Andrea Marshall, the Queen of Mantas

You can’t breed a whale shark. Or a humpback whale.

When they are gone, they are gone.

And, what about borders when it comes to the ocean? Who is responsible for caring for these charismatic creatures when they go into other territories?

I had never thought of ocean conservation in those terms before.

Today I speak with Andrea Marshall, known as the Queen of Mantas, as coined by the BBC for their documentary on her in 2009.

She’s a pioneer for Manta Ray research.

Before she started researching Mantas, there was simply no data on them.

“How can we have people going to space, yet we don’t know anything about the biggest animals in our ocean. That’s crazy!”

She and her friend Simon Pierce decided they needed to study threatened charismatic marine megafauna. And to protect the marine habitats in Africa at the same time.

And so they did.

She moved to Mozambique. And they created the Marine Megafauna Foundation.

Today she tells us her story.

How she went from living in Australia, to selling everything, and building a hut in Mozambique, to start her life’s work.

We hear about the (many) challenges they face in Mozambique.

The impact of COVID on her personally, but also on the organization. The challenges, but also the incredible silver linings.

Andrea talks us through what keeps her up at night (as an ocean conservationist, it’s not easy), but what also gives her hope.

Andrea is a true inspiration, her passion and dedication to marine conservation is thoroughly contagious, and this chat will inspire you.

So grab that favorite beverage or throw on those running shoes, and here is Andrea.

00:00:02:04 – 00:00:27:03
Philippa White
Welcome to the show, where we unearth new ways of looking at ever evolving light around the world. Seen from a number of different industries, cultures and backgrounds. But there’s one thing that unites everyone I speak to. They all want to do their part to make the world better in their own unique ways. It’s a uniting passion. Whether they’re from the commercial world, third sector or public sector from the Global North or the global south.

00:00:27:15 – 00:01:05:17
Philippa White
My name is Philippa White and welcome to TIE Unearthed. Hello and welcome to episode 36 of TIE Unearthed. Today I have a very special guest with us, Andrea marshall, known as the Queen of Mantas, as coined by the BBC for their documentary on her in 2009. Andrea is the co-founder of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, along with Dr. Simon Pearce, which is an organization that we have partnered with a number of times over the years, and we will be working with them again in March of 2022.

00:01:06:05 – 00:01:33:13
Philippa White
Andrea was educated in the United States and Australia and was the first person in the world to complete a PhD on manta rays. After completing her thesis in 2008. Andrea stayed on in Mozambique to spearhead the conservation efforts of the species along the remote coastline, and she’s vowed to dedicate her life to the preservation and management of the Manta ray population in southern Mozambique.

00:01:34:05 – 00:02:01:23
Philippa White
Today, we’ll be talking about life in Mozambique and the hardships she endures on her quest to save these gentle giants from exploitation, the challenges that they face in that part of the world, discovery of new species and so much more. And Andrea said something on this chat that actually really threw me something about the challenges around the conservation of threatened marine animals, something that I’d never considered before.

00:02:02:04 – 00:02:30:04
Philippa White
It’s something so obvious, but just confirmed why what they do is so important. Andrea is a true inspiration. Her passion and dedication to marine conservation is thoroughly contagious. This chat will inspire you. So grab that favorite beverage or throw in those running shoes. And here is Andrea. Hello, Andrea. It is lovely to have you with us today on Time on Earth.

00:02:30:08 – 00:02:31:02
Philippa White
How are you?

00:02:31:08 – 00:02:36:00
Andrea Marshall
Very good. Thank you for having me. It’s world man today, so I’m very excited to be able to be talking to you today.

00:02:36:00 – 00:02:47:22
Philippa White
We’re all meant to date. Come. We couldn’t have planned this better. This is wonderful. Not really. Yeah, fantastic. That’s Andrea. Your where tell the listeners where you’re sitting right now.

00:02:48:09 – 00:02:55:07
Andrea Marshall
I am sitting in my office in Milan, clueless, looking over the Basra Archipelago National Park here in southern Mozambique.

00:02:55:17 – 00:03:04:22
Philippa White
Wow. How amazing. So we’re both we were just before we started recording. We were talking about well, Andre has been living in Mozambique for how long?

00:03:05:14 – 00:03:07:11
Andrea Marshall
Almost 20 years now. Just under 20 years?

00:03:07:17 – 00:03:32:13
Philippa White
Yeah. Socially, I’ll have you tell the listeners your story and your background. But obviously being in Mozambique, she’s also a Portuguese speaker very humbly saying that she’s not fluid, but obviously she she’s probably exactly the same as me. I’m also a bit of a a perfectionist as I’ve been here for 16 years in Brazil. And and also sort of, yeah, I can get by with my Portuguese, but I’m also not exactly totally fluent.

00:03:32:13 – 00:03:52:24
Philippa White
But we both have North American accents and I can’t believe that we’ve worked together for two projects over a number of years now, and I still don’t actually know your story. I don’t know where this accent comes from. So please tell our listeners about you the work that you do, and just also just sort of the story of how and why the organization was set up.

00:03:52:24 – 00:03:57:06
Philippa White
But, you know, maybe start a little bit before so we can understand a little bit more about you.

00:03:57:21 – 00:04:16:06
Andrea Marshall
Well, I can’t kick my accent. I don’t think any American can. I’m a Californian girl, born and bred. I was raised in Northern California, which was a fabulous place to grow up, especially if you’re a kind of a nature lover. I think it’s a bit congested at this stage, but it was wonderful to grow up there and very, very connected to nature.

