What do you enjoy most/what do you find most interesting about your research topic?
Manta rays are magical. I’m fascinated by them and by all marine life, and in particular, I’m passionate about helping to reduce the environmental threats that they face. In my work, I collaborate with a wide array of people, including fishermen, scientists, teachers, youth, children, business leaders, and government officials. I firmly believe that everyone has the potential to contribute to conservation and I love that my work allows me to bond with people from different backgrounds.
How does citizen science support your research?
Citizen science has always been a fundamental part of my work. As a young student, I engaged over 100 volunteers to document sea turtle mortality and by-catch in the Tumbes region, an effort that led me to start our organization, Planeta Océano. Since 2007, we have now involved hundreds of citizen scientists in Peru, including local youth and fishermen. Among others, citizen scientists have helped document new evidence of sea turtle nesting, presence of critically-endangered sawfish and occurrence of giant manta rays in Peru, with which we were able to promote legal protection for this species in Peru.
What is one of your favorite moments in the field?
My favorite moment in the field is when I witness local community members getting excited about marine life, and taking leadership in marine conservation. Like when I see local fishermen cheer with emotion upon encountering a giant manta ray, or when I observe youth as they implement their own environmental campaigns. These moments fill me with great satisfaction and hope.