Our new protagonist of the series Intern Success Stories is Carlotta Meriggi. Carlotta is an Italian researcher that worked for Ecoteer in the Perhentian Marine Research Station as dive intern in the Perhentian Islands last year. For 8 months, she worked with the Dive Team in marine and coral research and coordinating volunteers during their adventure with Ecoteer.
In December 2018, Carlotta came back to Europe after a challenging but rewarding experience as dive intern in the Perhentian Islands. Straight after her return, she started her new adventure as a PhD candidate at SLU.
What is your background?
My love for diving started 9 years ago. In my free time, I was diving to explore the underwater world and its wonders. During this period of my life, I decided to be more involved in the study of marine life and ecology.
I studied Biology in Pavia, Italy and then moved to Netherlands where I successfully completed a Master Degree in Aquaculture and Marine Resource Management specializing in Marine Resources and Ecology. In the meanwhile, my passion for coral restoration was growing more and more.
For my MSc internship, I worked for 5 months with REEFolution Foundation and Wageningen University with a coral reef restoration project in a small village in South Kenya. Back from this amazing experience, I worked hard for another two years in order to get more dive qualifications like the Dive Master one. My experience and studies allowed me to become Dive Research Assistant & Volunteer Coordinator with Ecoteer.
Why did you choose to do this internship?
I was looking forward to start a career in marine conservation with a focus in coral restoration. Furthermore, it is an imperative for this field to acquire technical skills and practical knowledge. In fact, the Dive Team was conducting coral reef and seagrass surveys around the islands which were some of my preferred activities. I also found it inspiring to be a part of events to increase awareness for marine life with the locals, dive shops and our own interns. Lastly, the idea to work in a paradise like Perhentian Islands convinced me to go and begin the internship journey!
Which are the skills you learnt whilst being an intern?
It was surprising how this internship helped me develop completely new skills. For instance, I learnt how to easily prepare presentations for volunteers and local community with no knowledge about marine conservation and how to explain complex concepts in simple words. Additionally, I improved my diving techniques and learnt about survey methodology. The way we conducted surveys at Ecoteer is widely used in other research centres. Part of the reasons why SLU selected me as a PhD candidate among others could have been because I lived and worked in a multicultural and international team.
What does a typical week’s work involve?
Our mornings activity was diving with volunteers. After breakfast and short briefings, we were ready to take a boat. Normally, the day before, I as intern would choose the place for next day’s diving surveys. After lunch, we were planning activities like presentations, helping volunteers to develop personal projects, writing blog posts and preparing monthly reports. On Saturdays we were busy in organizing beach clean ups.
Which were the most rewarding moments?
I really enjoyed organizing events in collaboration with the Eco-Education Project at the local school. Sometimes we were teaching children about corals and explaining basic aspects of marine conservation. One day, we went to a village’s beach for a snorkelling “trip”.
I was impressed by the interest and curiosity of kids for marine life and they showed great sensitivity about coral destruction issues. I believe there’s still hope for changing things and educate younger generations to protect nature and wildlife. Creating awareness was the most rewarding moments of my internship.
Thank you Carlotta for sharing your diving experience with Ecoteer. We would like to wish you good luck for your career in marine conservation! Hopefully your story can inspire more people to be the next dive intern at the Perhentian Marine Research Station!