Read Part 1 of Kathlyn Tan’s Interview to learn more about being a Citizen Scientist.

When did you discover your passion for the ocean?

Even though I started swimming at a young age, I really only discovered my passion for the ocean when I became comfortable as a scuba diver! That amazing feeling of weightlessness and being one with nature is so precious. 

I have been lucky to have dived in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and the Maldives, and have had some truly unforgettable experiences with sharks, dolphins, rays, octopuses, and more!

Read More: Diving in Singapore

I became a PADI Divemaster in 2017, which is probably a little after I began training as a freediver. Freediving has become a passion of mine and has allowed me to become very physically and emotionally aware… it is a journey of self-discovery.

A reef in Tioman, Malaysia, entangled in abandoned rope.
A reef in Tioman, Malaysia, entangled in abandoned rope. Photo courtesy of Kathlyn Tan

Can you tell us about Coastal Natives and how people can get involved?

I discovered underwater photography as a hobby a few years ago, and was encouraged by friends (none of which who dived at the time), to share my photographs on social media…if my sister is reading this, I’m sure she is laughing as I was not a fan of social media! Receiving unexpected messages from people thanking me, and seeing friends’ eyes light up, inspired me to want to help create moments that have the potential to inspire others to care for the ocean, particularly those who don’t yet have a relationship with it.

Kathlyn Tan School Presentation
Raising awareness about marine debris at a school. Photo courtesy of Kathlyn Tan

My husband and I identified a niche in Singapore and decided to set up Coastal Natives, a community where volunteer ambassadors run events and curate content aimed at developing wonder for the ocean; while offering a platform to learn more about the environment and what we can all do to help – one way of which is through citizen scientists and their work! 

We are always on the lookout for like-minded ocean lovers to join us so if anyone would like to get involved with any of our events or explore a collaboration, please don’t hesitate to drop us a note on our website or on any of our platforms – we’d love to hear from you!

How do you think this year’s pandemic has affected the ocean or our behavior with the ocean?

We rely on the ocean for so much. In addition to producing oxygen, regulating our climate and storing carbon, we depend on the ocean for food security, economic activity, and so much more. 

Beyond its devastating impact on human life and especially, vulnerable communities; while I would like to think the pandemic has had a net positive impact on the ocean by offering a respite from human activity, there have also been reports of increased illegal fishing in many areas, likely due to the reduction of patrols caused by pandemic responses. 

Our widespread use of single-use personal protective equipment is also translating into a new surge of items like disposable masks and latex gloves being found in the ocean, an issue that citizen scientists can help monitor, document and rectify. 

A diver carefully removing plastic caught on corals.
A diver carefully removing plastic caught on corals. Photo courtesy of Kathlyn Tan

What is your hope for our ocean’s future?

As we all learn and become more environmentally aware, I hope that we can realign our relationship with the ocean and nature, and not just continuously take from it, but also recognize that everything is connected and we need nature to survive. 

For that, we need people from all walks of life to speak up and act for the ocean – whether you are a student, business professional, policymaker, or a dive operator, or even just learning to scuba dive or are afraid of the water. The more people advocating for change, the closer we will be to returning to a clean and healthy ocean, and a more sustainable planet.

Healthy Reef Anilao Philippines
A magical and healthy reefscape in Anilao, Philippines. Photo courtesy of Kathlyn Tan

Join Kathlyn on her mission to create positive change for our ocean and marine life on her Instagram, and check out Coastal Natives for their latest events.

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Emma was terrified of the ocean but dove into her Open Water 7 years ago and hasn't looked back since! She worked as an underwater videographer for several years and is now a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. She currently runs a dive shop on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand and is the founder of Down To Scuba.

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