Fulfilling sharky dreams

Ana Moya
28 Apr 22 /

There is a saying that dreaming costs nothing. Over time, I have figured out that this is true! Putting in the time and dedication to what you love makes everything worthwhile: the boat seasickness and dizziness on the boat, the early morning tiredness, the bruises during field work and whatever else you find in your way! When you live following your dreams, everything is an adventure!

Blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) using the cleaning services of a juvenile Cortez Rainbow Wrasses at Cabo Marshall, Isabela Island. Photo by: Ana Moya, CDF.

My name is Ana Victoria Moya Serrano, I am a Galapagos resident, and my conservation journey began when I was only seven years old when I watched a documentary about whaling. At that moment I decided that I would devote myself to protect the ocean. Many years later I started studying a marine biology degree and by twists and turns of life, I arrived in Galapagos to work for the Charles Darwin Foundation Shark Ecology research project. This opportunity wide-opened the doors for me to be able to carry out my life-goals.

El equipo de tiburones durante la salida de campo en febrero.
The Shark team during the last fieldtrip in February. Photo by: Tamara Cole.

Being part of the shark ecology team and contributing to field-work such as conducting shark surveys using Baited remote underwater video stations (BRUVS) and diver operated video (DOVS); deploying satellite tags on sharks; taking tissue biopsies for genetic and isotope analysis; and even desktop activities, such as video analysis and administrative duties, have generated a great impact in my personal and professional development. Each activity requires a specific level of concentration, time and effort, that over time, teach you to be organized and pay attention to detail in every step-in order to do a good job, to be quick in decision making and seeking solutions when things do not go as planned. You also fully realize that the best way to achieve one goal is teamwork and that you always have to be open to enrich yourself from others and from mistakes. It is a hard, but rewarding job.

When you have the opportunity to be close to sharks in the wild and observe them in their habitat, study their behavior and reactions, your mind expands. It is amazing to see how each species has its own personality: the extremely shy scalloped hammerhead shark; the curious silky shark; the highly territorial Galapagos shark; the cautious tiger shark; the fearless black tip shark; or the gentle giant whale shark. When you are with them in the water, you change your perception of fear, for respect and admiration, and realize that just like us humans, sharks have their codes and you just have to adjust to them.

Tiburón martillo (Sphyrna lewini) con una rémora en su quijada registrada con estaciones de video remotas submarinas en la Isla Wolf.
Hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) with a remora on its chin at Wolf Island recorded with a remote underwater video station. Photo by: Ana Moya, CDF.

I have also had the privilege of being in unimaginable places around the Galápagos Archipelago, each one of the islands has its unique touch!  The far northern islands of Darwin and Wolf, are the perfect place to see enormous shivers of scalloped hammerhead sharks and huge whale sharks; and then when you least expect it, a group of orca’s swims by! Travelling to the west of the archipelago, you can have the great experience of swimming alongside the magnificent oceanic mantas, which seem to fly in the great ocean; or suddenly encounter a large turtle in middle of a mangrove forest, peacefully eating on the rocks and looking at you with those eyes full of wisdom, and being surrounded by bubbles coming from shallow volcanic fumaroles at Roca Redonda transported me to another world!

Un gran tiburón tigre macho (Galeocerdo cuvier) registrado con un BRUVS en el Arco de Darwin.
A large male tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) recorded with a BRUVS at Darwin Arch. Photo by: Ana Moya, CDF.

As part of my research assistant placement, I have been given the opportunity to develop and lead my own research topic, that I had to build from scratch. I must say that at the beginning I was a bit lost and sometimes in youth one sins of impatience and stubbornness; but when you have a good guide and patience, between the lows and the highs, the expected results are obtained. My project is focused on cleaning stations and the dynamics that occur in these places that are so important for the health of sharks and the entire ecosystem. During our recent fieldtrip in February, Remote Underwater Video Stations (RUVS) were placed in different cleaning stations to study the behavior of sharks it was incredible to witness how the dynamics and individuals’ presences change in each place.

All these opportunities have been given thanks to the fact that there is a whole team of extremely committed professionals working on the project that allowed it. These people, like me, do their conservation efforts on a daily basis and also know that change comes through educating and integrating more people. Working for a cause always motivates you to continue dreaming.

Ana Moya

Junior Researcher

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Andres Cruz

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