For as long as I can remember, I have always loved the outdoors and being in the water. It was of no great surprise to anyone when my first summer job was working as a snorkel guide. For the 15-year old Nikita, it was a dream come true, and a summer that changed my life. It was that same summer that I became a PADI open water diver and was introduced to the wonders of the underwater world. Working on the snorkel boat I began to notice that, despite the fact that my co-workers and I were all making a profit off the ocean, there seemed to be an overwhelming lack of respect – where throwing a candy wrapper off the boat was considered the norm.
I will never forget the beautiful summer day where the ocean was so calm it looked like a table but we had to change our snorkel site because the ongoing oil leak from the electrical plant left a slick of oil that covered the water. It was at that moment that I turned to my captain and said, “ give me four years and I am going to do something about that”. I returned to high school that year knowing that I was going to become a Marine Biologist and make a difference in The Bahamas.
It was that summer in 2002 that ignited my uncontrollable passion for the ocean and educating Bahamian youth about its value. During my second year of University, I stayed true to my promise to my captain and founded the non-profit organization Young Marine Explorers that is committed to inspiring Bahamian youth to become agents of change through experiences in outdoor classrooms.
After my undergraduate degree I struggled for some time to find a graduate programme that embraced the physical sciences just as much as the social sciences – to me conservation requires both sciences working together – but I finally found this. It was in my first class at University of Edinburgh that I was introduced to EDGE species, so when I saw the EDGE Fellowship programme and their requirements for conservation projects I got really excited.
As an EDGE Fellow, I am able to introduce the world of conservation science to students of The Bahamas by fostering the development of their leadership skills, teaching them to become SCUBA Divers and engaging them through citizen science to work alongside me as we uncover the life history of the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered coral species found within The Bahamas. Although I have just started this project, I can see the enthusiasm and passion growing in the students as they develop pride for the ocean and our unique pillar coral.
To learn more about Nikita’s work, please visit her community page.