• Ariel Green

A Day in the life of a Marine Conservationist with Lashanti Jupp, Host of Siren Sundays

Updated: Feb 24


In the sustainability community, we often talk about the effects of climate change, particularly on the earth's oceans. As temperatures rise, so will sea levels. As we continue to rely on massive plastic production, there will soon be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Protecting and preserving our seas is more important than ever.


In this week's podcast episode, I chat with Lashanti Jupp, a marine conservationist who was born and raised in the Bahamas. As a recent graduate of University of Cambridge with a Masters of Philosophy in Conservation Leadership, she gained a true passion for empowering local communities through science communication and uses her web series, Siren Sundays, to raise awareness about conservation challenges in the environment for everyday people.




Watch the video interview on YouTube

Visit Lashanti's website

Follow Lashanti on Instagram

Tune in to Siren Sundays on Facebook



LISTEN HERE: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Play | Watch on YouTube


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TRANSCRIPTION:


Ariel:

Hello, and welcome back to the Sustainable Brown Girl podcast. This show exists to connect black, brown and indigenous women who are interested in sustainability. Our goal is to inspire encourage and educate each other; from gardening to thrifting, to minimalism, to veganism and everywhere in between. We're all on a journey to taking care of our bodies and our planets. I'm your host, Ariel Green.


In the sustainability community, we often talk about the effects of climate change, particularly on the earth's oceans. As temperatures rise, so will sea levels. As we continue to rely on massive plastic production, there will soon be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Protecting and preserving our seas is more important than ever, which brings me to today's guest. Today's featured sustainable brown girl is Lashanti Jupp, a marine conservationist born and raised in The Bahamas. She recently completed a master's of philosophy in conservation leadership at the University of Cambridge. Here, she gained a true passion for empowering local communities through science communication. Lashanti now uses her platform, Siren Sundays as a way to raise awareness about conservation challenges and the environment for everyday people. Thanks for joining us today, Lashanti. 


Lashanti:

Thank you for having me. 


Ariel:

I just want to jump right into everything. Tell us how you became interested in marine conservation. 


Lashanti:

I think I was really fortunate to have been born in The Bahamas and raised in this beautiful country so everything about my life and my childhood has always just been about the ocean, the marine life, exploring the ocean, so I think that really is what gave me the foundation and inspired me to care about the Marine environment because it was my home. 


Ariel:

When you were growing up, did you always go to the beach and love all the animals and all that? 


Lashanti:

Definitely. I always enjoyed summer breaks because we were able to wake up early in the morning, not to go to school, but to go outside and explore the neighborhood. And on my Island, the beach is always at least a five-minute walk away, no matter where you are because it's small. We would always enjoy exploring the beach and the coastal environment, especially when we were able to swim in the water and take our snorkels and just look around and it was just always so fascinating the types of adventures you would have as a child and the ocean is such a wonderful place. It was even better when you were able to get on a kayak, maybe kayak to a little mangrove island, get on a boat, snorkel a coral reef in the ocean. So it was just always something to do and the ocean always provided a beautiful space for learning and exploring. 


Ariel:

Yes. When you were growing up, did you feel like you always wanted to do something with water or did you have other aspirations? 


Lashanti:

Well, I did start off wanting to be a singer for a while and I was like, "Oh, maybe I could be a singer, marine veterinarian," because I always knew that I loved animals and I wanted to help animals. So I figured, "Oh, I could be a veterinarian that works with marine animals and be a singer on the weekends." As I got older, I realized, "Okay, I don't like needles and I don't like all the surgical stuff that comes along with veterinary science." But, I found another way to help save the animals in the marine environment. I studied marine biology and started working right in marine conservation with kids all the way up to adults and just basically connecting them with the environment so that they can understand why it's important to protect and conserve. 


Ariel:

Yes. So tell us about your background. What did you study in school? 