00:04:16:06 – 00:04:41:15
Andrea Marshall
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always had an affinity for the ocean, and that doesn’t necessarily come from my parents at all. They’re all computer programmers and, you know, they’re not my mom can hardly swim. You know, it’s it definitely wasn’t that I was raised by surfer parents or anything like that. But I think my mom said ever since I was about five years old and that’s it really hits home for me now because I have a five year old daughter and every single day she wants to be something new.

00:04:41:16 – 00:04:49:18
Andrea Marshall
You know, as ballerina and she wants to get fad or she wants to be a dentist. My mom told me when I was five years old, I told her I wanted to be a shark researcher.

00:04:50:04 – 00:04:50:17
Philippa White
And no.

00:04:50:19 – 00:05:18:14
Andrea Marshall
Way to ever change. I never I never change, she said. I never said anything else. I just wanted to study sharks. I just wanted to study sharks. I just wanted to study sharks. And and so that’s really incredible for me to realize that I somehow knew, even at that age that this is what I wanted to do. And and as early as I can remember anyway, I remember also, you know, just wanting to be a marine biologist, wanting to be a diver and wanting to go underwater.

00:05:19:03 – 00:05:37:20
Andrea Marshall
I begged my mom to to you to be on the swim team. And then, you know, at ten, 11 years old, I told her I wanted to start diving. And of course, at that age, you had to be 12 in order to be certified. And so I did some discover scuba at ten years old and and 11 years old, I was prepping.

00:05:38:01 – 00:05:48:08
Andrea Marshall
And on my 12th birthday, literally on my birthday, I was writing the test to be a diver. So you can call me unsettled. I mean.

00:05:48:12 – 00:05:51:10
Philippa White
Yeah, do.

00:05:51:10 – 00:06:12:21
Andrea Marshall
But yeah, I definitely knew the path that I was on from a very early age. And, you know, it’s interesting, though, because I’m also a professional underwater photographer. And there was a stage where, you know, going through university, I actually paid my way through university. I was on scholarship scholarships and academic scholarships. But I also paid my bills by being a photographer.

00:06:12:21 – 00:06:31:05
Andrea Marshall
And and I and I got quite good really early on and I and I saw, you know, two distinct paths for me. I could become a photographer and be a professional kind of underwater media photographer or I could, you know, carry on becoming a scientist. And I was really uncertain for a few years there about what I wanted to do.

00:06:31:05 – 00:06:48:03
Andrea Marshall
But the more I was involved in media work and television and productions, the more I realized I actually wanted to be the person in front of the camera. I want to be the person, you know, who they were making the films about because they were contributing to science in some way. And so that’s what ultimately cemented it for me.

00:06:48:03 – 00:07:11:16
Andrea Marshall
I still dabble in photography. I still I just came off of a shoot for Netflix right now a couple of days ago. So I still do dabble in media work and I think it’s very important to disseminate my information as a scientist. But ultimately I realized I wanted to do the actual research myself and so I did a postgrad in Australia and then, you know, kind of found that still too restrictive, still too much like America.

00:07:11:16 – 00:07:24:13
Andrea Marshall
And I thought, you know, where do all the great explorers go? And I was like, Africa, right? I’m going to be the Jane Goodall, you know, of the ocean. I’m going to go out there and I’m just going to build myself a little hot in the middle of nowhere. And I’m going to study something that no one’s ever studied.

00:07:24:13 – 00:07:48:20
Andrea Marshall
And and that’s what I did. You know, nobody had ever done any really work on matches before. And I had been working with the IUCN in my early twenties and had been given a lot of different species, lots of different animals to do the concert, the global conservation assessments for the called the Red List assessment. So to determine if an animal was endangered or not and one of the animals they split across the table to me was a mantra.

00:07:48:20 – 00:08:14:18
Andrea Marshall
And I remember it being a very impressionable moment because, you know, I’ve been diving with Manta since I was 12. I mean, who doesn’t love a manta? They’re just the most glorious creatures in the world yet when I tried to do this assessment, there was no information on them and I had to ultimately assign them as data deficient and that I kind of was like, How could we be in a day and age where we can go to space and we don’t even know anything about the biggest animals in our ocean?

00:08:14:18 – 00:08:30:21
Andrea Marshall
That’s crazy. So, you know, living in South Africa at the time, I started to do some exploratory diving in Africa with some of the crews that were going in to, you know, going into these far out places. And Mozambique was just opening up from this massive civil war. And we went up there to find out what the diving was like.

00:08:30:21 – 00:08:49:00
Andrea Marshall
And I stumbled upon a huge population of manta rays and whale sharks here. And I thought, well, this is it. You know, we I now know that nobody knows anything about Mantas. I’ve just found a spot that’s opening up, you know, from the Civil War, and it’s very pristine and beautiful. And I’m just going to put my flag in the sand here.

00:08:49:00 – 00:09:02:22
Andrea Marshall
And I literally built a little grass hut. I, I called back to Australia and I said, sell, sell everything, sell my apartment, sell my son my furniture, sell my car, send me a check. And I just never left. And that was 20 years ago.

00:09:04:13 – 00:09:09:11
Philippa White
Oh, my gosh. And was it cold? And meth then? Marine Megafauna Foundation.

00:09:10:02 – 00:09:27:12
Andrea Marshall
You know, so that was just me. I mean, I just came out with, you know, with that hope and a dream and a, you know, little twinkle in my eye. And I and I did a deal on the coastline. And and I, I think the intention at the time was to do work on Mantas and then perhaps go somewhere else.

