Women in Diving: Lauren Arthur, Conservationist & Natural History Story Teller

Lauren Arthur is a wildlife presenter, zoologist and marine biologist with a masters in Tropical Coastal management and is passionate about conservation and creative natural history storytelling. Join us as she tells us more about herself and her diving experiences.

I am originally from Edinburgh in Scotland but now live in South Africa in the middle of the African bush.

I first started diving in 2008 while working in Fiji and it was a really long time ago. I am currently a Dive Master which I completed in the Maldives. I remember my first dive as clear as a bell at Deep Sea world, Edinburgh. They offer a shark experience where you can swim with sharks using scuba equipment in a tank. Not quite the ocean but as I was still really young, this experience was perfect. I only completed my Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Rescue course In Fiji - on a remote island called Gau. I completed my Apnea Total Qualification in 2015 and started professional freediving in 2016.

About being a DAN Member

I have always been a member of DAN, ever since I first started diving. I’ve never actually dived without it. DAN provides security when diving especially in foreign countries and in remote places. This didn't affect me directly but when in Grand Cayman for DiveLIVE, the sister pioneering project of SafariLIVE, my colleague got the bends. She had to go into the chamber and undergo lots of tests. In the end they found she had a hole in her heart (a Patent Foramen Ovale, PFO) that she was unaware of. It was a worrying time for us all but DAN was there for her the whole way through, easy to communicate with and ultimately professional. Supporting my colleague through this was difficult but I was very proud to be a member of DAN.

There are still so many dive destinations on my bucket list but favourites so far has to be Baa Atoll in Maldives, specific during the SW monsoon when the manta rays and whale sharks flock to Hanifaru bay, or Lembeh strait in Indonesia to go critter hunting.  The Sardine run in Port of St. Johns on the south coast of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa is a close second. It is so hard to choose.

Studying and Conservation work

Knowledge enhances every experience - the more you know, the more you can really appreciate something. I completed my masters in Tropical Coastal Management which was a very holistic course, focusing on a multidisciplinary approach to environmental research skills based on different dimensions: social, environment, economics and wildlife. Having a 'deep' (pardon the pun) understanding of the ocean and the species that live there, makes diving so much more thrilling and satisfying.

I travelled to Fiji as part of a marine conservation program to set up an MPA, working closely with the local communities. Research, monitoring and collecting data and completing my PADI underwater diving courses. It was an incredible experience living on an island with nothing, no fresh running water, sporadic electricity powered by a generator, supplies only brought from mainland once a week. Remote location, far from home, learning to dive from scratch and cooking for an entire camp - led to one of the best but most challenging experiences for me. It gave me my first ever experience with manta rays - the loves of my life.

During my time in Maldives, my work focused on manta rays, turtles and coral regeneration. I was a regional representative for MantaMatcher (www.mantamatcher.org) in Baa Atoll, Maldives and thrived on educating people about these majestic cartilaginous fish. Working closely with the Olive Ridley Project, ID'ing hundreds of turtles and rescuing many from ghost nets which are a huge problem in Maldives as the Olive Ridley sea turtles complete their 'arribada' to India's Odisha shores. resuscitating turtles with mouth-to-mouth CPR and waking up in the middle of the night to ensure newly-hatched turtles made it safely to the ocean, it was one wild adventure. Lastly, the other focus of my work was coral regeneration by collecting naturally-broken fragments of acropora coral which we attached to the jetty using monofilament fishing line. It was a unique pioneering concept which worked so well - incorporating recycling. The coral thrived until the El Nino of 2016 which was devastating to Maldives.

My work was really diverse and included working with the local communities, educating guests that came to the island doing conservation work and a lot of research work. Absolutely anyone can take part in conservation activities today to help the oceans. Citizen science is huge now and a simple underwater clean up can be organised so easily. Do some research into where you plan to dive and find out if there are any projects or programs running that you can participate in. Even snorkelers can make a difference if you have yet to complete your dive course. You don’t have to be a diver or even a swimmer. From beach clean-ups to underwater clean ups, everyone can make a difference.

SafariLIVE, DiveLIVE into WildEARTH

Before SafariLIVE, I was first brought into WildEarth to complete a pioneering project called DiveLIVE, presenting LIVE from underwater in Grand Cayman. Our broadcasts were to a global audience answering questions in real-time about the underwater realm. Connected to my cameraman with cables, I was fitted with a full-face mask containing a microphone and speakers. After this successful project, I got offered an opportunity to come to South Africa and present on land in the African bush. From underwater to land - I strive to connect people to nature.

I have so many wonderful memories of working as a marine biologist. But my favourite ones, the ones that stand out the most, are probably rescuing a female Manta Ray that was completely entangle in monofilament fishing-line. We managed to set her free. And another is of all the turtles we rescued. These were mainly Olive Ridley turtles that were on their way to India for the Arribada and they get caught in ghost nets. Huge conglomerates of plastic nets and they are not able to get free. This included giving them surgery, rehabilitation and even mouth to mouth CPR.

Note you can see Lauren presenting the natural wonders of the African bush and wildlife on SafariLive and follow her adventures on instagram @lauren_arthur7.


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