This week, Ocean Conservancy is focusing on the Our Ocean conference here in Washington, D.C. As a parallel to this conference, Crystle Wee will be attending the Our Ocean, One Future Leadership Summit at Georgetown University.
By Crystle Wee
My earliest memories of the sea were when my grandmother showed my sister and I how to dig for colorful, butterfly-shaped remis clams at a beach near my home. As a child, the ocean was a place of wonder—the waves never stopped playing with us, and we tried to grab fistfuls of sand before the waves hid the clams from us again and again. We spent hours at the surf, on the edge of the sea digging for them, racing to see who could fill their pail first so we could fry them in garlic for dinner. Little did I know that this was the start of my lifelong fascination with the sea.
I live in Singapore, a small island at the tip of a long tail that is the Malay Peninsula. Ask anyone in my country why the ocean is important and they are bound to mention that it enables trade. Traders in the past have exchanged goods from crates full of intoxicating opium to pungent spices and dried tea leaves, sailing between the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Needless to say, modern Singapore still has one of the busiest ports in the world. I guess you could say that the ocean has and will always be our gateway to the rest of the world. How the ocean is governed, who can pass through it and how it is used has a direct impact on my country.
The ocean is intriguing as a global channel, but what fascinates me far more than its waters are the creatures that live in it. The ocean has so much undiscovered life. We know a lot more about life on land, but that is barely representative of the type of life that exists in our ocean. 32 out of 33 animal phyla live in the ocean, while only 12 out of 33 animal phyla live on land. In fact, some scientists estimate that there are around 300,000 different species of marine creatures.
There is no better way to study these amazing creatures than by immersing myself in their environment—literally. My passion for the ocean sparked a love affair for diving and snorkeling in the sea. The water calls out to me for numerous reasons, but largely because it is a space of the unknown that begs to be explored. Exploration is second nature to me, and I will readily climb rocks, kayak, trek and swim to get closer to understanding the complexities of the marine environment.
This love for the sea and other natural environments has been and will always be my motivation for taking on difficult academic pursuits, challenging myself in physical conditions I never thought I could and speaking up about issues I never knew people would take me seriously about. Like my younger self, searching for “remis” on the beach, I will continue digging for knowledge and understanding about life on earth and how we can protect it for the generations to come.
Crystle Wee is an avid diver and student from the Bachelor of Environmental Studies (Biology) program at the National University of Singapore. She is currently doing her thesis on coral reefs in Singapore.