00:09:28:05 – 00:09:50:19
Andrea Marshall
But I did not anticipate falling in love with this country the way that I did. So by the time I wrapped up my PhD, I was so far in I was so in love with this country. I could see what was happening to it and I could see that if I didn’t stay, that there was just going to be no one else to fight for these animals or, you know, the coastline here.

00:09:51:10 – 00:10:05:10
Andrea Marshall
So, you know, one of my other very good friends, very total rock star, he just finished his Ph.D. in Australia at the time as well and you know, didn’t know what to do with his life. I told him, come out to Mozambique, there’s whale sharks here. You can study whale sharks. This is I’ve never seen a whale shark.

00:10:05:10 – 00:10:13:13
Andrea Marshall
How can I study whale sharks? I said, well, you know, I, I, they now consider me the world expert on mantas. And, you know, that was just.

00:10:13:13 – 00:10:13:22
Philippa White
A couple of.

00:10:13:22 – 00:10:34:00
Andrea Marshall
Years worth of so you could be the world expert on on whale sharks. And he’s an huh. And he just wrote the definitive textbook on whale sharks about and published about it really. So that just shows you. Yeah, that just shows you how it’s done. And so he he came out with me and saw his first whale shark and like I said, is now considered one of the world’s experts on whale sharks.

00:10:34:00 – 00:10:55:11
Andrea Marshall
Just, you know, wrote the definitive textbook. And and he and I went from just, you know, studying mountains and whale sharks to deciding that we we wanted to go all in and and he and I couldn’t find another NGO that we felt was a good home for us. You know, we’re really a field biologists. We want to be out in the field all the time and want to be working with communities all the time.

00:10:55:12 – 00:11:12:18
Andrea Marshall
We want to be we really want our work to be immediately going into conservation and management. And, you know, there was all these other NGOs in the country. It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to name them. It doesn’t matter. The point is, is a lot of NGOs aren’t based in the field and we never saw them. They were never here.

00:11:12:19 – 00:11:35:20
Andrea Marshall
I mean, they say they work in the country, but we don’t ever see them on the ground. So we thought, let’s just start our own NGO. And and that’s what we did. And we were we were smart enough to not name it, you know, the mantra and whale shark trust or something like that. We, we, we decided on the Marine Megafauna Foundation because we had aspirations of, of basically our the concept behind.

00:11:35:20 – 00:12:13:06
Andrea Marshall
And then where it came from is, is realizing that Africa had saved its terrestrial spaces. You know, these amazing terrestrial spaces like the Serengeti or the Okavango or, you know, Virunga National Park, they’ve done it off the back of of charismatic megafauna to, you know, lions, rhinos, gorillas. And I thought to myself, well, if that model is working in Africa, let’s let us start with the marine megafauna, you know, whale sharks, humpback whales, manta rays, things that will capture people’s attention, but also species that are genuinely under threat.

00:12:13:06 – 00:12:35:09
Andrea Marshall
So whale sharks, endangered manta rays, endangered dugongs endangered. The things that we work on are all endangered as well, but they’re also highly charismatic and very, very important to study because marine megafauna species are usually the first to go in an ecosystem. They have the smallest population sizes, they’re the most vulnerable, and they’re usually the ones that are impossible to bring back.

00:12:35:19 – 00:12:58:19
Andrea Marshall
You know, you can’t breed a whale shark back, you can’t breed a dugong back. You know, once they’re gone and extrapolated, they’re gone. So that was the idea behind the organization study these big charismatic marine megafauna that are threatened. And then off the back of them because they’re large and they require large spaces, then we can protect these critical marine habitats in Africa, and that is exactly what we’re doing.

00:12:59:04 – 00:13:17:19
Philippa White
How inspirational. Like tell us perhaps a little bit more about the challenges that you face in your part of the world that listeners may not know. I mean, you touched on top lines just now and the reason for why you set up the organization. But what do you facing daily there?

00:13:19:04 – 00:13:36:24
Andrea Marshall
This is I mean, this is just has has to be the most challenging place to do work in the world. And in some ways, it kills me every day. I mean, the logistics behind what we do. I actually married in a logistics specialist in order to just survive and he’s fabulous at his job is one of the best.

00:13:37:07 – 00:13:54:15
Andrea Marshall
But you know, it kills us every day. I mean, everything is so, so much harder than it is anywhere else. But at the same time, you kind of grow into relishing that in some weird way. You know, I go back to the U.S. now. We have one project in the US now and everything is just so easy.

00:13:54:21 – 00:13:57:00
Philippa White
I can relate. I can relate to, you.

00:13:57:00 – 00:13:57:11
Andrea Marshall
Know what I mean.

00:13:58:02 – 00:14:00:10
Philippa White
To you, what you’re saying. Yeah.

00:14:00:10 – 00:14:18:19
Andrea Marshall
And, and so I, you know, it’s something, it’s this weird, this weird relationship that I have where I want to rip my hair out. And some days I just hate Africa. And then. But I just love it too. And it’s what keeps me, it’s just keeps me going every day because I’m constantly on my toes. My, my, my brain is constantly thinking.

00:14:18:19 – 00:14:39:22
Andrea Marshall
Things are constantly going wrong. So so you really get good at fixing problems. You know, they have a saying in Africa called mega plan because everything breaks. So you always have to make a plan every single day of, you know. And so, yeah, it keeps you on your toes. But I mean, we’ve lived through Category five cyclones. You know, we’ve lived through devastating fires where, you know, everything we own burns.

