Tessa Hempson: We Have the Power to Make the Incredible Change

September 22, 2021

Today I am excited to welcome a scientist and marine conservation specialist Dr Tessa Hempson. She is an ecologist, a coral reefs specialist, and a writer. She studied botany and zoology, conservation biology, and worked extensively across Africa. Today she is the Principal Scientist and Program Manager of Oceans Without Borders and at the same time an Adjunct Researcher at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Australia. 

During her PhD studies in coral ecology, Tessa even worked as a helicopter underwater evacuation instructor ​​for the Australian Defence Force. She told us about this extraordinary experience and what she learned from it.

We reflected on last year’s challenges, especially those regarding connection with the community, which is crucial for Tessa’s work. She emphasized the importance of building strong local capacities and shared how special it was to return to Africa after the lockdown. 

Tessa took us back to her childhood, the experience of growing up in nature, and the moment she realized that studying oceans is her call. 

In the ocean space, little things civilians can do to preserve nature can really make a difference. There are so many simple things we do in our daily lives, choices we make about tiny things that can make a huge impact. For example, reducing plastic usage, recycling, and being informed where our food comes from. Every time we spend money, we are creating a statement on creating consumer demand. So if we demand local products, we are directly impacting the amounts of carbon in the atmosphere. And there is, of course, voting and making your voice heard in the political space.

Tessa shared her views on seafood consumption in western, privileged societies where there is a choice. Her advice is to get informed, eat less, and try to eat those lower species on the food chain, such as sardine, instead of predators such as tuna. 

She told us about her life-changing experience of diving deep into the ocean in the Mozambique area, but also the terrifying one of witnessing the coral bleaching.

A lot of environmental problems come from ignorance, and that is something we can deal with. Tessa is sure that there is always hope and that we have the power to make the change. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Introducing (00:23)
  • Experience of working as a helicopter underwater evacuation instructor (02:20)
  • Over the past year, who would you have loved to have had coffee with and why? (04:46)
  • How has this last year been for you? (07:00)
  • What are the childhood memories that made you who you are today? (11:47)
  • When did you decide to focus on oceans? (15:44)
  • Where are you today in terms of your approach to environmental issues? (18:45)
  • What is your view on consuming fish? (22:53)
  • Hopes and concerns (27:46) 
  • Experiences that changed you (32:28)
  • Swimming with sharks (36:42)
  • The most terrifying experience (41:50)
  • How hopeful are you about slowing the process of coral bleaching? (44:17)
  • Where is home for you? (48:46) 
  • What is your big focus in the next few years? (51:47)

Additional Resources: 

Follow Tessa on Linkedin

Learn more about Oceans Without Borders

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Visit our website