Amazing Women Wednesday: Citizen Scientists in the Yucatan!

Andrea, Elnora and Fin with a Whale Shark

Andrea, Elnora and Fin with a Whale Shark

Two weeks ago I met a stunning group of women. We were all citizen science volunteers on the Ray of Hope Expedition 2015 to the Yucatan. Our goal was to take ID photographs of Manta Rays and Whale Sharks, and to obtain 30 genetic samples from Mantas. The Whale Shark goal was awesomely met, the Mantas were elusive, but the group of women on the expedition made the trip more than worthwhile. (There were absolutely wonderful men on the trip…but Wednesday is for women! Sorry, guys.)

Andrea photographing.

Andrea photographing.

The organizer of the group was the Chief Scientist for Manta Rays, Dr Andrea Marshall of Marine Megafauna Foundation. I have blogged about Andrea on Amazing Women Wednesday, and I have gone on Ray of Hope Expeditions to Ecuador and the Yucatan, and I’m scheduled for Komodo next year. To quote Andrea, “Making a difference out in the field and playing a role in the protection of our oceans is a rewarding and life changing experience.” Yes, it is. And one of the most rewarding things about Citizen Science are the people you meet while engaged in it.

Andrea and I on the boat

Andrea and I on the boat

Fin in the Sargassum

Fin in the Sargassum

Isa could really keep up with the Whale Sharks!

Isa could really keep up with the Whale Sharks!

Lauren in the Jellies...don't worry, they don't sting much.

Lauren in the Jellies…don’t worry, they don’t sting much.

Celebrating Fin's birthday...we were the only two left! We had a lovely dinner.

Celebrating Fin’s birthday…we were the only two left! We had a lovely dinner.

What a diverse group of women on the Yucatan trip! The age range was 19-66 years old! One would never know anyone was in their sixties though, and it has become my goal to be 70 and still going on these expeditions. Every woman on the trip was an inspiration. First, there is Andrea Marshall, enough said. Next, Isabella is from Mexico and a biology student at Penn. She was so enthusiastic I named her Princessa Isa, the Heir Apparent to the Queen of Mantas, Andrea Marshall! We all joked around the entire week about it, but I doubt it is a joke…Isabella may very well go into Marine Biology and Field Work. She absolutely loved it. Lauren is a Scottish biologist working at a resort in Male, Maldives and she was thrilled to see the aggregation of Whale Sharks in the Yucatan. There really is nothing like it! Lauren joined the trip with her Kiwi (New Zealand) co-worker and Scuba Instructor, Fin (yes, Fin like a fish). Fin and Lauren were roomies on the trip and stayed in the room next to me. We went back and forth a bit…I forgot conditioner and they were life savers! In love with Mexico, it would not surprise me if Fin relocated to the Yucatan! Elnora hailed from San Francisco and went snorkeling with crocodiles after our expedition…I confess, I wasn’t ready to do that! Brave (or seriously mad) Andrea, Lauren and Elnora who went off with crocs! Dear Annie, from Canada, was a sparkling and positive example to everyone during the entire trip. Me? I’m famous for being the clumsiest of all of us and forgetting things like fins and oxygen. Fin dubbed me the “Dory” (from Finding Nemo) of the trip! It was actually a compliment…hey, Dory had good points! She spoke whale, after all.

What an inspiration they all are. Women from all over the world, of all ages, sharing a passion for the ocean and conservation, coming together by chance. Our group jelled from Day One. It was like finding a tribe. These expeditions are not “luxurious” (I hear the Komodo trip is luxury…can’t wait!), they are tough, especially for women of a certain age. Heading out before dawn on a small boat, searching the ocean for Mantas and Whale Sharks, then engaging in our work when we found the animals, is not easy. Despite the discomfort, we would all do it again.

L to R: Elnora, Tam, Fin, Annie, Isa, Lauren, Andrea...and Tom!

L to R: Elnora, Tam, Fin, Annie, Isa, Lauren, Andrea…and Tom!

I admire these women for their passion, and their willingness to put their backs into a cause they believe in. The younger women were testing out whether they were cut out for field work, and they all did a wonderful job. To be with people who are enthusiastic and capable of wonder is refreshing and revitalizing. I certainly hope to dive or work with each and every one of them again. To Andrea, Isa, Fin, Lauren, Annie and Elnora, Cheers! You are all fabulous. Let’s meet up and do it again, you amazing women!

