In the third instalment in our series of Q&As with Blue Ventures staff, we ask Taylor Mayol, our Communications Officer, some searching questions about science, conservation and superpowers…
What is your scientific background?
Actually none at all! When I first arrived in Madagascar I couldn’t even tell you what the term ‘fisheries’ meant. Yet, this was precisely why I was hired – to translate scientific conservation language into everyday terms in order to effectively communicate to BV’s supporters and the wider conservation community.
Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because it’s challenging, interesting and, quite frankly, because it’s not your average nine to five job. I get to live in southwest Madagascar – a place that has many challenges no doubt, but just as many opportunities for fun. For example, last weekend I went wakeboarding in the open ocean and a few weeks before that I went scuba diving for the first time! As the communications officer, I get to interact with all of our projects and I’ve learned more about conservation in the last year than I could have possibly imagined.
What is one of the strangest things that has happened to you while working in conservation?
Just living in Madagascar is pretty strange!
What is the best / worst thing about being a conservation scientist?
Well, I’m not exactly a conservation scientist (or even remotely really!) so I can’t answer that question. I can say, however, that the best part of working in communications is being able to shine some light on the great work my colleagues are doing. They spend all of their time hard at work on their projects, getting their hands dirty, and often don’t have time to share it with the rest of the world. That’s where I come in. I get to promote their work and provide a glimpse into what life is like here in Madagascar, for our staff and for the communities we work with.
The worst thing about my job is….inconsistent power. Power outages mean no internet, which is crucial for communications. But if that is the worst thing about my job, I am one lucky lady.
.What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love that I believe in our work. It is definitely possible to be dismayed by negative media surrounding conservation and those pushing against progress, but all in all I know that when I write an article about one of our projects, I mean every word. I’m not spouting nonsense for the sake of it. I’m writing because I know the manager of the project, the hard work they put into it and that it matters. I can say this because I’ve seen the results firsthand – and how these results affect communities.
Aside from that, the best perk is visiting our field sites in other parts of Madagascar. I’ve been to Belo sur Mer up the west coast, camped in remote villages that are really only accessible by boat, seen a mangrove reserve opening and attended Saturday school sessions in the village of Andavadoaka.
What is your favourite species or group of species and why?
Lemurs and chameleons. It may sound clichéd since these are Madagascar’s most famous animals, but lemurs and chameleons are just as awesome in person as they are in movies or photos. There is nothing cuter than a baby ring-tailed lemur clinging to its mother’s stomach and staring at you with big orange eyes, or hopping around and peeling open a juicy lychee. And while lemurs are basically the wild version of fluffy golden retriever puppies, chameleons are the Elvis Presley of reptiles. Chameleons are just plain cool. They can be as big as your forearm or as tiny as your pinky finger and have the ability to change colors. They can be brown, red, green, purple, pink, turquoise and have crazy sticky tongues.
What would your scientific superhero power be?
I would have the ability to change the appetite of the world’s population based upon the productivity of a fishery. For example, everyone would develop a temporary dislike for the taste of tuna until tuna stocks recuperated.
I’d also make all endangered species magically live on forever!