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Ocean Minds Presents Prasanna Stephan Wijesinghe

Profession: Marine Biologist

Organisation: GHD

Prasanna inspires me with his determination, positivity and kindness. He tackles any role thrown at him with grace and always commits to it to the best of his ability, knowing that it will only take him one step closer to his dream goals. He is patient and friendly and is always there to offer me advice and share his knowledge!

1. How did we meet?

If my memory service me right, you were an undergraduate doing your dissertation on stereo video fish surveying in Honduras. I believe you were in one of the Fish ID talks I was giving at the time, got chatting from there and the rest was history as they say.

2. What is one memorable ocean moment from our time together?

Diving alongside a small hawkbills turtle for at least 5 minutes on the house reef in Honduras.

3. What encouraged you to purse a career in marine biology/conservation?

Interestingly, marine biology was not on my radar until I decided to no longer purse a career in Medicine after my undergraduate degree. Without sounding too cliché, I was aimless and decided to take a gap year to backpack around Indonesia. This is where I came across near pristine reefs (at the time) and I was able to compare these with reefs back home (in Sri-Lanka). This made me wonder if there was a job that I could do to protect or raise awareness about these habitats and the beginning of my marine biology story.

4. How did you land your current job?

A never give up attitude, determination and willing to work any role within my field. This started off with a lot of volunteering and odd jobs for income (whilst simultaneously applying for marine or water related jobs). I got my lucky break when I was offered a job in South Sudan as a Site Supervisor for a bioremediation facility. I accepted it in a heartbeat (as it was with a water-related job). According to my current employer, this experience alone made my CV stand out from the crowd. Finally, I ended up as a paid Marine Biologist after 2 years of grinding.

5. What is it about your role that makes you feel like you are truly making a difference?

There are a few things, but in no particular order, raising awareness both to public and private stakeholders about the marine environment. The opportunity to be at the forefront to develop innovative environmental mitigation measures and also implementing technological advancements to improve environmental data capture / processes.

6. What advice would you give to aspiring ocean warriors?

Your actions and words can have a ripple effect that you cannot imagine. Therefore, always be up for answering questions from others about our ocean, but also don’t be afraid to challenge topics or ask the difficult questions.

7. What has been your most unforgettable experience in the ocean and why?

So many unforgettable moments. But the most memorable was probably free diving into the blue ocean, and from the deep depths a Manta Ray emerges. We made eye contact and it decided to swim around me a few times before disappearing into the blue. There was something primordial about that interaction, something humbling yet eye opening about how intelligent these creatures are.

8. Who has inspired you to achieve your goals?

Strangely, no famous names – but my inspirations mainly came from individuals I have met along my marine biology journey, some have led changes in small marine communities, others within academic fields and some with bold ideas and dreams.

9. What do you hope to achieve in the future?

Having a greater technological drive with the marine field which brings the ocean closer to the public (i.e. underwater 3D modelling) to inspire potential future marine biologists. Maybe, one day, own and run a marine conservation initiative to keep raising awareness.

Head over to Prasanna's Instagram page to see more of his incredible photos!

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