Emma Bell is the Assistant Marine Biologist at Gili Lankanfushi. She works tirelessly to teach our guests about the marine environment by guiding snorkels, giving presentations and assisting in our research projects. Emma first began her role in July 2017 and has helped so many of our guests and hosts understand more about the world around them. After almost six-months in the role, we thought it was about time to hear more about how and why she decided to venture into the exciting world of Marine Biology in the Maldives.
What made you first want to become a marine biologist?
From a very young age the water has always called to me, be it the ocean, a swimming pool, jumping in puddles or a bath tub! I always knew I needed a profession that was water based. Through-out school and college I had a passion for science particularly biology. When I was applying to University selecting Marine Biologist was just the right thing for me.
What has been your favourite marine experience to date?
I was lucky enough to observe a beautiful nesting green turtle whilst working in the Seychelles. She came up the beach at around 11pm and took the arduous process of digging out her nest and laying her clutch of around 200 eggs. She was there until 1am. I then had the privilege to watch as she dragged her 100+kg body back to the sea. As she entered the ocean bioluminescent sparks were seen blossoming around her flippers. It was a truly breathtaking moment. What a way to say goodbye to her babies. What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is making a difference, giving back to the environment and inspiring people to make positive change. One of the best aspects of my job is working on the coral lines project. The project aims to repopulate our reef through direct transplantation of corals from the nursery and indirectly by increasing the coral population through natural spawning of the corals from the coral lines. Some of these spawned larvae will settle on our reef and hopefully grow into flourishing corals. Another aspect I love about my job is speaking to guests and educating them about sustainable living and how to be kind to the environment. Even if I just inspire one person I will still have made a difference.
What is the hardest part of your job?
I do my best to create a safe environment for the marine creatures that share their home with me, but it isn’t always enough. The hardest part of my job is seeing when humanity destroys the beautiful animals in the ocean. Be that, a turtle entangled in ghost nets, a piece of floating plastic or fishing line in the water, propeller injuries on mantas and dolphins or coral bleaching. But it makes me fight harder to make a brighter future for them than what is currently forecasted.
What is it like to work in the Maldives?
The Maldives is beautiful. The view from my office is endless azure oceans and sun shine. There is as much beauty above and below the water. Entering the underwater world it like stepping into your favourite aquarium, but only better as the ocean is free and endless. Additionally, the culture and the people here are very vibrant and friendly. I feel at home in my little portion of paradise.
What is your career highlight?
I had just finished my turtle watching shift covered in sand a mosquito bites. All I wanted was some clean clothes and a shower. But then we got the call – “green turtles mating”. I have never gotten my swimming gear on in such quick time.
What do you hope to achieve at Gili?
My passion is helping the environment. Last year the reefs of the Maldives where decimated by the 2016 bleaching event. Sadly, as a result our house reef now has poor coral coverage. At Gili, we have a fantastic coral nursery which houses over 8,000 coral fragments. I would like to expand the current coral nursery and I would love to see some of the corals from the nursery being planted on the house reef, so we can start the coral restoration process.
What is your favorite hobby?
I am very lucky, my favourite hobby is one I get to practice regularly – scuba diving. I started diving at 14, I am now a rescue diver (PADI) and sports diver (BSAC). I have had the privilege to dive in Maldives, England, Wales, Bali, Montenegro, Crete and Bali. Diving in the Maldives is breathtaking, with beauty in both large and small scale. Although, it isn’t just Maldives with amazing diving. Not many people will believe this but there are some awesome wreck dives in the UK. Definitely worth taking the plunge – with the proper thermal protection! No one wants hyperthermia.
What is your favourite marine animal and why?
My favourite marine animal is the majestic spotted eagle ray. They are so effortlessly magnificent. They glide through the water silently in their prefect V formation; which I have had the privilege of observing once – something I will never forget, even when I am old and grey. My favourite animal used to be dolphins, they still remain high on my list but after having seen 1000s, they don’t hold quite the same wonder as before.