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Name: Samantha Craven
Country of Residence: Philippines
Years Diving: 11 years
Favorite Dive Site/s: Komodo, Indonesia
BCD/Regulator/Dive Computer: Cressi/Apeks XT100/Suunto Zoop
Camera Set Up: Cameras: Olympus EPL-3 Housing: Olympus Lenses: 14-40 mm
Meet a Mad Marine Biologist
Not many teenagers know what to do with their lives however at 16 Samantha Craven knew that she wanted to be a marine biologist. She grew up in Singapore and the United Kingdom but would visit the Philippines every year. Her parents were very supportive of her chosen career path and brought her to Tioman Island in Malaysia for her PADI license. She describes diving as absolute magic and immediately fell in love with the underwater world. After completing her advance open water course she stayed a few extra weeks to do Reef Check surveys (www.reefcheck.org ). Back in the United Kingdom she completed her Bachelors and Masters in Applied Marine Science at Plymouth University. Since graduating she has been working with a number of organizations and is currently the principal investigator of LAMAVE’s (www.facebook.com/largemarinevertebratesproject) whale shark research project, working with the local community and local government to monitor the controversial tourist industry of feeding whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu.
Aside from being a marine biologist and conservationist, Sam as most of her friends call her, is also an avid nudi geek and underwater photographer. She likes organizing her photos by species and genus. As an underwater photographer she also appreciates fellow photographers who focus their work on the conservation side of things like Steve de Neef. When asked what kind of diving keeps her coming back to the water she quickly answers that muck diving is one of her passions. However she cannot pin point just one muck dive site because the coral triangle, especially the Philippines, has too many choices. Her favorite dive site though is Komodo Island in Indonesia because it is very well protected. She has never seen such healthy reefs except there and says the coral cover was amazing. The fish were also very big, from napoleon wrasse over a meter in size to huge trevallies and groupers swimming all over. Comparing it to other places in the coral triangle the species are not as diverse but because the island was so well protected the species that were there were able to grow to adult size.
Going back to muck diving, she shares that one of her most memorable dives was her first proper muck dive in Manado, Indonesia. Up to then she had mostly just seen coral reefs so to finally encounter ghost pipefish, crabs, nudibranchs and other critters was thrilling. She had never been anywhere like that and it was that dive that changed her from being just a diver to finally a marine biologist diving. Another special dive for her was when she was leading a group of students on a field trip. It was their last dive and at a very easy site in Pulau-Aur, Malaysia. The area was not very well renowned but as they descended into the deep, Sam looked up to see the early morning light on the water’s surface and at that moment it felt as if time stood still. It was going to be her last dive for quite a while so she simply enjoyed the sensation of breathing and being underwater rather than looking out for things to see.
As a conservationist she is very concerned for the overall health of the coral reef, sea grass and mangrove ecosystems and is concerned that in the Philippines there has been a huge decline, with only 1% of our reefs in pristine condition. She finds it sad that we have not taken better care of our seas, which is the one resource the country relies on so much. Sam surmises that it could be a lack of understanding and apathy as well since half the population does not know how to swim. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind and most people choose not to care because they cannot see what is underwater. Of course there have also been several successes in conservation, such as Apo Island, but we should always aim higher.
Divers come from all over the world to dive in the Philippines because of the marine diversity but should also remember that we are all just visitors in the marine environment. It is great then that in recent years more divers and organizations have taken the initiative to protect our oceans. She cites the Green Fins (www.greenfins.net ) movement as one such example. Green Fins which is a United Nations Environment Programme initiative works to minimize the negative impact of dive centers to the marine environment. It has already been adopted by the DENR and aside from the Philippines, is established in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand as well. Sam is a trained Green Fins assessor and through her experiences she found it an excellent platform for the dive industry to monitor themselves and to get local governments and dive businesses to collaborate and tackle local issues. It is also a good way to go about conservation since it has a top down-bottom up approach and best of all it’s free!
Overall though she supports any and every group or individual that promotes protection, education and raises awareness towards the conservation of our marine ecosystems. To find out more about this self- described mad marine biologist visit her website www.madasamarinebiologist.com where you will discover the amazing stories of the life of a marine biologist, conservationist, underwater photographer and of course diver all rolled into one.