Shapes in the Sand is dedicated to helping create positive change for the future of our planet through our sustainably curated collections. Our plan is to raise awareness to like minded people as well as influence others to choose a more sustainable lifestyle. By connecting with others who are also paving the way to helping recover our oceans and land, we are creating a stronger force in order to have a greater impact.
Ocean dedication at its finest, Melinda Brown has been chosen as the first Shapes in the Sand ambassador. This year Melinda was crowned as the 2017 OWUSS Australasian Rolex Scholar, which has now lead her on a whirlwind of opportunities that started with a casual invite by the Ocean Agency to help on their 50 Reef Project in Palau.
Melinda let us in on how her 2017 has been so far with an in depth discussion on what she's been up to. During her time in Palau she learn't how the Ocean Agency make their 360/virtual reality dive images. "The Ocean Agency document the reefs like this, so in years to come they can go back, take photos of the same place and compare what's been happening. Once the images were stitched together of the reefs there, we headed to two local villages to show them what their reefs looked like. The kids were the best part of all this. They loved it! From the second they put the headsets to their eyes, they were screaming and running around chasing turtles or manta rays. These are the moments I live for. The moment when you know you’ve just inspired someone to explore the ocean more. You know they’re going to love it, and you know you will never have to tell them to protect it. The 50 reefs project aims to identify 50 reefs that will potentially survive climate change by 2050, and they want to inspire the communities that use those reefs to protect them so that they have the best chance possible of acting as a potential seed bank for future reefs. Palau was their pilot project, and it was an absolute pleasure working on it with The Ocean Agency." The work of the Ocean Agency was the subject of the Netflix documentary Chasing Coral which shows how the camera was developed and used on coral reefs.
This year Melinda has also spent time in Bali completing a freediving course where she reached a maximum depth of 30 metres, swimming with Manta Rays in Tahiti and working with Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions, where Melinda was working as a Divemaster/cage captain on the shark boats. A first time swimming with Great Whites her mind was blown by how powerful these creatures are. "They are soooo big! And so powerful. They barely have to move their tails and they zoom forward, propelled by their incredible torpedo like bodies. I was a little bit frozen though after Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions, so I went to Thailand for a week to thaw out."
In Thailand Melinda returned to her old diver school to help with reef work. This is where she first began her love for coral. "The New Heaven Reef Conservation Project has one of the most incredible reef projects I've seen." Melinda believes this is the best place in the world to learn basic artificial reef techniques.
Melinda's favourite project to date has been working alongside wildlife photographer Scott Portelli in Tonga for a month, to help with the Tongan Fluke Collective. This collective is a fluke ID data base to help an artificial reef project there. " The whales took my breath away. Being in the water with them was other worldly, and words can’t describe the encounters I had there. When the males would sing, your whole body would vibrate. You’d shake with their song, and after a while, you knew the pattern of their song, and your body begins to anticipate the vibrations and the noises. Your heart drops in the silences, and your pulse quickens when they start back up. The whales show sense in incredible investigative nature, reaching fins towards you to measure you, to test you. You hold your ground, letting them check you out. Eye to eye. Tonga stole my heart."
Melinda is currently in Scotland working with the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit on their project in the Moray Firth, which focuses on bottlenose dolphin population in the area. She's also been lucky enough to work with minke whales. Throughout October Melinda will spend time in the UK completing cetacean courses and projects, where she will then head down to Tasmania to complete her scientific diver course.
Meet our Nature Girls and read their stories here