In a piece published in The Royal Geographical Society’s magazine, Katie Willis – the Society’s vice president for expeditions and field research – looks to international collaboration as the key to successful expeditions and field research for any 21st century venture.
Blue Ventures’ founder Dr Alasdair Harris organised research expeditions in Madagascar as an undergraduate expedition before the inaugural Blue Ventures expedition in 2003, and Willis cites Harris as an example of a successful long-term collaboration with partner communities.
Harris and the team worked with local scientific personnel, both above and below the water, as well as with NGOs, businesses, fishermen and the Malagasy Marine Institute. The information collected was subsequently distributed to interested parties in government and the community, in the hope that this would strengthen public awareness of the need to conserve these unique environments. They also worked with students and staff from the University of Antananarivo with the aim of setting up the necessary infrastructure to allow for more long-term studies to be carried out on the survey sites.
‘On graduating, I realised I’d reached a crossroads: either head to London to get a “proper” job, or try to do something to protect the extraordinary marine environment that I’d been privileged to witness on those early expeditions,’ Harris recalls. He founded Blue Ventures in 2003 to demonstrate that effective conservation requires pragmatic, entrepreneurial and locally led approaches to marine and fisheries management.
Within Blue Ventures, Harris is responsible for leading an interdisciplinary team of more than 190 colleagues worldwide. His work focuses on developing scalable solutions to marine environmental challenges, using methods that make economic sense to coastal communities. Blue Ventures continues to recruit researchers, divers and medics as fee-paying volunteers to help with their programmes in Madagascar, Belize and Timor-Leste.
Read the full Geographical article: Explore 2018 – The modern explorer
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