Swimming With the Sharks: This Ocean-lover's Unconventional Path to Marine Biology
by Gádor Muntaner, Marine Scientist & Lenovo Innovator
As the origin of life and supplier of the oxygen we breathe, the ocean has given us so much without asking for anything in return – which is why I felt the need to give back to it from a very young age.
Our planet Earth is made up of more than 70% water. Yet, our society has led us to live in a small bubble of work, goals, ambitions, family and friends – so much so that we forget we share this big house alongside many other living beings with whom we must learn to coexist. The ocean – that great unknown that we still don’t know much about – produces 50% of the Earth’s oxygen and is home to the greatest biodiversity. Our survival as humans depends on the survival of the oceans. For this reason, and due to my infinite love of the sea, I decided to dedicate my personal and professional life to protecting it.
Diving into a new career path headfirst
The best gift we can give ourselves is to dedicate our lives to what we find passion in, regardless of what that may be. When we do what we love, we achieve tremendous results that leave behind a better world than the one we found.
I spent years studying subject matter my heart was never fully invested in – all to “do as I was supposed to” in order to make a good living. Then, I decided to give up everything and travel to the Canary Islands to study Marine Sciences – a wonderful discipline that focuses on the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of the sea. As a supplement to my studies, I made it a priority to experience ocean life firsthand. So, I earned multiple diving certifications until I became an instructor – all so I could introduce others to one of life’s greatest gifts: the underwater world.
Giving a voice to a widely feared species
Among all the wonderful creatures that call the ocean home, it was the sharks that especially caught my attention.
The first time I swam with a shark, all my preconceptions were shattered. What I thought would be an intimidating and stress-inducing ocean-dwelling monster was, in reality, a harmless creature of beauty. I’ll never forget the innocent look it gave me and the great sense of peace I felt as I contemplated the perfect creation of nature before me.
It was at this moment I decided to be the voice of the sharks. I sought to uncover their truth to the world by emphasizing their innocence and the critical role they play in marine ecosystems.
Not only are sharks mesmerizing beings, they’re also extremely important from an ecology perspective. As apex predators, they’re at the top of the food chain, meaning they regulate the populations of other species while maintaining balance in the ecosystem. Without them, that balance is broken, and the health of our oceans (in addition to our personal wellbeing) is severely affected.
Not your traditional office setup
It can be difficult to describe my daily routine as a marine biologist since every day is different. But if one thing is for certain, it’s that I get to call the ocean my office – and it’s a spacious one at that! Yes, it’s a very large and diverse office that spans from the warm Mexican waters to the icy tides of the Antarctic Ocean.
Recent shark-related research has required me to spend many days at sea in remote areas. This can involve camping on deserted and hostile islands, tagging sharks to follow their migrations and taking samples of their tissues to analyze their contaminants.
I also consider divulgation to be a very important part of my job. While science can allows for changes in laws that regulate and protect the oceans, it is necessary everyone understands the importance of marine conservation in order to achieve monumental, global change. This is precisely why one of my main goals is to translate that message to all audience types while bringing people closer to the ocean so that they can understand, love, and protect it.
Devoting my life to making waves
I enjoy participating in conferences and preparing workshops wherever I go, whether it be in schools, universities, on dive boats, etc. I also participate in documentaries and any media that helps spread the ocean’s message. If you can, I recommend taking part in special diving expeditions. Not only do they allow you to enjoy yourself, but you’ll also gain knowledge of the things you see and their importance to the marine ecosystem. I consider myself lucky to live in a time when advancements in technology have broken down most barriers to learning. Today’s tech knows no boundaries and allows for information to reach nearly anyone. Smarter, more reliable technology is helping to accelerate and facilitate change toward a better world. Thanks to the support of Lenovo, I’m inching closer to achieving my mission each day.