Shot on iPhone XS — The Reef, Maldives — Apple


(eerie orchestral music) (bubbling) (radio static) (bubbling) (ocean waves crashing) – As a marine wildlife researcher, you spend a good deal of time gathering and analyzing data. Data is key for us to identify patterns in wildlife behavior movements. And technology plays a vital role in helping us collect this data for marine conservation today. Our team relies on a variety of techniques that allow us to encounter marine wildlife and retrieve the data that we need. GPS is one of the tools that we use to determine the locations of wildlife encounters, and
photogrammetry helps us measure, record, and identify our subjects. The MWSRP is helping to develop and distribute the tools for anyone to become a citizen scientist, and actively contribute
to a scientific database called the Big Fish Network. (waves crashing) (somber music) As a field team member of the MWSRP, we spend most of our time on the reef along the
marine protected area of the South Ari Atoll. Apart from cataloging all
whale shark encounters along our daily route, we
keep track of all other megafauna species we see. (waves crashing) The MPA of the South
Ari Atoll is the largest in the Maldives, spanning across an area of 42 square kilometers. The marine diversity along its reef is among the richest of our planet. (somber music) The best method for us to
navigate this underwater world is by free diving. It is not only the quickest way for us to get close to any marine
wildlife along the reef, but for a free diver it is also a way to connect to your body,
feel your heartbeat, feel how your lungs compress. Feel your mind and body get
wired in this unique way. When you descend to the reef, you enter into a world that you only have very limited access to. (bubbling) Not many of its inhabitants
ever really open up to us outsiders for long. (somber music) But with enough time in the water some even become like acquaintances. (muffled underwater movements) Whale sharks are the focus of the MWSRP and a common visitor to the reef. Being the biggest fish in the ocean, they can grow up to 18 meters long. (somber music) Not every day is going to be a good day to encounter a lot of megafauna. If the conditions are good and you have a clear view down the reef, you will very likely spot
the shadow of a whale shark below the surface. (woman yelling) (somber piano music) As soon as we spot a whale shark, everything needs to happen really fast. There is not a minute to spare. At least one of us always
keeps eyes on the shark, while the other on the team get ready. (somber piano music) (water splashing) It’s very easy to forget
that you are about to go on not only one, but
often a multitude of dives, so you need to make sure
that your head is free and you are ready for the challenge. (somber piano music) Collecting data on whale sharks underwater can be the hardest part of our job. (water splashing) (somber piano music) (water splashing) (water splashing) (somber music) Living on such a small
island like Dhigurah, you learn that nothing is
more important than community and working as a team
to move things forward. You truly become family. (laughing) After all, nothing less than
the future of our oceans depends on our commitment to nature and the ideas it takes to protect it. (muffled underwater movements) (somber music)

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