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[Woman in the spotlight] Stella Diamant and the Whale Sharks Conservation

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In the line of its campaign of promoting women in science, Fedactio puts Stella Diamant in the spotlight, a young Belgian marine biologist, and internationally recognized specialist in the study and conservation of whale sharks.

From Brussels, Stella Diamant took interest in environmental issues from an early age. She first studied biology at Warwick University in the UK, were she focused on the effects of plastic pollution on marine environments, before applying in 2011 to the “Youth Volunteer Internship Programme” with the WWF organisation. This programme gave her the opportunity to travel to Madagascar to study marine conservation awareness. In 2014 she pursued her studies with a Master of Science degree at Imperial College London. 

After her graduation, she launched a project called "Madagascar Whale Shark Project" (MWSP) on Nosy Be island. It has been three years now that she dedicates her life to the study of whale sharks. Whale sharks are listed as globally threatened species due to the trade of its fins. The goals pursued by this world unique project centre on two main approaches : firstly studying the whale sharks, and secondly raising awareness amongst local actors, two absolutely essentials to safeguard their conservation.
In order to study these marine animals, Stella and her team collect data concerning their movements or their eating habits. They also use photo-identification to identify the whale sharks and  determine if their population increases or decreases. Their research led to discover that the waters surrounding Nosy Be island where a feeding hotspot for juveniles. Hence the necessity to protect the area to perpetuate the species. This code contains a series of ethical rules such as prohibiting boats from being within fifteen meters from a whale shark and swimmers from using a flash when they photograph the animals. Since the publication of this code, which has been displayed in many public places and hotels of the island, a clearly visible progress has been recorded at sea. As a consequence of whale sharks being less stressed, their interactions with human beings are more peaceful.
Apart from the display of the code, the staff of MWSP conducts awareness campaigns to educate the population about the socio-economic importance of these species, especially amongst Malagasy children to turn them into ambassadors of biodiversity. Indeed, island’s youngsters constitute one of the most important relay in a country where poverty usually does not put environmental issues at the top of the priorities.

Fedactio can only support the work of this Belgian young researcher. Starting as a simple student, she is at 29 at the head of a research foundation and got the job of her dreams. Despite the difficulties - her project requirering to be proactive and spending many hours studying and looking for funds - she proved us that by being brave and motivated, we can work for a better future. By highlighting the MWSP, Fedactio wants to put in the spotlight the underlying issues to her work such as protection of the environment and species preservation. The only way to solve those issues is by educating and sensibilizing future generations to the ecological issues. Therefore, it was important for us, as a Federation of associations, to give credit to the actions undertaken by Stella Diamant and her team. Her activities are in line with some of our platforms such as “Women and Society” which aims to give more visibility to feminin initiatives in our society, and “Youth” which encourages young people to take part and initiate social projects. We hope that Stella Diamant’s  background will inspire you.


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