Lashanti:

Right. So right after high school, I did about a year of biochemistry because I was still thinking, "Oh, veterinary science.' But fortunately, when I went off to Barry University in Miami, Florida, I did my undergrad in marine biology with the same pre-vet thoughts in mind. But fortunately, all of the courses were pretty similar sp I still had to do comparative analogy, comparative physiology and it was helpful because now I'm learning about the animals in the ocean as well. After I had finished undergrad, I took a break from school for about four years and was working right in an informal education of the marine environment at a facility that had dolphin, sea lions and all these fun animals to help connect people with the marine environment that way. And so I initially realized, "Okay, well, I like this dynamic of working with people and animals," so, I eventually then started working in marine protected areas. I worked with the national park management agency helping get new protected areas to expand our marine protected area network. And again, I found myself speaking to people and trying to get them to want to get these areas protected, understanding why it's important, reconnecting them with it so they can understand that even though you may not even directly work in the marine environment, you benefit from it. Simply because of maybe the weather or just the beauty of it or even just some of the economic gains that we get. 


Lashanti:

After I had done that for about three out of those four years, I realized, "Okay, I think I want to pursue more education," and a friend of mine from my regional network of people, she's actually from Guyana, she says, "You know, I think you'd be really great for this course in conservation leadership, it kind of equips you with the tools to basically run your own conservation initiatives or program, and it helps you find your niche as well." That's the course I just finished recently at the University of Cambridge in the UK. And through that course...Thank you. Through that course, I realized that what I've been doing all along was science communication and so, I really never saw myself being like a social media person, but I have to realize that in this day and age, that is the type of communication that really resonates with people. Science communication is the way and so right now, all my working up to this whole being a public figure that raises this awareness for marine conservation because the gap in it is that people have lost that connection. And that may be simply because of social media ironically, but using that as a way to rebuild that connection with people, just one conversation at a time is what I like to say. 


Ariel:

Yes. I love that. What types of things do you talk about on Siren Sundays? I try to focus on speaking about things that are related to conservation in the environmental sector. Fortunately, in The Bahamas, because we are a coastal nation, you can throw a rock and hit the ocean. Our terrestrial conservation efforts are very closely linked to our marine conservation efforts. I'm able to speak to a wider audience of conservationists and I've had people on my show talk about maybe species; specific things like the queen conch, which is very well known in The Bahamas. I think anybody who plans a trip to The Bahamas or has been here or lives here knows the queen conch is the one thing you have to try, you have to eat it, we cook it a thousand ways I'm sure. But, even as simple as people not knowing that the queen conch grows its own shell, that was a way of showing people. There are a lot of things in the conservation and environmental sector that the public doesn't know, just as simple as things like that and that's what really starts to fascinate people. And I've had topics related to aquaponics as well. I had a Bahamian who is a PhD researcher studying aquaponics in relation to the spiny lobster, which is also another favorite thing that people love to eat and it's also a very big commercial industry for The Bahamas to the point where I'm pretty sure if it's not just the Florida chains, The Bahamas actually supply spiny lobster to red lobster. 


Ariel:

Wow! 


Lashanti:

Yeah! And simple things like that. People are like, "We supply red lobster." And we've had even topics that talk about hydroponics and medicinal uses of plants that are found around the terrestrial environment. I've even had people talk about mangrove. It definitely hits a lot of things in the environment. I'm open to speaking to government officials. We talked to the department of environmental protection and planning. I've even had people from the department of marine resources, talk about things like fisheries regulations and policies and why these policies are in place and how we decide to create Nassau grouper seasons because these are just simple things that I always say is such common knowledge in the conservation sector, but we take it for granted thinking that the general public also has it as common knowledge. Breaking the silos from between the conservation and environmental sector into the general public and in any way that I can do that at any topic that I think is just something that people need to know about. And it always tends to border that line of, well, the conservation impacts sustainability as well as a lot of times we touch on climate change as well. 


Ariel:

Yeah. And I think that when you're able to come to people on their level, talk about things that they know about and give them more information about that, that's a great way to introduce people to environmentalist if it's their first time and to really make them understand and care about it. 


Lashanti:

Definitely. The art of storytelling. 


Ariel:

Exactly. Let's talk about what it means to be a marine conservationist. I guess we've talked a lot about it already, but what exactly does a person do like in a day to day? 


