Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 End of Year Note

Myself (3rd from left) and my working group during the IUCN Red List Assessment Training (Aug'13)

This year seems to be passing by in lightning speed to me. I started it as an independent researcher, determined to get back to being a cetologist after more than a year’s dabbling in another conservation field (which proved to be a good learning experience). I remember most of the details vividly, and I am grateful for most, if not all, of the experience I have had in 2013 as a cetologist and marine tourism analyst.  Here, I’d like to share it all with you, but particularly with myself, as a reminder that dreams do come true when you mean it. 

From a timid beginning (almost a month of void transition, not sure of the first step I should do as a full-time cetologist), I had a massive jump-start when I was invited to the 1st Southeast Asian Marine Mammal Stranding Network Symposium and the Marine Mammal Stranding Response Workshop in Subic Bay in the Philippines (4-9 February 2013). I was reunited with Yanti Purnomo, Sekar Mira, Danielle Kreb and Efin Muttaqin. I was also reunited with Lindsay Porter and met for the first time in my life Grant Abel and Nimal Fernando from Ocean Park Hong Kong (the three of them were to be very instrumental in my developing the Indonesian stranding network). Most importantly, I learned for the first time the proper ways of conducting stranding rescue and the importance of veterinary science and necropsy in stranding management.

Fast forward to March, I found myself attending the 3rd Southeast Asian Marine Mammal (SEAMAM III) Symposium on the beautiful island of Langkawi, Malaysia (4-10 March 2013). I have never attended the first SEAMAM meetings before, so I was rather apprehensive whether I could match myself with the brains of so many marine mammal experts there. Turned out, I needed not to worry at all. I had one of the best meeting chemistries in my life, and I am now unofficially part of them. Special thanks again to Ellen Hines, Louisa Ponnampalam and Fairul Jamal for organising that big gig. Click this for my full report. 

April and May found me a busy woman. A very busy woman indeed. The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries have requested a group of scientists and practitioners to publish the National Stranding Guideline. It was finally published in April, the notes are here.
My first personal important gig was in May, with me and my girls (Yanti and Mira) assisting MMAF in the Bali Marine Mammal Stranding Workshop and Training (click here for the notes). If you have been following me for a while, albeit sparingly, you will notice that this is the first stranding training I have co-led, which paved the way to my further involvement in stranding business in the country.  Following Bali was Kupang in June (click here for the proper blog post) and Balikpapan in September. Click here for FB photos for Balikpapan; didn’t have time to write a proper blog (bad girl...). I do have my reasons tho. I had been super busy since July, running around here and there to feed myself (see notes below on consultations) and also to co-organise the 1st National Indonesian Marine Mammal Stranding Workshop in last November (the article will be posted by the first week of 2014, promise).

Still marmam-related, in August 2013 I was privileged to be invited in an IUCN Red List training workshop co-organised by the Ministry of Forestry, Bogor Agricultural University and the IUCN Species Survival Commission (19-22 August 2013). I have not written a single word about it here, but that training was really important for me. It was the first training I received that enabled me to understand the Red List Guideline. That is, how a panda come to be classified as Endangered (‘Endangered C2a(i)’ to be exact) or our Pesut Mahakam (Orcaella brevirostris) to be classified as Critically Endangered. It was a very important training; I hope I can summarise it in a post in the near future (still in January 2014 I hope).

On 11 and 12 September 2013, I once again found myself in Malaysia, in the beautiful Penang this time. I swear, that island is so beautiful and historical, I want to go there again and again! Dr Leela Rajamani of the University of Sains Malaysia invited me to be a presenter during the “Local Community Awareness and Participation in Marine Mammal Conservation in Penang Island, Malaysia”. It was the second time I met Leela (first time was in Langkawi, and we just clicked like that ever since). It was the first time I met AA Yaptinchay, DVM, a very famous and knowledgeable marine wildlife activist from the Philippines. Dare I say, this friendship will continue. Thanks a lot Leela and AA!

Two closing events of 2013 were the 1st National Indonesian Marine Mammal Stranding (Bali, 25-28 November 2013) and the 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals (Dunedin, beautiful New Zealand, 8-13 December 2013). I WILL write two articles about these events in the next few days, so I will keep it short now. But let me just tell you how magical, exhilarating and invigorating I felt, still feel, during and after getting involved in the last two events. Those two events were crème de la crème of my professional life in 2013, the evidence for myself that the path I chose for myself is indeed the path for me. That staying true to my dreams is worth it. 

Income-wise, it had not been easy. The first 3-4 months of my life – I have to admit – I was struggling financially. I was financially saved because of some consultancy works that came my way from Conservation International, the Coral Reef Alliance, Asian Development Bank and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia. Ideally, I’d like my marine mammal work to pay for my daily bread, holidays, health care and pension fund, but at the moment, I still have to combine those with practical stuff. But those were interesting projects. With the Coral Reef Alliance particularly, for I was able to conduct another data collection for Lovina and proved that the percentage of economic contribution of the dolphin industry to the locals is very close to what we calculated during my PhD. My work with Conservation International also let me dabbled further in the economics of surf tourism in Bali. And Asian Development Bank gave me a better understanding of Marine Protected Areas in Sumatra, and Sumatra as an island on itself, something that I didn’t know beforehand. 

In short, 2013 has been a great year for me as a cetologist and self-declared marine tourism analyst. For that, I thanks the Universe, friends and colleagues, family and my partner, for sticking up with me. For being there for me and for giving me the chance to be who I am. 

Here's to the hope that 2014 proves to be supportive and intuitive for me to continue my chosen path. Also hoping for 2014 to be a prosperous, happy, and healthy year for us all to continue walking our own paths on this beautiful Earth.

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