00:14:40:06 – 00:15:01:17
Andrea Marshall
We’ve I mean, I’ve had malaria eight times. I’ve you know, it’s not easy living through a pandemic in Africa. Let me just tell you that you know everything. My, my husband’s crashed head first into the ocean and our microlight multiple times. We’ve been bitten by snakes and bitten by sharks. He’s got bit by the worst probably is he got bitten by a spider and almost had almost had his leg removed from that spider.

00:15:02:05 – 00:15:09:05
Andrea Marshall
I mean, it just goes on and on. It just goes on and on. But at the end of the day, we’re going to have a really, really awesome book one day.

00:15:09:08 – 00:15:31:01
Philippa White
Yeah, you mentioned just in passing, but I think it would be really, really helpful for people to understand just this is a question I ask a lot of people based in other parts of the world just because I mostly based in Brazil, we work with a lot of people in India, we work with people all around Africa and everyone’s been impacted by COVID in different ways.

00:15:31:01 – 00:15:40:17
Philippa White
And we’ve just had so many stories from so many of our partners around the world. How have you, but also your work and ever miss been impacted by the pandemic?

00:15:40:17 – 00:16:06:11
Andrea Marshall
Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, on one side of things, it’s been difficult. Anyone that lives in a developing country, especially one that’s reliant on like a neighboring country, to provide it with supplies, you know, the supply chain for Mozambique comes really through South Africa. And South Africa was hit very hard by COVID, as I think a lot of people are aware, especially the Delta variant, which I think even originated there, or one of the variants originated in South Africa.

00:16:06:11 – 00:16:29:09
Andrea Marshall
And and so, you know, our our supplies were really compromised significantly over the last couple of years. And and that that that proved challenging. I think the hardest thing for us, though, is just not having access to health care and actually, you know, having to watch friends get COVID and not be able to get the health care they needed and ultimately succumb to it.

00:16:29:09 – 00:16:51:12
Andrea Marshall
And and knowing that they may or may not have survived if they had better health care, but they would have had a better shot. Right. And so by the time my husband and I got COVID a couple of months ago, we were terrified because we had seen and lost friends and thought, and I’m immunocompromised. And so I just thought, well, this is it, you know, I can’t get out.

00:16:51:12 – 00:17:01:03
Andrea Marshall
And if it gets bad, that’s it. There’s nothing you can do. And the worst part about it is both my husband and I got it at the same time and my five year old daughter.

00:17:01:03 – 00:17:01:18
Philippa White
Child care.

00:17:01:19 – 00:17:22:05
Andrea Marshall
Didn’t didn’t get it. She didn’t get it. And of course, nobody you know, she had been exposed and nobody knew if she was going to get it or not. So no one would take her. And so we just had to keep her isolated in our house. And it’s really difficult to care for a young child when you can’t really come in contact with them.

00:17:22:05 – 00:17:35:04
Andrea Marshall
And she was hysterical because we had spent the last year and a half telling her, you know, wash your hands. You don’t want to get this thing. And now both of her parents have it and she can see how sick her dad is. And and it was really, really scary. It was it was it was just awful. It was like a nightmare.

00:17:35:04 – 00:17:54:00
Andrea Marshall
But, you know, just like most things, we figured out how to navigate through it. But, you know, on the other side of the coin for us, COVID shut down a lot of our international operations, you know, places that we work like Myanmar and the Andamans and the Philippines and Madagascar. And and we weren’t able to focus as much on international research.

00:17:54:00 – 00:18:15:00
Andrea Marshall
There wasn’t flights to, you know, countries weren’t open and things. So we had no choice except to focus on Mozambique 100% of the time, which we haven’t done ever. Because, I mean, yes, early in their early years I did. But once MAF started picking up and we had all these global projects, I’ve never spent, you know, full time here, you know, without interruption.

00:18:15:12 – 00:18:35:19
Andrea Marshall
And so for the last two years, we’ve been able to focus on nothing else except our work in this country. And it’s really been phenomenal. You know, I’ve been living here for so long, but there’s so many things I’ve learned by not having to ever leave and just being here for every moment, every day, whether it’s working with communities or just being able to be on the reefs every day.

00:18:35:19 – 00:18:51:23
Andrea Marshall
All these nuances that I had missed before we’ve discovered a bunch of reefs we never knew about because we had the time to do that. We did a lot of research. We’ve expanded our research programs to include a bunch of new species that we never thought we could handle because we never had the time. But now we do.

00:18:51:23 – 00:19:15:15
Andrea Marshall
Yeah. So we’re studying wedge fish, which are, you know, kind of a group that’s just been declared as the most endangered fish group in the world. And we’ve started a program on small stingrays, which is the largest marine stingray in the world that no one has ever studied before. And we’ve just started tagging them for the first time ever, or studying or starting to expand our work out to do more work on dugongs and and leopard sharks, which are also endangered.

00:19:15:15 – 00:19:29:20
Andrea Marshall
So there’s it’s just it’s given us the opportunity to really double down in Mozambique, if you will. And I think without COVID, that may never have happened. So there are there are things that we’re very grateful about in terms of the pandemic as well. So it kind of is a double edged sword.

00:19:30:06 – 00:19:55:11
Philippa White
Yeah, absolutely. But I can share that sentiment for sure. I think a lot of people can. You know, it’s necessity is the mother of invention for us, for sure. But, you know, with every challenge, there is an opportunity and there are silver linings. And you could just get completely just overwhelmed by challenges like a pandemic or, you know, buckle up and say, okay, let’s see what we can do to make the most of a shitty situation.