Lashanti:

Funny enough, when people hear that term, they think it's something very fancy like this is why I strayed away from seeing marine biologist as well because it almost sounds like something that's only attainable by going to school. But, a marine conservationist can be anybody who wants to help conserve the marine environment. They can be somebody who shares and makes awareness of the marine environment or takes daily action to make their footprint smaller and help conserve the marine environment. It's really just a term that... I would say anyone can be a marine conservationist once they keep that activism and that advocacy in mind of how can I help conserve the marine environment. But as far as what I do on a day to day, I do project management, I do things that kind of help to put initiatives in place. I'm about to start running regular beach cleanups, to just bring some consistency and make conservation a bit more tangible for people. I think when we think conservation and sustainability, everyone just imagines, "This is something that rich people do because they can afford to do it." But, conservation is something that anyone can do. Anyone can be a marine conservationist once they take those steps and make small life changes or big action changes to help conserve the marine environment. 


Ariel:

What would some of those small changes be? 


Lashanti:

You can do things like using reusable straws, you can take reusable bags to the food store. And I know I always like to tell women specifically, we see our cycle for every month for decades, you can just make that simple change by switching to something like menstrual cups or period panties and that cuts out the waste you create significantly. If you really just think about how many products you use and just throwing them away. You can even do things like just consider when you wash your hair. Instead of purchasing something in a plastic bottle, you have shampoo and conditioner bars now. So it was really a lot of things that you can just... Just small things where you opt-out and just choose something that's a bit more sustainable. 


Ariel:

Yes. Absolutely. So then, if someone wanted to maybe take some bigger steps into being more of a conservationist what types of things could they do to get involved? 


Lashanti:

In the world that we live in, there are a lot of conservation organizations that have things like projects they're running, and you can donate, whether it be monetary or in-kind donations, where you give your time or you donate something that's of use to them, you can even, like I said, do a beach cleanup. If you see a dirty beach, or if you see some trash, pick it up, safely of course, but you can maybe run initiatives as well. If you see that there might be an empty plot of land, plant a tree. That can help significantly change our impact on climate change. You can even eat less meat. A lot of people are like, "Oh, but if you eat more vegetables, you're using more land," but no, the meat production industry uses far more land and emits far more greenhouse gases that affect the environment as opposed to, if you were to eat more vegetables or even just start a backyard farm. It's so many ways that you can just consciously make the world a better place for everyone and everything in it. 


Ariel:

Yes. So true. There are so many different things that you can do and, you know, they all make an impact, especially if you're consistent. 


Lashanti:

Consistency is key, definitely. 


Ariel:

We were talking and you mentioned how climate change is related to marine conservation, can you give us a high-level overview on how marine conservation is related to climate change? 


Lashanti:

Yes. As we know, the ocean plays a significant role in temperature regulation or not As we know. See, this is the conservationist assumption again, that everybody knows this, but the ocean plays a significant role in the temperature regulation of this planet. It also stores a lot of the carbon in the atmosphere that would otherwise have been floating around and emitted and turning into carbon dioxide. And it also affects the different marine life when you have the CO2 coming out of the air. As simple as plastic pollution, that's floating around in the ocean, as that plastic is floating in the saltwater and the heat is breaking it down, these chemicals are seeping into the ocean, changing that very chemistry that makes the ocean function in the way it does. And even, when you have pollutants going into the ocean, like oil, that will cover the surface of the ocean and stopping any plants and animals in the ocean that need to create food with photosynthesis, even if you have fertilizers that you use in your yard, if you're not using ones that are eco-friendly or green friendly, you find that this runoff causes an imbalance again. 


The long and the short of it is, if we don't actively make steps to conserve the ocean, we will definitely actively take steps to heat up the planet. And that's also when you have the melting of the glaciers happening as well, which of course for island nations is very scary because when sea levels start to rise, our islands start to disappear. When sea levels start to rise, waves get bigger, erosion increases and we're losing a lot of the coastal areas that we have. And like I said earlier, The Bahamas is completely coastal so that's basically all of the Island gone. This is the high-level version of how marine conservation is very linked to climate change mitigation. 


