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Diving in

MI intern puts education to work under the sea in the Philippines

Student Life

By Leslie Earle

Christa Sandall hails from landlocked Alberta, but salt water seems to run through her veins.

Since graduating from Memorial with a bachelor of science in marine biology last June, she has been living and working in the island country of the Philippines.

International internship

Ms. Sandall is currently on an internship facilitated through the Fisheries and Marine Institute’s (MI) MI International Office. She’s working with the Community Extension Office at John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University located in Iloilo City, Philippines.

“As the marine environment management assistant, I am involved in everything from data entry to marine environment assessments to finalizing propositions and scuba diving,” she said.

“A friend of mine had recently completed an MI International internship and after speaking with her, I knew I had to get involved.”

Christa Sandall and colleagues assist with a marine survey.
Christa Sandall and colleagues assist with a marine survey in the Philippines.
Photo: Submitted

Marine protected areas

As a certified advanced open water SCUBA diver, Ms. Sandall has assisted in multiple marine surveys where the objective is to identify improvements of coral growth and fish abundance within recently established marine protected areas.

She has also been focused on the proposition of a coral gardening project within the Igang Bay Marine Sanctuary — a project that further contributes to reef restoration, which benefits fish productivity and the functionality of the local marine ecosystem.

Education for locals

Much of Ms. Sandall’s work is completed in the marine protected area close to where she lives. She believes that the reef restoration projects are promoting the importance of marine education for locals.

“I have really enjoyed the amount of field work associated with the position,” said Ms. Sandall.

“It has allowed me to see the environmental improvements that are influenced by my own efforts and that of my host organization.”

Christa Sandall and dive partner work on a marine survey.
Christa Sandall and dive partner work on a marine survey.
Photo: Submitted

Related work

Of the many things that Ms. Sandall enjoys about her internship, she is particularly pleased the work she does is directly related to her educational background.

“I am gaining valuable office and field experience that I will be able to apply to a future career,” she said. “The experience has solidified my desire to work with the marine environment and also motivated me to pursue marine conservation as a potential career path.”

“It has allowed me to give back to the marine environment that I have always appreciated so much.” — Christa Sandall

However, what she enjoys the most is the opportunity to work underwater.

“I have been able to use my diving skills for a greater purpose and I feel like it has allowed me to give back to the marine environment that I have always appreciated so much,” she said.

“It’s very rewarding to be part of the real world, where you can apply your knowledge and skills to the situation at hand.”

Next steps

Ms. Sandall will finish her internship this March and is already looking forward to her next adventure.

“I will be going on a dive trip to Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines,” she said. “I’m really excited to be able to dive within such a pristine protected area.”

At the heart of the coral triangle, the Tubbataha Reef is a marine protected area that became the country’s first ever national marine park in 1988 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

After some more travelling within Asia, Ms. Sandall hopes to return to Newfoundland and Labrador to begin a master’s degree at the Marine Institute in the fall.

Ms. Sandall’s internship is part of the International Youth Internship Program, funded by Global Affairs Canada. More information can be found here, as well as the Thousands of Nautical Miles from Home Intern WordPress blog.

You can also follow Ms. Sandall’s journey through her personal blog.

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