This week we meet our new Aquarium Biologist, Cassie Hoepner. Cassie will be with us for three months and in that time, will be re-establishing the clownfish breeding programme in association with Saving Nemo. Keep reading to hear about more about Cassie!
Where are you from?
I am from Adelaide in South Australia, and I grew up the seaside town of Largs Bay.
When did you first become interested in marine life?
I grew up by the beach I used to visit every day, my life revolved around going to the beach, so I knew I was really interested in that. I was really passionate about climate change and never wanted an office job, but I did want to hang out at the beach all the time, so it seemed like a natural progression.
Is this your first time in the Maldives?
No actually! I was here two months ago visiting with Flinders University for a conservation and culture trip where I was a topic demonstrator and assisted students with the projects relating to the fieldtrip.
Where is the best place you have travelled to in the World?
The Galapagos or Patagonia, they were both unique in their landscapes. The Galapagos is the pinnacle for marine biodiversity and such an ideal place for those who study biology and conservation. Patagonia is really rugged with vast and beautiful mountain ranges, which is something I had never seen before.
What is your favourite marine animal and why?
Sea anemones are my favourite marine animal, I became really passionate about them after working with them in my Honours year. I get really excited when I spot them diving or snorkeling, and there are plenty of opportunities to see them here in the Maldives which I don’t get at home.
Have you had much experience with fish husbandry?
During my Honours year I cared for both the anemones and clownfish that were part of my experiment. I also had the opportunity to take part in the clownfish breeding programme that is run by Saving Nemo which gave me all the experience that I have brought to this internship.
What are you hoping to achieve in the three months that you are here?
During my time here I hope to reestablish the clownfish breeding programme and hopefully get the clownfish to a stage where they are breeding consistently before I leave. I hope to get the programme progress and that we will be able to release some fish onto local anemones and begin replenishing some of the local reefs around Naifaru.
What are you most excited about for your internship?
I am really excited about being able to show the kids from nature club the clownfish when they come in and educating them about the importance of keeping wild fish free through the movie Finding Nemo, which is easily recognizable and a good education tool.
What are you most going to miss about home?
My dog, easily. How could you not miss that face!
What is the one thing you won’t go travelling without?
A good game! I’m addicted to Monopoly Deal at the moment too good!
If you had to give one piece of advice to anyone coming to atoll volunteers what would it be?
Make sure your flip-flops are worn in and bring more than one pair! They are everybody’s shoe of choice and will quickly become your new best friend. Also if your flippers give you blisters, wear socks it will save your feet!
How is the experience meeting your expectations so far?
It has been really great to be back in the Maldives and contributing to the Atoll Marine Centre in a new and dynamic way that I wasn’t able to on my first visit, it is really rewarding.
If you would like to Apply to become our next Aquarium Biologist the application is open until the 15th of October. To check it out go to http://www.atollvolunteers.com/internships/aquarium-assistant-internship