Ariel:

Yes. And in addition to the pesticides and stuff going into the ocean, I also read somewhere that certain sunscreens can leach chemicals into the ocean too. Have you heard of that? 


Lashanti:

Yes. And oh, I really wish I could tell you the exact chemicals, but I'm pretty sure when you have the ones that... One, they leak off of your skin when you're in the ocean, they mess with the coral reef and again, that chemistry in the ocean, but the coral reef specifically, so oftentimes you see people putting on the sunblock before they snorkel on a coral reef and it goes right to the coral reef. I know. And you have another type of sunblock that it's so... I think it's the one that has the metals in it. When it comes off of your skin, it creates that film again on the top of the water. And you know, if you get enough of that accumulating, sun can't go through and you affect all those organisms in the water. I've heard there are natural ways that you can make sunblock. I'm pretty sure I heard somewhere that avocado mixed with something can be a natural sunblock, right. But you can definitely now see the reef safe little sticker that are on sunblocks if you go to purchase them and that's even another small step you can take. 


Ariel:

Yeah, exactly. And then another question I had was, you were born and raised in The Bahamas, have you noticed over the years growing up any changes in the environment, for example, like more erosion or even more plastic on the beach? 


Lashanti:

Oh yeah, definitely. I think the biggest thing is the amount of marine life that we used to see. I feel like it used to be easy to go out to the dock if you wanted to purchase fish or like I said, the conch earlier, the sizes of these animals are significantly smaller. And fishermen, if you talk to them, which fortunately for conservationist we have these kinds of conversations. How far do you have to go to get these animals? And you'll hear them say, "Well, Oh, 20 years ago, I didn't have to go that far, I used to maybe go a mile out," and now they're going further and further to get these animals, which is detrimental because now we realize that we're overfishing. But on top of that, it's burning more fuel. People don't realize it's this ripple effect, right? So if now that they're going out more frequently and further, they're using more fuel, as opposed to when they were able to just go right off the beach, they didn't even need to take a boat, they could take a rowboat, but now they need these boats with these engines that are creating more pollution and risking oil. And even when we have the transmission of diseases like stony coral tissue loss disease, that's coming out of the build water, yeah. It's so much that people... It's just one small thing, right? One small thing can create a negative impact, but one small thing can also create a positive impact. 


Ariel:

Absolutely. So do you know of any steps that The Bahamas is taking to help preserve their marine life? 


Lashanti:

Yes, actually that's funny you asked that. We just implemented our plastic ban for single-use plastics in 2020. 


Ariel:

Wow! That's awesome!


Lashanti:

Yay! Right! And that was a step that I think not only was it great that now they've implemented this into the policy, but it also made more Bahamians aware of the negative impacts of plastic because they didn't just say, "Oh guys, we're not allowing any more single-use plastic to be imported." They also said why and they ran a beautiful campaign where they were explaining to people the negative impacts of plastic pollution on the environment for human health, on the environment from marine life and on the environment in relation to our economic status, because tourism is our number one industry and nobody wants to come and see a beach has polluted with plastic forks and styrofoam. And in doing that, they even started giving out reusable bags, some food stores gone on board with it and started giving away reusable bags and some stores even don't allow you to just take a plastic bag - they charge you now. That's also another initiative that causes people to be like, "Oh, well, I would rather not pay extra for these bags." It's just as simple as any bag you have, any tote bag you have, take it to the store and so that was, I think, one of the biggest things recently that happened in regards to us trying to protect our marine life. 


Ariel:

Do you feel like it's been an easy transition for the people who've been living on the Island? 


Lashanti:

I'm going to say yes and no. And I always hate doing that, but I think because we rely heavily on import, it's really hard to cut back in that regard and because people have become so used to take away containers, especially, which is the biggest one, people still like to go to restaurants and get styrofoam. I think in that sense, people are still forgetting the reusable bags so you still see people with plastic bags, but you do have some restaurants that are kind of counteracting that by having sustainable takeaway containers, biodegradable takeaway containers. It's almost like a mixed bag. Some people felt like it was not a good move in regards to, "Oh, it's more sanitary.' And some people complain that the takeaway containers get soft and break up very fast. And I'm like, "Well, how long are you holding your food in your takeaway container?" I think we're moving in a good direction and I think that as people get more educated and understand how it's like bigger picture things, then they start to say, "Oh, okay, well, this makes sense."