00:19:55:11 – 00:20:02:17
Philippa White
And you did, which is amazing and not surprising and we said your your approach to life in Simon.

00:20:02:22 – 00:20:28:09
Andrea Marshall
Simon Yeah but Simon, our co-founder too. I mean, he struggled a little bit more because he he was never based in the field like me, you know, he was based mostly in New Zealand and Australia and would go into the field. So he struggled a little bit more than me with COVID. But but we just told each other, listen, we see a lot of NGOs collapsing and just, you know, caving under the pressure of pandemic, you know, loss of grant money and things.

00:20:28:22 – 00:20:48:15
Andrea Marshall
And we just thought, well, we could go down like some other people or we could try and reinvent ourselves. And and that’s what we’ve done. And I think it’s really benefited us. And in many ways, the lessons that we’ve learned now, I think will will stay with us. I think we’re really going to make sure that we spend more time instead of just trying to.

00:20:48:15 – 00:21:05:22
Andrea Marshall
And this is I think this is a it should be a goal for all NGOs, which is you you get a model. The model works. People respect your work. You start getting more money and you expand your programs probably too much because you always want to say, yes, you know, you always want to bite off more, you always want to say yes.

00:21:06:01 – 00:21:27:05
Andrea Marshall
But by saying yes and expanding too much, you don’t do any location or any project. The Justice it deserves, if you understand what I’m saying. So I think expansion is okay, but only to the point where it’s sustainable. And I think this has showed us, again, like even though we thought we were doing a good job in Mozambique, we could have done a better job with more attention.

00:21:27:05 – 00:21:38:19
Andrea Marshall
And now that I understand that, I think I’m going to apply that to all of our programs around the world and make sure that we don’t do more than we we can. And we always try and do our best in any of the places that that we’re working.

00:21:38:21 – 00:21:58:19
Philippa White
And again, it’s sort of a recalibration, isn’t it? It’s times like this where you just you do you reflect and you think, okay, how can things be done differently and take the, you know, learn from what worked? And I think for our listeners would be really helpful. Just perhaps you can explain. I mean, you mentioned in passing again that you work in a number of different countries around the world.

00:21:59:09 – 00:22:14:20
Philippa White
Obviously, Mozambique, you do a lot of research. Can you just bring to life just I think it’s really helpful for the listeners to just understand what what it is you do. You do exactly the same stuff that you do in Mozambique, in the other countries around the world. What are your programs?

00:22:14:20 – 00:22:35:18
Andrea Marshall
So the mandate of the Marine Megafauna Foundation is to save our ocean giants from extinction. And we do that primarily through research. You know, we’re all field biologists. So our first stage is to go out and do research on these endangered species like whale sharks or manta rays or marlin or, you know, leopard sharks or dugongs or whatever it is.

00:22:35:22 – 00:22:53:07
Andrea Marshall
We’re doing research on these animals. Then we take that information and it can be anything. It can be. We do a lot of tagging work where we put tags on animals and learn about their movement patterns. We do a lot of genetics, so we take tissue samples and kind of learn about animals through, you know, population genetics. We we do a lot with photography.

00:22:53:07 – 00:23:13:17
Andrea Marshall
So a lot of these animals have unique spot patterns or color patterns that allow us to identify specific individuals. And then we can track individuals through populations over time. And with all of that research, we take information and then we immediately make recommendations to managers. So areas that are protected now, you know, are they doing a good job?

00:23:13:17 – 00:23:33:17
Andrea Marshall
Do they have the information they need to be able to manage these populations effectively, you know, that are based on good science? And then a lot of times we find with the research that the areas that the animals need protection are actually not protected. And then we can work with governments to appeal to create new protected areas or extend the protected areas to the areas where the animals need it.

00:23:33:17 – 00:23:55:24
Andrea Marshall
You know, we also work a lot on global conservation treaties, so both Simon and I have like lead authored all of the red list assessments for manta rays and mobilize and whale sharks. And a lot of these marine species meaning that they now have a concept of global conservation status because, you know, we’ve we’ve we’ve done a tremendous amount of work to make sure that that they have these global statuses.

00:23:55:24 – 00:24:16:11
Andrea Marshall
And then and then we kind of help to get them listed on treaties like sightings, which is the convention for International Trade in Endangered Species, making sure that they’re not allowed to be trafficked across international borders and and sold illegally. And then things like CMEs, which are the Convention for Migratory Species. So, I mean, it’s easy to protect an animal if it doesn’t move.

00:24:16:11 – 00:24:31:18
Andrea Marshall
But what if you’re talking about a migratory animal in the ocean that that lives in the high seas where there’s nobody owns that place? You know, how do you protect those types of animals? So we kind of list them on those treaties and then work with different governments to protect them in the high seas. So we do a lot of these types of work.

00:24:31:18 – 00:24:50:13
Andrea Marshall
And we started in Africa, we were born in Africa, in Mozambique, and we quickly expanded out to neighboring countries. So we work in South Africa, we work in Tanzania and a little bit in Kenya and Madagascar, like Eastern Africa. And then, you know, people liked our model. They liked what we were doing. And we moved to, you know, Southeast Asia.

00:24:50:13 – 00:25:08:22
Andrea Marshall
We work in Indonesia and the Philippines and Thailand and Myanmar and a little bit in Australia now. And then we moved to the Americas and we started working in Ecuador and Mexico and believes and now Florida. So we just we just have programs all over. And what I meant by my my comment before is that, you know, it’s exciting to expand.

