Sara studied Zoology in the UK and her passion of the ocean and diving took her into the field of marine conservation and project management. This enabled her to live and work in different corners of the world, from marine conservation projects in Madagascar, Honduras and Fiji before transitioning to building global partnerships and student leadership courses across London, America and Cape Town. Sara has developed the Marine Research Program with the University of Birmingham and is one of the Co-Founders of Evolve Abroad. She has a huge passion for marine biology but also in developing people to reach their potential!
What is your favorite travel memory?
I think my favorite travel memory has to be when we were finally successful in setting up an area of damaged reef up as a Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) with the local Fijian community. Setting up a marine protected area in this way is a progression from the Fijians traditional way of preserving an area of reef, known as a ‘tabu’ area. This particular area of reef suffered huge effects from over-fishing, and after many many months of liaison and community engagement and sevu sevu’s (welcome ceremonies with the chief’s!) it was a huge celebration to be able to secure this area. Working with the local fisherman and communities in setting this up was such a wonderful way for this to be done, and showed just how important it is to has grass-roots action in order for conservation to be at it’s most effective.
The volunteers were able to take part in the opening up of a tabu area, and the many local celebrations that followed!
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
I think working in this industry offers you a huge amount of personal growth and this is amplified by the inspirational people and programs that you engage with daily, as it pushes you to want to do your best. We started this company hoping to be able to offer students just that, and being able to really focus on something that you fully believe in gives you so much motivation. Without sounding cheesy, one of the concepts of Evolve Abroad is focusing on your own personal development and ‘evolving yourself’. We focus heavily on honing into your own personal objectives and aspirations, and design a strategy and platform to reach this.
Having the ability to work with so many varying cultures and communities, especially in the world of conservation. Conservation is science and community involvement to ensure actual intelligent and long lasting change.
Being able to work with some incredible collaborators on a global scale to design our marine research program has been an incredible and exciting chance for my own personal development from a marine research perspective. We are so excited to be able to offer students the chance to join a real-time research expedition!
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
It’s so hard to pick one! I have loved getting to know each of our ambitious students and seeing their progress throughout and what they went onto achieve afterwards. In particular however one comes to mind, as a young chap who had never ventured onto a marine program before, and after he completed his program he then went on to gain his PADI qualifications all the way up to Divemaster and has since worked in Seychelles and Mexico in his dream marine conservation job.
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
This is such a hard question, as having worked on all of the programs we offer there are so many amazing benefits to each one, however having a special tie to our marine research programs I would have to say the Floating Campus!
This program is something that for myself as a young student wanting to get into marine conservation, would have provided me with the opportunity of a lifetime. Being able to not only know that the research you are working on is being collaborated on with an academic institution and real time marine biologists on crucial issues, but to do so whilst living aboard and exploring on a catamaran just speaks to my heart! I love being on the ocean, and this tops it for me.
This is actually the program that I direct and shall be heading up the marine voyage from Cape Town to the South Pacific, so the opportunity we have created is fulfilling a life-long dream of mine and I am so excited to be able to offer the chance for young students to join!
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
I think what makes Evolve different is that after being in the industry for so long we have been able to be a part of so many different aspects of what makes the best experience for all involved. From running and designing program operations, to leading and managing students, and the head office, and so we came together to design something that we felt passionate about and that we know was transparent and honest to the core.
All of our staff have experience within their field and each program has a designated mentor who is a professional specialist in their field, so that we have the right combination of being able to not only properly guide and lead young students in the right way towards their own personal aspirations whilst gaining credible and intelligent experience.
For us as our companies core values, it is about ensuring that the students meet their own specific objectives for what they want to achieve, that we ensure they are provided this on the program, and that we work intelligently with our local collaborators.
I am proud of our teams constant dedication to providing only the best to our local communities, collaborators and the students we lead. Because we have all been there ourselves there is an insane commitment to providing best practice.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
Experienced and passionate people, your team is everything. Ensuring that those ‘company values’ are actually held true and lived by yourselves and your team, your team is your backbone and I believe having a team that share your vision, passion, and have the right experience to be able to advise and lead our students, is what makes, in our eyes’, a successful company.
I think if you have this, then you can work properly with the way you want the programs to run and can ensure that your commitment to what you are trying to achieve stands strong!