Louisa Gibson is a local ocean conservationist working at Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF). Growing up in the Cayman Islands Louisa has great respect for marine life, coral reefs, and the ocean. This great appreciation for the ocean has instilled in her a strong desire to protect it. Her strong connection to the ocean inspired her to pursue a degree in Animal Biology and a Master’s in Environmental Protection and Management with a focus on marine systems. Through working with the GHOF, Louisa has had incredible opportunities to dive all over the globe. Notably, a trip to Mexico to swim with whale sharks. While in Costa Rica, Louisa swam with spotted dolphins and pilot whales. For many, this is an adventure of a lifetime, but for Louisa, it is just another day at the office.
Interview with Louisa Gibson
1. What is your role at the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation?
I am the Development Coordinator for the GHOF. My primary responsibility is to raise the funds necessary to support our research and educational initiatives here in the Cayman Islands. These funds are raised through corporate sponsorships, individual donations, and philanthropic giving, along with GHOF hosted events throughout the year. It is a difficult job and we are always grateful for additional support.
2. What inspired you to become interested in ocean conservation?
I have an intrinsic love of nature. I really believe that I was put on this Earth to do what I am doing. Growing up I wanted to be a vet – whether it was small animals or exotics I wasn’t sure – but then when I moved away from Cayman to go to university, I realized how important just being in, on and around the ocean is for me. I wanted to protect it. So I did my undergraduate degree in Animal Biology and my masters in Environmental Protection and Management, focusing on marine systems.
3. What has been your most memorable experience out in the field?
I have so many! I am so grateful for the experiences that Guy, and working for the Foundation has given me. I have been diving with Tiger sharks in the Bahamas; Whale Sharks in Mexico; Silky sharks, spotted dolphins, and pilot whales in Costa Rica; fishing in world-famous sport-fishing destinations including Tropic Star Lodge in Panama, and Isla Mujeres, Mexico; and I have been a part of educating thousands of people around the world from New York, to Florida, Bahamas, Cayman Islands and all over the Caribbean about the issues and importance of ocean conservation.
4. What is a typical day like for you in the office and in the field?
I go to work just like everybody else – I answer emails, read documents and write marketing content. Some days I am lucky enough to spend my 8 hours on a boat, surrounded by blue. In the field, it can be exhausting. An example is during our biannual stingray census where we spend 3 days surveying the size and health of every Southern stingray that inhabits stingray city sandbar. There are approximately 100 of them and the majority weigh over 100lbs. It is hard work but extremely rewarding.
5. What is your favorite species of shark?
I think my favorite species of shark is the oceanic whitetip. Their populations have declined by up to 98% is some of their range, including the Caribbean, and so I always feel lucky to be able to interact with them in their natural environment. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation tags and tracks these sharks with the aim of learning about their migrations to protect their key habitats.
6. Where is your favorite place to dive in the world?
We are so lucky to call the Cayman Islands home! Our waters are warm, calm, crystal clear and diverse – I would have to say right here in Cayman, closely followed by the Bahamas which not only has all of these qualities but they also have a healthy population of large predatory sharks.
7. What is the biggest threat you see our oceans facing today?
The easy answer is pollution and overfishing. Ocean plastic, ghost nets, and nutrient run-off are devastating for our oceans globally. Overfishing and by-catch are causing ecosystems to become unbalanced cascading the effects down trophic levels and causing fish stocks to crash affecting global economies, not to mention small coastal communities.
The more complex answer is climate change. Sea temperature rise is causing corals to bleach and atmospheric carbon dioxide is being absorbed by the ocean causing ocean acidification and the truth is, we don’t fully understand the long-term consequences to the ecosystem as a whole.
All of these threats, in addition to natural phenomenon, invasive species, habitat loss, and other human pressures are making it very difficult for the ocean to be resilient and rapidly decreasing its health.
8. What is the biggest takeaway you have gained from your experience working with Dr. Guy Harvey?
Guy is a huge inspiration for me. He doesn’t tire easily, he gives 110% of his effort all of the time, and he has really shown me what a big difference one person with a mission can make. Jessica Harvey has inherited his love of all ocean creatures and his drive to change the world, and I feel privileged to work alongside her to achieve the goals of GHOF.
Anyone can make a difference just by making small changes to our daily lives, contributing a small amount of time or money to the cause, or by simply having impactful conversations.