00:25:08:22 – 00:25:35:10
Andrea Marshall
I’m very proud of the work that IMF does globally. But I also think it’s important to make sure that that, you know, the quality of work, the reason that we started them in that is so that we could be on the ground 365 days in the places that we work. And it’s important that we that we don’t move away from that that we make maintain, you know, because that was very and that was a very astute thing that we decided to do, because I think the reason that we’re good at the work that we do is because we’re based here full time.

00:25:35:17 – 00:25:46:11
Andrea Marshall
And so, you know, wherever we work now, we have teams on the ground, 365 days. And and I really want to make sure that we continue to do that through time, because I feel like that’s what gives you the edge as a conservationist.

00:25:46:13 – 00:26:06:09
Philippa White
Now, we I mean, I love what you do. You’re so passionate. You do incredible work. And I hope our listeners now can just understand just how much you’re doing and how important it is for the health of the planet, the work that you’re doing. But I’m just wondering, you know, in the past, how has Ty impacted you guys and also how do you hope to I can help you guys moving forward?

00:26:07:04 – 00:26:25:19
Andrea Marshall
Yeah, it’s interesting that you that you mentioned, you know, external people getting involved in things that they’re passionate about is is really about finding ways that you feel like you can value add and looking at, you know, those details of what is it that I can do and what might they be missing? You know, we went one step further.

00:26:25:19 – 00:26:43:16
Andrea Marshall
Even with these these mega expeditions and these expeditions that we’ve started, which is that, you know, a lot of people were desperate to to kind of experience what it’s like for us to be out in the field every day working with these animals. And they would write us and say, hey, you know, can can we come out and and join you?

00:26:43:16 – 00:26:59:01
Andrea Marshall
And I’d be like, No, of course not. I don’t know if I ever said yes to everyone that wanted to come out. Like I would just be babysitting people all day. Like, that doesn’t work. And yet Simon and I sat around the table one day and we were like, We can’t afford to get to the end of things.

00:26:59:01 – 00:27:14:22
Andrea Marshall
For instance, you know, it’s it’s costs $40,000 to charter a boat, to go out there to put the tags on we want. How do we afford that? That’s just so expensive. And then at the same time, we’re getting all these emails from people saying, like, we want to come out with you. And then all of a sudden like a light bulb, you know, like light bulb moment.

00:27:14:22 – 00:27:37:12
Andrea Marshall
And it was like, wait a second, why don’t we invite all these people that want to come out with us on expedition out with us and expedition, and then they can help pay for for some of these really ridiculous costs, like chartering of vessels. And then the EMF scientist can come on board and we can do our research that they can be doing it with us and they can experience, you know, for a couple of weeks what it’s like to be out in the field with us.

00:27:37:12 – 00:27:56:12
Andrea Marshall
And that was a huge lightbulb moment for us because, you know, it really was a way to be able to have everybody win. And I think, you know, it’s it’s also great because once you’ve been on an expedition like this and once you really experience something, you know, most of these people are our followers or fans or donors for life.

00:27:56:12 – 00:28:15:10
Andrea Marshall
You know, most of the people on my that sit on the board of MF have been on our expeditions before. A lot of people that we partner with regularly in the future like yourselves, I think you know, they’ve actually come out or worked with us before and and I think it’s just a great I mean, there’s citizen science, you know, where people can go out and help collect data for scientists.

00:28:15:10 – 00:28:37:20
Andrea Marshall
But but even more than that, it’s just community involvement. And I don’t just mean the local communities on the ground with us, I mean the global community. What can you do as a global citizen in different ways to support these organizations that you really believe in? And I think that’s the kind of messaging we need to push, is that everyone can make a difference, even if you know, you don’t have a Ph.D. in metrics, who cares?

00:28:38:01 – 00:28:42:24
Andrea Marshall
You’re an expert in something. And what can you do for these organizations to help make them better?

00:28:43:06 – 00:29:18:02
Philippa White
And just just for our listeners, just so the mega expeditions, this light bulb moment that helped inject real capital into the organization to help you guys do stuff. So when that light bulb moment happened, we had Matt Roach from Anomali head out to Mozambique and do a type program and was faced with you guys for 30 days to help position that to to find sort of the messaging, the the creative work to be able to really inspire potential divers to join.

00:29:18:02 – 00:29:25:04
Philippa White
You guys did the whole strategy fantastic. I was super happy with it. And then we had we.

00:29:25:04 – 00:29:47:14
Andrea Marshall
Were and the point and again, the point there the point there being, again, we’re not experts in marketing. We’re not experts in developing expeditions or even some of the media needed to be able to push expeditions like that. All we knew is that there were people that wanted to come and experience what we were doing, and we wanted people to be able to get involved and also be able to help cover some of those costs.

00:29:47:19 – 00:30:13:04
Andrea Marshall
But then where do you go from there if you don’t have someone come on board to help you? So again, that’s just a really good example of someone with a skillset coming to help us. And in that case, it wasn’t just a singular, you know, a singular moment or activity or something that’s going to be something that that Marine Marine megafauna expeditions is something that’s going to be able to reinvent our organization in a certain way over time.

00:30:13:04 – 00:30:14:09
Andrea Marshall
So, you know, that impact.

00:30:14:09 – 00:30:40:17
Philippa White
Supercell, I think it’s super exciting and I loved Mike, his project as well because again, this situation of it’s sort of okay, well we got to this spot, but then all right how we’ve got all the communications but how do we that what’s the sales pipeline like? What do we do to kind of okay, so people are interested in what happens and how do they sign up and then how do we convert them into, you know, and how do we field applications and that whole logistical side of things.