Ariel:

Yeah, that makes sense. And too, I think...I mean, it hasn't even been that long it's been what maybe a year since they've enacted that. 


Lashanti:

And we had COVID too so that also created some complications.


Ariel:

Yeah, it'll take some time. And plus I don't know how many great options there are for take out containers anyway that are eco-friendly, it's probably very expensive so I guess it's a learning curve. But that's great that they even banded it, that's a huge step. 


Lashanti:

Yes, definitely. We're excited. 


Ariel:

Is there anything else you want to talk about? Anything you want to promote or tell people about? 


Lashanti:

 I would probably just want to promote Siren Sundays. I'm on season three now. My Instagram page is lashanti_siren. I have lashantijupp.com where the shows are uploaded as well as Lashanti Jupp on YouTube. And I think just by either reaching out to me to even be on the show, I'm hoping that it'll get to the point where this is now a library of topics for people to go back to and learn about. I try to keep the episodes under an hour. I also have people asking questions live, which I think is usually really good to get information out because now I'm starting to see, "Well, what are the types of questions that people ask about this topic?" And through those questions, have even brought more topics for me to talk about. I just say, check out the show, learn something new, hit me up and let's connect. 


Ariel:

Yes! Go follow her, watch her show every other Sunday on Facebook, Siren Sundays, super great information about all of this, marine conservation and things like that. Last question, what is one thing that anyone can do to be more sustainable? 


Lashanti:

I think the number one thing is to be more conscious of your waste. It can be very easy to go through your day very mindlessly and just create unnecessary waste. Just being a little bit more mindful during the day, trying to limit the amount of plastic that you use. Sometimes when you go to a bar, just saying, "No straw." A lot of times people are like, "Oh, but I need the straw." And I'm like, "Well, why? You can drink with the cups." Just making mindful decisions, packing reusable bags in your car, keeping utensils, reusable, utensils at your office, as well as in your car, getting some reusable straws to just leave in these different locations, just to kind of make it that much easier, because it's.... and I love to say it, it's always about small steps to a big change. 


Lashanti:

When you just make those small changes in your routine, the small changes in your day-to-day life, you'll start to see the ripple effect and just as simple as before the plastic ban had happened, I remember I was like, "You know what, anytime I go to a restaurant, a takeout, I'm going to try to think about the straw use." And sometimes, if you go to a fast-food restaurant, they just throw the straw in your bag and I think for about half a year, I just kept putting the straws in my car door which another thing I was like, "Why did I put them there?" And I just remember one day looking at the side of my car door and imagining, "What if I had been the type of person who doesn't mindfully secure these in a place?" Because some people... The trash, they'll just throw it at the trash bin and not even make sure it goes in properly or they don't put it in a trash bin at all. But, it was just so much straws and I don't eat fast food that much and I don't eat out that much, but it was just so fascinating to see how that accumulates over time. And, and I hear that a lot from people, "Oh! Me one," which is a very Caribbean way to say that me one don't make that much trash. I, as one person, can not contribute that much to the pollution when I'm like, "Now imagine if everyone in the world said that." If just one day everyone said, "I don't care." It really starts by being the change you want to see and changing and then inspiring others to change as well. I feel like that was more than one thing, but...


Ariel:

 No, it was. Exactly. That's where it all starts. I think that you are definitely inspiring people to make changes, to care about the environment, to care about marine life so, keep doing what you're doing, girl. 


Lashanti:

Thank you. And thank you for having me. This is great. 


Ariel:

Yes. Thanks for joining us. 


Thank you so much for listening to the Sustainable Brown Girl podcast. Be sure to subscribe and share it if you loved it and leave a review, you can find us on Instagram at Sustainable Brown Girl and check out our Facebook community, we would love to have you there. Until next time, let's continue to make healthy choices for the health of our planet and the health of our bodies. Thanks for listening.


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