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Community and Conservation work with Project Seahorse

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STEAM Powered
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STEAM Powered has a conversation with Dr Elanor Bell, whale research scientist and research coordinator, about the incredible work that is done by Project Seahorse for the conservation of seahorses and other marine ecosystems. Outreach and working with communities are just two of the many aspects of conservation work.
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what was extraordinary about the project was that it was, you know, the seahorses themselves are extraordinary creatures that, you know, everyone, they're most known well known for them being the mail that gets pregnant, the mail that carries the eggs and then gives birth young. So that's extraordinary in itself. But it was the fact that they were an amazing icon or mascot for conservation. So you have this really charismatic fish that you can use to sell so many of the conservation ideas and that's what appealed to me because you're not just talking about conservative workers themselves. You end up talking about habitat destruction because it's their habitats being destroyed. You end up talking about livelihoods alternately alternative livelihoods for the communities that rely on fishing seahorses, finding an alternative for them. So I did a lot of work with the communities in the Philippines, um helping them develop products such a woven baskets with seahorses on that would be sold to the shedd aquarium in Chicago and other aquarium within around the States, um, to provide an alternative that then they then didn't fish as many seahorses. So they stayed in environment and helping them set up marine protected areas. So the seahorses had somewhere safe where the fish is, wouldn't go and take them and then ended up in some of the entre po in in Hong kong, where they trade an awful lot of species for various medicinal purposes and that's one of the big places that seahorses end up dried seahorses, but it was one of the things that struck me as being so important weren't just hammering a conservation message, don't fish the horses, they're taking away. We're trying to give something back, helping them establish a guesthouse where they could have tourists and eco tourists come. So there was some income coming in and you take these tourists out snorkel and see the seahorses rather than fishing them. Um establishing small marine protected areas in the networker. So it was all incremental steps to the community um help themselves effectively and also doing education programs with the kids. I can remember, write programs and that's where a bit of, one of my passions lies is education and outreach. Um and so there were so many elements that job and one of the lovely things was that I was based in Montreal at McGill University, but one for a week every month I spent um in in Chicago and I worked at the shedd aquarium and there I helped big beautiful seahorse Symphony exhibit, which was all about how beautiful sea horses and their relatives like pipe fish and sea dragons. And they, there were a lot of conservation messages in that. So I was helping to design the exhibit and the conservation messages and produce educational materials. So there were so many elements of the job that were fascinating