00:30:40:17 – 00:30:53:24
Philippa White
And it was great because Mike had got on board from WPP and she’s like, okay, I’m going to tackle this one. And again, 30 days later, I think you guys managed to sell out your first one. I think based on the.

00:30:53:24 – 00:30:55:20
Andrea Marshall
Definitely the absolutely we.

00:30:55:20 – 00:31:02:11
Philippa White
Did model. Yeah. Which I mean we were looking at it would be like look at the power of cross-sector partnerships. You know, it’s super.

00:31:02:11 – 00:31:27:05
Andrea Marshall
I know. That’s exactly that. Cross-sector partnership is exactly what I’m talking about. And, you know, sometimes it’s really important to help elevate these organizations that are doing good work, because usually the people that are behind them are, you know, singular focus, you know, and we’re trained and, you know, we’re scientists. We’re trained in a very specific way. And a lot of people go and they say, Oh, I don’t see a nice website for that organization.

00:31:27:05 – 00:31:43:10
Andrea Marshall
They must not be very good. Actually, they’re probably the best one because they don’t have the time to have shiny website. You know what I mean? Yeah. And the only way that we can really survive and thrive is by other people coming to us and say, Hey, I have this skill set and we really like what you do.

00:31:43:10 – 00:31:51:14
Andrea Marshall
Let us help you. And it’s such a powerful thing. Like you said, you know, when people can come together for for the power of good and do something great together.

00:31:51:22 – 00:32:14:07
Philippa White
And it’s a real win win because obviously, I mean, obviously changed the lives of of Matt and Mike of being based with you guys and seeing your passion and seeing the impact. And. Lauren God, how can I forget? Lauren And then of course, Lauren, I quote Lauren actually a lot in a lot of our presentations because, you know, for her, there was actually a point where she was basically guys.

00:32:14:07 – 00:32:50:16
Philippa White
She loved the experience so much. I remember there was a lot of reflection afterwards and she said, Philippa, oh my God. You know, I’m looking at the passion that everybody at Mass feels and they are giving their everything to improve the world. And I you know, I have this this real challenge now going on in my head basically to kind of okay, so now I leave and I go back to New York and work in advertising and oh, my God, like, you know, do I need to quit my job and live on the beach in Tulsa and help with, you know, their work?

00:32:51:01 – 00:33:25:05
Philippa White
And they say you need to understand is, you know, everybody has their their skill or their passion or how they can contribute. And this is obviously how, you know. MF And everybody there is contributing. But you now that you understand the power of what you know and the power of the skills that you have and now knowing the challenges that the world faces, you being able to change the private sector and to be able to, you know, rally the network that you have the the access to funds that you have in the private sector is huge.

00:33:25:13 – 00:33:51:21
Philippa White
And if you can change the direction that a huge client that you work with goes in or they change their processes or you get things to be done differently, then that is a huge way that you can make the change. And actually I truly believe it is these cross-sector partnerships and this empathy and this understanding of how the world works in one place and the other in one sector and the other, and bringing these worlds together that will make the change that the world actually needs to, you know, that needs to happen to make it more sustainable.

00:33:51:21 – 00:34:13:04
Andrea Marshall
I 100% agree with you, and I think it should be more I mean, you can’t make it mandatory, but I, I hope more companies understand the impact that these types of like little sabbaticals can can have on individuals, you know, not just to refresh them and connect them back with maybe some of their passion, but just like you said, that experience will sit with you forever.

00:34:13:04 – 00:34:25:11
Andrea Marshall
And it can it can help guide you in your choices and the things that you do later in your life. Even when you go back to that job that you have, you know, and and I think it’s it’s really something that more companies should look into doing.

00:34:25:23 – 00:34:37:14
Philippa White
Yeah. That’s it’s really great to hear you say that. Thank you know, tell me we’re coming to the end of the podcast. But I’m just keen to know, you know, what keeps you up at night worrying, but what also gives you hope?

00:34:38:12 – 00:35:03:18
Andrea Marshall
Yeah, well, I mean, the state of the world isn’t that great, is it? You know, and I think being a conservationist and a scientist, you probably know more facts and details than than an average person. And it’s it it gives you a gray hair. It seems many days. It seems insurmountable. And I have a lot of students and a lot of interns and people that work for me who come to me and just say, I’m starting to get depressed.

00:35:03:19 – 00:35:25:21
Andrea Marshall
You know, this seems it seems like we’re not winning. You know, how can I find the energy to go forward? And it’s not even just, you know, interns and students. It’s, you know, colleagues as well. And I think it can become really overwhelming to think about the big picture, really, because there is so much negativity and there is so much going wrong.

00:35:26:07 – 00:35:51:23
Andrea Marshall
So what I decided to do and what I encourage other people to is, is you need to tackle, you know, smaller bite sized problems, things that are achievable. I think you’re in control of your own life and, you know, your own choices, your family’s choices. So there’s a lot of there’s a lot of for me, I feel good when I know that that I’m making good choices for myself and my family.

00:35:51:23 – 00:36:13:17
Andrea Marshall
And that’s very empowering. But also, as a as a conservationist, I can focus on specific animals or specific areas or specific projects, and I can do those as well as I can to the best of my ability. And then I have to hope that there are, you know, that there’s the queen of the penguins, you know, and there’s the, I don’t know, the champion of the rhinos.

