Life as a junior science officer at MCP

 In Career, Internship

By Bea Nodado

My interest in marine life and conservation didn’t manifest right away – it only really began in 2019, when Silliman university started offering a bachelor’s program in marine biology. I had just left my university’s engineering program and couldn’t decide on what to do, and this felt like a sign. I enrolled and immediately fell in love – my first weekend there, and I’m getting excited over counting seagrass and brushing parasites off fish gills! 

One requirement to participate in the course was to be at least Open Water certified by the beginning of the second year. Everyone in my batch got their certifications together during their first year, but I couldn’t afford it at the time. So, I spent my summer gaining experience instead by volunteering in fieldwork by assisting Mary, one of the graduate students working on her thesis. She told us to pack a couple weeks’ worth of clothes and our snorkeling gear, and off we went to Zamboanguita.

May of 2019 was the first time I’d ever heard of Marine Conservation Philippines, and here we were, clearing out their outdoor jungle gym to make room for our stereoscopes. The smell of dying fish parasites was too strong to ignore on most days, but when we didn’t have much to go through, I loved sitting out on the grass, listening to the bamboo swaying with the breeze, and watching the volunteers go through their daily tasks. It felt like a different world from life back in Dumaguete, and I wished I could do something similar too.

Fast forward to the middle of the pandemic in February 2021, and I got a message from Mary again, this time asking me if I’d like to participate in a internship program with MCP. They wanted to include more locals in their projects, and me and her other research assistant from back 2019 was urged to participate. Him and I were to learn how to do surveys while also getting some PADI diving certifications! It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I loved the idea of coming back, so I accepted.

For the next four months, we stayed on base as volunteers, though it was a lot emptier during COVID than it is now – there were only the two founders, two staff members, and two of us! Not forgetting the beloved MCP dogs, Compass, Huxley, Terry and Towfu, who would keep our boredom in check during lulls in the afternoons. While I was there, I got my Open Water, Advanced, and Rescue Diver Certification. We learned how to do substrate surveys and started inverts and fish survey training, too! I had to stop early though, because my dad had gotten COVID, and I had to quarantine and then go home. But, my love for diving never dwindled, so I saved up to get my divemaster course with an local instructor in Dumaguete.

At the dive site discussing the plan for the dive and directing the volunteersTwo years later, in June 2023 I got a message from one of the MCP founders. Soren told me of a grant from PADI for six local divemasters to go through their PADI Instructor Development Course and the Instructor Exam, and Soren was suggesting that me and one of the other staff members, Ceasar apply for it. We both got accepted, and for an intense three weeks, we went through the IDC (instructor development course) with five other people, two of which were also MCP volunteers. Now we’re all PADI OWSI Instructors! If you had told me that four years ago, I wouldn’t have never believed you! But here I am, now working for the very organisation that started it all for me.

I may still be a new instructor and junior science officer at the moment, and there are times when I doubt if I really deserve to be where I am now, but I love it here! I love meeting new volunteers from all over the world and sharing my passion for conservation and scuba diving with them. I especially love being able to help people take the chance to make a difference through surveys, ghost net removals and the ever-important beach clean-ups. 

Through MCP, I’ve been able to make a difference myself, and I hope to continue doing that! It may sound a bit cheesy, but when the opportunity presents itself, I think you should bust that door open and make the most of what you’ve got. You never know what it will lead to, but you’ll never know unless you try!

Bea

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Marine Conservation Philippines base empty due to COVID19