, his hobbies and what led him to volunteer with us!
"Hello everyone, my name is Peter.
Currently I am working in Health Care for the National Health Service in Scotland. Although I enjoy the work in our psychiatric unit a lot my main passion lies very much in marine conservation and photography.
Over the past few years volunteering and photography played an important part in my life. I joined various NGO's in the Philippines whenever I had the chance of taking some 'time out'.
Some 6 years ago I joined Coral Cay Conservation in the Philippines, my first marine conservation project encounter. This was done at Sogod Bay on the beautiful island of Leyte.
The aim of this ongoing project is to create a lasting sustainable conservation throughout the coastal region of Sogod Bay on the island of Leyte. This is achieved through community education programmes and scientific assessment of the conducted surveys both inside and outside of the local MPA's in order to assess their biological state.
Needless to say that CCC was inspiring enough for me to join another project the year after. This was done on the Philippine island of Cebu with the marine conservation project LAMAVE.
LAMAVE's primary objective is the conservation of marine biodiversity in the Philippines.
For 2 months I joined their Whale shark project on Cebu where fishermen started to feed the sharks to attract large crowds of tourists.
As so often there are two sides to the story. The whale shark 'industry' is generating a major boost to the local economy but also disrupts the shark’s migration and their wellbeing.
Through ongoing education and information efforts LAMAVE is fighting for sustainability, the coral reefs around the Philippines and of course the whale shark population.
Shortly before the end of these 2 months a friend of mine phoned asking if I would be interested in joining their coral planting project. It even didn't take me a second to think about it.....
It took me back to Sogod Bay on Leyte. Same Bay as before, different location
The project there was called Project 7.
This project was supported by local universities and financed through the government. There were various groups throughout the Philippines and I joined no7 because of my love for the bay.
I joined the project for 4 months in an effort to plant 10000 coral fragments in Sogod Bay.
Large coral reefs of the bay were decimated by the Crown of Thorns, human impact, storms or high water temperatures.
Although it will take a very long time to establish a reef to its former glory interest in rehabilitation is becoming increasingly important. In my subsequent visits to the reefs our effort to transplant coral fragments could be seen. It left me with a feeling that conservation however small, is worth while and that it feels so much better not only to take but also to give something back to a place that is very dear to ones heart.
From that time onwards I tried to take out some time every year to do what is so much part of me.
There were photo projects in Hong Kong and 2 in the Philippines. Although not a marine biology project I still love to mention an underwater project....
I have two real passions when it comes to photography. Underwater photography and photo documentary and it seemed to be a natural conclusion to combine the two!
I based my second college project on the seaweed farmers of Caluya. The farmers see themselves as proud entrepreneurs who support themselves in a successful and quite unique way that changed their working life and that of their families too.
I learned a lot, not just about photography but also how I perceive the world and the people around me. A steep learning curve certainly. At the end of the curve I understood that one does have to develop a vision quickly. This vision of what you want to achieve is far more valuable and important in travel documentary than most of the photographic skills I develop throughout my time at college.
And this is for me the most important lesson I have learned not only during my time on Caluya but over the past few years working as a volunteer.
Love your job and love and respect the people that will give depth and meaning to your vision of life. Change the world a little through your creative vision, do it right so that you can pass on what you have seen for others to learn about the world we are living in.
And now it's the Marine Conservation Society in the Seychelles. My first time away from the Philippines, oh dear! As you might have guessed the Philippines feel a bit like home away from home by now.
The Seychelles are for me a great opportunity to experience a new destination, coral planting from a different angle and of course it's great to be part of a small but dedicated team! Will keep you updated as time passes on.....after all it's just day no.1 for me.
….............. 5 weeks have passed.......................
Let’s take a big jump from day 1 to my last day here on Cerf. Time was just flying and I can’t believe the day is finally here to say good bye.
Of course time to take a breath and do a little reflection.
First let’s get the negative out of the way because it always feels so much better to finish with the positives...
That was for me all my photography shots that I never manage to take. As you know I love underwater and peoples photography. Unfortunately I didn't really manage any of them.
Cerf is of course a holiday island that caters first of all for the tourists and photographic motives are therefore very limited. Due to the time of year visibility in the water was very poor which didn't allow for many memorable shots either. And there was me hoping until the very last day to take some split shots (half under the water and half above) or some good macro shots.