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About the Author ()

I am an avid scuba diver, underwater photographer, amateur historian; interested in all people and cultures. For me, the unexpected is usually the norm! My motto? I am an Empty Nester who likes to Renew, Revamp, and Reinvent Life! Contact me at

Comments (44)

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  1. I love this, Tam! I am amazed, in awe and so proud of you and all of the women you wrote about. So awesome in so many ways.

  2. How inspiring! I love reading your Amazing Women Wednesday posts – they’re so empowering.

  3. Oh how I would have loved to have been on that boat and in the water, right by your side Tam! Inspiring women supporting the planet in a ways that only those of us who love the sea and the reef, and all the life they make possible, can do!

  4. WOW what great work. I would love to do something like this thats so powerful. Thank you!

  5. I never had any idea that people did this sort of thing and I am so impressed and inspired by all of you women. Those are some big fish. Just amazing. The photos are beautiful too!

    • Tam Warner says:

      Citizen science has become a very important part of trying to conserve our resources. Too many people just think these resources are endless…it is heartbreaking to see these important keystone species finned. Mexico understands these animals are worth millions in tourist dollars.

  6. I was just talking about you to our dog trainer, who did graduate work with ocean critters in Hawaii. Wish you lived closer so I could get us all together!

  7. Mary says:

    As I was reading this, I wish I could have been on that boat with you, so inspiring!
    Mary recently posted…Spinach and Mozzarella PinwheelsMy Profile

  8. But what do you call a group of amazing women doing good? A bevy of brightness? An assembly of awesome? Circle of citizens?
    Nancy Hill (@nerthus) recently posted…What Living Your Legacy Now MeansMy Profile

  9. What an amazing, adventurous life you have. I envy you that and I am so glad you have chosen to share it with others.

  10. Tammy says:

    I want to be like you when I grow up. So admire your zest and application for life. Love what you do…and how you do it!

  11. Carolann says:

    I stare at the images and am so impressed! What a great cause and you are a part of it! More pics please!

  12. Awesome blog Tam and yes! Women in science rule!!

  13. Estelle says:

    I love reading about all your adventures in nature. Citizen Science is such a fascinating org. And they do such great work.
    Estelle recently posted…Blogger Bash-It Was My One Day SmashMy Profile

  14. Annie Rooney says:

    Thanks for doing this,Tam. I would have added a description of you as a mover and a shaker who just gets things done (Dory or otherwise!). It was wonderful to meet you and all of our travel companions. So much fun and good work too.

  15. Tam – what an incredible experience! And I love your photos. I’m fascinated by whale sharks and applause you amazing women for your work!
    The GypsyNesters recently posted…Wicked Views & Wonderful Wildlife Along Alaska’s Seward HighwayMy Profile

  16. Elnora Cameron says:

    Tam, as part of the team in Cancun, I loved sharing that week+ with you. I told Andrea she has ruined recrational diving for me as diving with a purpose or mission, like we did that week, seems so much more meaningful. You and your blog are inspirations!

  17. Looks like a lot of fun with a lot of smart gals! What a unique experience! #JoyHopeLive

  18. Thanks for sharing with us at #JoyHopeLive!

  19. Aha! Now I understand what a Citizen Scientist is and the type of expedition trip you were on. (When I saw your earlier blog posts about diving in the Revillagigedo Islands, I was unsure.) Excellent! I would love to be a part of one of these trips… How exciting!
    Debbra Dunning Brouillette recently posted…Bird-lovers flock to Sanibel’s J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife RefugeMy Profile

  20. Sounds like a fab group of women (visiting from Blog, Share, Learn). I recently swam with whale sharks in Bay of LaPaz last January and was inspired to write a blog post about it. I really was a spiritual experience! You might like it.
    Terri Webster Schrandt recently posted…Can You Spare 500 Moments?My Profile

  21. How fab an experience & awesome photos. I spent some time in Yucatan & the neighbouring island of Cozumel way back in 1989 … the sea off Cozumel especially was crystal clear & the marine life was amazing. It was fab just snorkelling there 😊
    visiting via #blogsharelearn
    Linda Hobden recently posted…Pot LuckMy Profile

  22. Wow, I loved this! It shows the work of amazing women in my native Mexico. Thanks to people like them, we can learn to love, appreciate and value my country’s natural wealth. Thanks a lot for this post!

    -Fabi at My Heart Of Mexico
    Blog Share Learn link up

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