00:36:13:17 – 00:36:34:16
Andrea Marshall
And there’s got to be other people that are like me killing it every day for their projects and their species. And so I can not worry about them now, because I can hope that that there are people as passionate as me working in other areas and on other animals. And I think that’s what keeps me grounded, because when I look at our projects, I see a lot of hope and a lot of success.

00:36:35:06 – 00:36:50:09
Andrea Marshall
So I keep thinking to myself, Well, if each of us, you know, just does the best that we can and we’re seeing little, you know, good change in the projects that we’re doing, then there’s got to be some positivity out there that we’re just not seeing. Do you know what I mean? Like, it just.

00:36:50:09 – 00:36:52:00
Philippa White
Makes me tone. It helps you.

00:36:52:01 – 00:37:07:00
Andrea Marshall
It just. It just helps you, you know? So and I just tell people, you just can’t get overwhelmed because that’s, you know, that’s the beginning of the end. You just have to stay positive and you have to do everything that you can every day on on the work that you are doing and just not worry about gets.

00:37:07:00 – 00:37:25:08
Philippa White
Back to what we said. Actually, it’s back to what we said in the face of just COVID. You know, it’s you know, with every challenge, there’s an opportunity and it’s yeah, we are facing a lot of challenges, but, you know, you could just do nothing and just get really depressed and or you roll up your sleeves and say, okay, what can we do?

00:37:25:08 – 00:37:40:13
Philippa White
And I couldn’t agree more. I feel very much along the line of thinking now, what are you working on at the moment that you’d like our listeners to hear about? You know what? Haven’t I asked you that you’d like to talk about as we wrap things up?

00:37:41:01 – 00:38:06:07
Andrea Marshall
Well, I mentioned at the very beginning that I’m sitting and looking at the the sort of Basra Archipelago National Park right now. And it is a spectacular view. It’s a spectacular place at the moment. I think the singular focus of my work right now is to expand this protected area, to become what I would like to see as one of the most important marine protected areas in all of Africa.

00:38:06:22 – 00:38:32:02
Andrea Marshall
And we need about an area that’s about three times the size of the area that’s currently protected. And we’re actually actively working with some very large donors and government to create an area that’s about double that. Well, that’s about the same size as what’s protected now. So that’ll double effectively double the area of protection. And and that’s happening right now as we speak over the next year at least.

00:38:32:04 – 00:38:50:07
Andrea Marshall
I already feel like yeah, I already feel like after 20 years of work, you know, we’re already getting to like two thirds of what, of what my life goal is here. But I’d like to I mean, I don’t know, you know, like I’m sure there’s someone somewhere one day that was the the brainchild for the Serengeti, for instance.

00:38:50:07 – 00:39:09:00
Andrea Marshall
And they must be feeling pretty good about themselves. And I really would like to be, you know, sipping some lemonade on my front porch one day and and know that that I helped, you know, create one of Africa’s most important marine protected areas and and feel like that was my life’s achievement. And so that’s what we’re working on at the moment.

00:39:09:00 – 00:39:25:03
Andrea Marshall
And it’s it’s a lot of hard work takes a lot of research and a lot of a lot meetings and and a lot of donor support. But if we can get there, I think it’ll be really important for the continent, because unfortunately the ocean in Africa is just not cared for in the same way as the terrestrial spaces.

00:39:25:11 – 00:39:42:21
Andrea Marshall
Everybody’s all about the lions and the rhinos and the elephants and the gorillas. And not that those things aren’t incredibly important, but there are so many important seascapes in Africa and they just get neglected. And so if I can be a part of a movement to make Africa care more about their oceans, then that will be a life well-spent.

00:39:43:14 – 00:39:56:04
Philippa White
Oh, and just so inspiring. I know you don’t know this, but we’ve my partner, he’s a professional sailor and he’s been sailing since he was five and he sails. I mean, he sailed from cape to Eastern, the Cape to Rio Regatta numerous times.

00:39:56:04 – 00:39:56:22
Andrea Marshall
And he’s going.

00:39:58:20 – 00:40:33:20
Philippa White
He sails internationally, regularly, and he obviously he just recently sailed to to France from Rio. And and, you know, he he talks a lot about, you know, just the difference in what he used to see when he was 15 to what he sees now, the changes in the just the weather patterns and and he will be so just even given that we’ve worked with you three times actually three times in the past, even just this conversation for me as being even more passionate about the work that you do and just I can’t wait to share these stories with him.

00:40:34:10 – 00:40:58:11
Philippa White
I’ve learned so much from this conversation, so thank you so much for your time. I know how busy life is, but I just think that it’s so important through these types of I know that you’re on Netflix and you’ve got movies and shows and all that kind of stuff, but I feel like this is sort of reaching another target and I just think it’s so important for the people who follow Ty and for future people who are just interested in getting involved and supporting your work just to know about it.

00:40:58:11 – 00:41:05:21
Philippa White
Because it’s so, so important and your passion is infectious. So thank you for the time and for just all that you do now.

00:41:05:21 – 00:41:23:16
Andrea Marshall
You’re very, very welcome. I do. I love talking to people. I mean, it gets lonely out here in Africa. And I do, I think, connect. I think connection and conversation. And thing is, this is really one of the most important things for conservation. And so I try not to say no to any opportunity, but it’s been a real pleasure talking to you today.

00:41:23:16 – 00:41:25:23
Andrea Marshall
And and yeah. Happy world, man today.

00:41:25:23 – 00:41:51:06
Philippa White
Connect the World, man today. Fantastic. Enjoy your day.

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