But hey, one negative point is not bad at all for a 5 weeks stay! And to be fair, that is not even project related :)
And yes, that takes us right to the project and all the positives.
New projects are always very exciting but one never knows what to expect until one gets there. And yes, I loved it till the very last day.
It's all about meeting new people, (locals and likeminded people from around the world) it's about the sunshine, taking in a new culture and of course about studying and learning something new.
Savi our project leader certainly managed to fill our days with lots of study time and I realized quickly that my previous knowledge about corals had all but gone.
Four coral workshops later and I do manage again to recognize a coral or two whilst in the water. Savi's 'coral spotting ID snorkels' are feared and merciless but do the trick! He manages to pass on his knowledge well, has the ability to listen but also communicates clearly whilst talking to his volunteers, the guests or a school class which of course creates an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Sorry, sounds a bit like a reference letter now but it’s just to point out that over the past 3 years he created an interesting and fun project and that he is doing a fab job.
And there was of course much more that I learned.
The last few years I used Photoshop to enhance, manipulate or edit photographs, but who would have thought that one can use it to measure coral fragments down to a fraction of a millimetre thanks to the good old 'ruler tool'. It really works and it is so easy too!
And yes, there is more..... Fish ID workshops, coral planting and turtle identification.
After my rather disastrous coral knowledge I managed to do better on identifying the fish around the Seychelles that are much the same than the ones I know from the Philippines. There are some nice variation and my well-loved Filipino coral grouper suddenly has spots and no lines any more.
I am impressed and surprised by the abundance of reef fish, rays and sharks despite the loss of over 90% of the coral cover since the first bleaching in 1998.
There are also some turtles left on the reefs of Cerf Island. These are most of all juvenile hawksbill turtles. Always a highlight if we spot one on our daily snorkel excursions.
Through the I3S (Interactive Individual Identification System) computer program it is very easy to identify the local turtle population or to add new turtles into our encounter folder. It is fun and rewarding to monitor local residential turtles but also quite exciting once we encounter a newcomer to the reef.
Talking about newcomers.
There were of course our hotel guests who wanted to explore the reef a day or two after they arrived on Cerf.
Sounds crazy, but I really enjoyed this part of the day a lot as long as the visibility didn't let us down too much. Naturally I could spend hours in the water and was usually the last one out after the trail.
There was always time to talk to the guests afterwards to the dismay of my volunteer mates because I was often late for my lunches. Guess they could have started without me already ;)
Then there are of course our coral nurseries and our 7 artificial reefs. The nurseries were cleaned 3 times a week with our high tech equipment, toothbrushes. My initial thought was that this is a step backwards from the toilet brushes we used in the Philippines, BUT it works really well and it does not feel quite as embarrassing to enter the water with a discreetly hidden toothbrush either.
It was nice to establish a second nursery during my time on Cerf because we used a method that I was not familiar with. This was done at the beginning of my stay and the healing process of the fragments (where they got broken off from their colonies) was evident after 2 weeks already. After 4 weeks they healed and calcified nicely.
Cerf is a beautiful little island and to explore the surrounding by Kayak an absolute must. That's of course what weekends are for.
Three times I managed to go to the sandbank in St Anne's marine park together with my fellow volunteer (established in 1973 and the oldest MPA in the Seychelles) and 3 times I was taken by it's beauty.
There will be lots of things I will have forgotten to mention, like the Italian ice cream place in Victoria (wow, so so good), but I can’t mention everything cause I still have to finish my packing and go for one last snorkel along my favourite trail.
It was a great experience, I learned a lot and it felt good to be part of a young and dedicated team!
Sometimes in life there are certain remarks that stay with you forever and Luanas one is the one I still love to share and clarify just in case some of the younger future volunteers are wondering too :)
At the beginning of my stay she was surprised when she watched me using sun cream lotion and her initial unique reaction was: Do you really still need to apply this due to my age?
YES Luana I do and being 54 doesn't mean that I am on my last leg!! Hopefully there are still some more years left in me to join more projects like The Marine Conservation Society of the Seychelles :)
Thank you, Savi, Luana, Megan and Sheril for making my time a memorable one...and a big thank you also to Cerf Island Resort and La Habitation for all the lovely mealtimes too. Well done all of us :)
It was a delight to have you and your photo skills as part of our team. Thank you for all of your hard work and the memories you've created with us both under and out of the water.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.