Margot Stiles - Oceana Philippines
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Margot Stiles

Benham Expedition

I grew up near Boston and have since lived in many different places, including Honolulu, San Diego, Seattle, and Anchorage.  Wherever I am, it’s always near the ocean.

One of my most memorable ocean experiences was free diving with fishermen while conducting research in southern Chile, even though I routinely got seasick on their small wooden boats. The divers scraped sea urchins, limpets, and other shellfish off the rocks into a net bag, to be eaten later or shipped to Asia for high prices. We would roll off the boat and swim down into frigid clear green water. When I couldn’t hold my breath any longer, I bobbed to the surface among the sea otters.

What I love about scuba diving is the complete immersion. Your body is weightless and sways with each wave, your movements slow like an astronaut’s. You get to spy on lobsters and watch microscopic plants glow and blink through the darkness. Every once in a while, a harbor seal follows you through the kelp forest.

I’ve been doing ocean-related work for about 10 years. Initially, I enjoyed learning about the ocean through scientific research, but I didn’t think much about conservation issues. However, it’s hard not to see the effects of human activities if you spend time working on the water. Working at Oceana brings together my enthusiasm for critical analysis and love of the natural world.