7 reasons why instructors should work for a marine conservation organisation.
We learn a lot on our IDC. How to conduct the perfect CESA, that organising an Open Water course isn’t as easy as it looks and how to shoehorn selling courses and equipment into practically everything we do. But there is one aspect of diving that the IDC barely touches on and that’s marine conservation.
It’s no secret that the ocean is in trouble. Pollution, rising water temperatures, overfishing… these are just some of the major threats to the ocean right now. Thankfully, there are hundreds of organisations around the world who are actively trying to bring about positive change by enlisting the help of volunteers. What’s more, many of them need volunteer scuba instructors to ensure their work gets carried out.
So whether you’re a new or experienced instructor, here are 7 reasons why it can be beneficial to work for a marine conservation organisation at some point in your diving career.
By the time you become an instructor chances are you can ID many of the common fish and sea creatures. But there’s so much more to these creatures than just a name. Let’s take a really common fish, the parrotfish for example.
There are over 95 species of parrotfish. The larger, brightly coloured ones are the males, and as is the case for many species, the male is followed by a group of smaller, less-brightly-coloured females. When the male dies, any one of the females in his harem will change sex and take his place. It’s population control, parrotfish-style.
And that’s not the only cool thing about parrotfish. Have you spotted strange mucus bubbles on early morning dives? These are the enveloping cocoons that some parrotfish create each night to sleep inside to stop their smell from being detected by predators.
Imagine telling your students that a large proportion of the sand that they are chilling on at the beach is actually parrotfish poo? Most parrotfish are herbivorous and spend all day biting off large chunks of coral and rock to ingest the algae whilst excreting the rest as sand.
So many cool facts. And that’s just parrotfish.
Nearly every creature you see under the water has its own story to tell. How do lobsters communicate with each other? By urinating on themselves.
Or, did you know that most of the larger sea cucumbers will have a small, translucent fish living inside its anus? It’s called a Pearlfish.
What about tiny harlequin shrimps? They have claws so powerful that they can sever the entire arm from a starfish. Which would be bad news for most creatures but luckily starfish can re-grow their arms should they lose one.
It’s crazy the amount of wonderful stuff there is to learn about the ocean, and as an instructor, you can use these stories to really bring your briefings to life. By making the underwater world fun and interesting, you help instil a love and respect for the ocean in everyone you teach.
One of the best ways to get a great underwater education, fast, is to spend time working for a marine conservation organisation. Surround yourself with people who have dedicated their lives to help protect the ocean. You’ll pick up some awesome facts pretty quick which will stay with you throughout your diving career.
Become a better spotter
One of the essential skills in dive professionals is being able to spot things underwater. Divers who are good spotters are far more employable than those who aren’t.
As an instructor, you spend a lot of time underwater meaning that the likelihood of you seeing really cool things is majorly increased. For your guests though, they don’t have the same luxury; some are only there for a dive or two.
You don’t want them to leave feeling like they’ve seen nothing. That’s why becoming a great spotter is such an important part of being an awesome instructor and dive lead.
How do great spotters of the underwater world become so great?
It’s all down to knowing a creature’s habitat and behaviour. Once you know where a particular creature likes to live, then you vastly increase your chances of finding it. Many marine volunteering organisations that require instructors are focused on coral reef surveying.
The skill in surveying is knowing exactly where to look for creatures and how to quickly spot them so you can more confidently count the wide variety of species that live over a stretch of reef.
Again, these are all skills you’ll gain quickly as part of working for a marine conservation organisation.
Enhance your C.V.
As well as becoming an underwater guru, you’ll also be able to add new skills and qualifications to your CV. Very often all members of a conservation project go through the same training. Very often these include different types of marine life surveying, artificial reef building or how to take broken fragments of coral and transplant them into a coral nursery.
You’ll also get to do real-life science. Every organisation has its own goal, with some projects being more science-based than others. The survey data that you help to gather can be used for educational and environmental aims.
It can give local communities and governments the evidence they need to create and maintain sustainable fishing practices, set up Marine Protected Areas, or change policies to help reduce pollution.
This means your work can actually have a long-term impact.
You could gain essential communication skills through organising and promoting events. These can be beach and reef cleans or giving talks on marine life. You could practice your classroom skills by educating local school children or working with local communities to bring about positive change.
What’s more, you can take your new-found skills with you to your next dive job and help them set up their own marine conservation project, or environmental awareness campaign.
A different kind of teaching
Teaching through a marine conservation charity is completely different from teaching in a busy shop or resort. Living on a project base is a truly unique experience.
The bases are generally in remote locations and the pace of teaching is generally a lot slower. Mostly, there is no pressure on you or the students, to rush the skill development. If a student has a particular problem with a skill, you can take the time to make sure they get it right commonly.
Once your students pass their courses, it’s not goodbye. Instead, you get to watch them grow as divers over the following weeks (correcting them as they go if needed). Plus, you get the opportunity to build real bonds with your students.
You live, eat and socialise with them. They go from students to friends, and who knows where these new connections will take you in the future?
Discover a new part of the world
Do you have your heart set on working and diving in a particular part of the world, but don’t want to fly all the way there without a job to go to? Rather than wait for a job to turn up, look and see if there is a volunteering project in the country instead.
Joining a marine conservation project can be the perfect ‘foot in the door’ you need to land a job in your dream country. It gives you the chance to get used to the culture, start speaking the language, learn the local marine life, and make in-country contacts.
Then, when a great opportunity does come along, you’ll be top of every employer’s list. Candidates who are already in the country, and have experience of living and diving there, are far more attractive options to potential employers than those candidates who have never been to the area.
Re-discover your passion.
It’s probably safe to say that all diving instructors have a fondness for the underwater world – it’s where we spend most of our time after all. But if we’re not careful, sometimes we can start to lose the love.
If you’re fed up of churning out hundreds of students a year in busy resorts and spending days on end in the pool, then perhaps it’s time to take a break. A marine conservation project might be just what you need to shake things up. After all, any job can get boring and repetitive, even scuba instructing.
If you’re feeling a little disillusioned with the industry, then why not try doing something a little different with your next contract. Go help gather data on seahorses and nudibranchs, or help monitor manta rays and sharks. Take a sabbatical from the day-to-day, and get the underwater love back.
The ocean is in trouble and it needs everyone to do their bit to protect it. And a great way us diving instructors can give back is through working for a volunteering project.
At Sea Fans, we call it #OceanKarma. It means doing good things for the ocean and maybe – just maybe – you’ll get good things back – like swimming with a pod of dolphins, or finally spotting a mimic octopus.
Marine volunteering projects are charities, so most of their money goes on keeping the project going. You won’t get paid for working for them in most cases.
However, most organisations will provide your food and accommodation for the time you’re there. Some will even pay you a commission on certain courses, service your equipment or get you special discounts on dive gear through affiliate dive shops.
Say your contract is 6 months long, and all you need to spend is the cost of your flight and insurance, well, that’s a pretty inexpensive way to spend 6 months of your life given the experience you will have.
Plus, gaining a bit of ocean karma is never a bad thing. After all, the ocean gives us so much, it’s our turn to do something for it.
Find out what’s in it for you
If working for a marine conservation organisation sounds like something you want to try, then head over to seafans.net and search the listings for volunteer projects around the world.
If you are financially unable to volunteer or feel that working for free as an instructor is not for you, consider working for an environmentally focused dive centre. Search the listings for Green Dive Centres.
Once you find one you like the look of, contact the organisation about available staff positions and remember to tell them that seafans sent you!
Get in touch and ask any questions about what it’s like to work for an ocean conservation project.