Can Photography Influence Conservation?

Written by on June 13, 2013 in Editor's Choice, Other News

Editor’s Note–Contributing MST writer Michael Bear is an AAUS (American Academy of Underwater Sciences) Science Diver and a Featured Contributor with California Diver Magazine. He lives and works in San Diego and recently interviewed Richard Wylie for us. Below is a shortened version of Michael’s Q&A with Richard. To read the full interview, click here.

Richard Wylie

Richard Wylie

Richard Wylie is a marine biologist currently researching marine education in Australia and the Pacific as part of his Ph.D, while being the co-founder and Director of the Euakafa Island Research Centre, Neiafu, Tonga. Although a relative newcomer to the field of underwater photography, his 22 year marine career and several thousand dives, especially in the Tonga area, means he knows where to go to photograph the most interesting marine life, especially cuttlefish and leafy/weedy sea dragons.

His photography has won awards in numerous international and national photography competitions and has been used in articles, magazines and even exhibited in galleries, a phenomenon you don’t find often with marine biologist who often become too absorbed in their research to devote such quality to an outside passion like that.

MST caught up with him recently to ask him a few questions about his fascinating life and work. He and his wife are recent proud parents of a little girl.

Q: What would you say is the most pressing issue you face as a marine biologist today?

A: In a word, communication! The world’s oceans are in a bad way with many, many years of pollution and overfishing – both directly through huge fleets and super trawlers and indirectly through ghost nets and abandoned fishing line…I feel that many of the issues that are effecting our marine environments could be addressed if more people were truly aware of what is actually going on. I think that the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ concept has enabled this true tragedy of the commons to get as bad as it has so we need to communicate the urgency of the problem to as many people as we possibly can and make them see that we need to change this attitude. Click here to read the full answer!

Q: What first got you interested in the ocean and your start as a marine biologist?

A: I remember watching some documentaries by Jaques Cousteau and an Australian guy called Ben Cropp when I was a kid and fell in love with the underwater world almost at first sight. I knew I wanted to be a marine biologist by the time I was 8 years old and worked towards that goal from that point on. Click here to read the full answer!

Q: What specific area does your research concentrate on?

A: At present I’m doing a Ph.D on marine education in Australia and the Pacific – a bit of a change from marine science but I believe that its incredibly important that we start to educate people about our marine world. As I mentioned earlier I think that communication is the key to resolving some of the crucial issues facing our oceans and that we need to have a clear line of communication between marine and climate scientists, educators and communication specialists such as journalists etc. I’m also researching how photography can influence conservation – an area that I find particularly interesting given my passion for underwater photography. Click here to read the full answer!

Weedy seadragon. Photo credit: Richard Wylie. Make this photo your wallpaper!

Weedy seadragon. Photo credit: Richard Wylie. Make this photo your wallpaper!

Q: What got you interested in photographing [Weedy and Leafy Seadragons]?

A: Actually the photography was an extension of my work as a marine educator. I’ve found that my photography has been invaluable as a communication tool in my work as a university lecturer and public speaking – they enable me to convey how truly majestic these creatures really are while showcasing the beauty of their temperate marine environment. Click here to read the full answer!

Q: What words of advice would you have for any young people coming up in college, who might like to become marine biologists?

A: Firstly, you need to be passionate about the marine world – there is very little money, unfortunately and its very competitive (my job with Fisheries had 450 applicants and it only paid $17K a year) so when you’re stuck out on the water getting soaked to the skin in the middle of a freezing winter night you need to be doing it for the love of it rather than the big bucks! Click here to read the full answer!

Click here to read the full interview with marine biologist and underwater photographer, Richard Wylie. And be sure to check out more of his photography!

Leafy Seadragon. Photo credit: Richard Wylie.

Leafy Seadragon. Photo credit: Richard Wylie.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

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