Thirty years ago on a cold I embarked on a SCUBA diving course in The Red Sea. Descending into a world of teeming marine life and kaleidoscopic coral reefs was a transformational experience that would alter the path of my life forever.
In 2007, I first ventured to Fiji, igniting a passion for marine conservation and collaboration with ocean-dependent local communities. The journey deepened my connection to the natural world, fuelling a desire to make the ocean a central part of my life. After two more investigative trips to Fiji, I took a pivotal step and relocated to work with local communities, academia, and government on marine conservation and research efforts. This led to collaborations in Western Australia, Madagascar, and Papua New Guinea.
After nearly five years in Fiji, I came back to the UK and transitioned to the health and fitness industry. However, almost 10 years later a rekindled friendship with Dr. Cara Miller, a Cetacean Researcher and my mentor in Fiji, reignited my yearning for the ocean. Our correspondence in 2019 culminating in a journey to Australia and the Kingdom of Tonga to strategize a Humpback whale research and conservation endeavour. The emergence of the pandemic in 2020 temporarily halted our newfound partnership and instead, I spent six months in Cabo Verde volunteering on a Humpback whale research expedition.
That experience led me to meet literally dozens of inspirational and supportive people, each of whom has played a crucial role in the development of Big Blue Foundation. You can find some of those folks in the pages of this website and I will never be able to thank them enough for the positive impact that they continue to have on my life and on the growth of the Foundation.
Catherine Capon, better known as Cat, is a conservation communicator with 15 years of experience in documentary filmmaking and environmental campaigning. Cat is hugely passionate about inspiring others to travel to the far corners of our planet. A self-confessed “champion of wild adventures”, she believes we should travel the world, as long as we do it consciously, and she aims to promote ecotourism to re-engage people in the natural world. Cat maintains that spending time with wild animals is the key to encouraging people to live more thoughtfully on our planet.
Prompted by her early fascination with the outdoors, Cat studied Ecology and Zoology at Imperial College London. Her first expedition saw her studying bats in Honduras and it was during this time, separated from all of modern life’s ‘necessities’, that she became fiercely protective of the wildlife around her. With an influential YouTube channel and more than 25,000 followers on Instagram, Cat is building a strong social media presence with wildlife content from her intrepid journeys around the world. Previously, she worked closely with Richard Branson and his family who pushed her even further in her ambitions to travel and raise awareness for important international conservation causes.
Dan lives in Folkestone, Kent and was introduced to Big Blue Foundation due to a background in charities that has spanned over a decade. He currently sits on two other boards, one an international animal conservation charity and the other a national women and girls football charity.
“What drew me to the Big Blue Foundation is the ambition and drive to make a significant impact in a global challenge that is already affecting all of us. I hope I can lend expertise to ensure the charity can have the most impact tackling these challenges and make a real difference to all our futures.”
Dan is Chief Executive of The Sports Trust, a charity based in the south east of England focussing on removing barriers to sports and levelling the playing field, with a key focus on schools. They have also recently opened the world’s first multi-storey skatepark. Separately Dan represents the England national team at beach football and will shortly be receiving his fiftieth cap for the country.
With over 15 years of accounting experience and as a founder’s of Clic Accounting (the UK’s first Climate Neutral certified accountancy practice), Katie has acquired and managed the finances for a portfolio of clients in the arts, digital media, business development and not-for-profit fields, with combined annual turnover in excess of £50 mil.
She passionately believes in empowering people to build prosperous businesses that positively impact upon our planet.
Katie is joining The Big Blue Foundation as she is highly motivated by companies and entrepreneurs, like BBF founder Howard, whose driving factors are looking to improve the health, wellbeing and future of people and nature, not just the ‘bottom line’ numbers. Her experience advising growing, owner-managed businesses to reach their goals efficiently and effectively, will add huge value to BBF and she’s super excited to get stuck into her new role as a trustee for the charity.
Melissa Schiele is the Director of Conservation Projects, based at Cheltenham Muscat school in Oman, where she develops and oversees multidisciplinary conservation projects and research, which underpins the project-based learning programme in this and over 15 other schools worldwide.
Her geographical area of expertise is in Small Island Developing States (SIDSs) and equatorial countries, with a focus on the Indian Ocean. Melissa is reading for an engineering PhD in ‘BVLOS [beyond the visual line of sight] water-landing fixed-wing drones, for applications in ecology, plastics detection and illegal fisheries.’ at Loughborough University in partnership with the Zoological Society of London and holds an MSc in Conservation Science from Imperial College London.
Melissa is considered a field expert in marine BVLOS fixed wing-drone operations and is also exploring the technology acceptance of drones in conservation projects. Melissa founded the first conservation technology project in the Maldives which currently focuses on drones as tools for a nationwide plastics data collection programme, partnered with a multinational hotel chain and academic institutions. Technology and its applications are important in Melissa’s projects, but careful stakeholder engagement leading to capacity building in situ are core objectives in all her work.
Alongside her technical background, Melissa has 5+ years’ experience working in cultural heritage and national museums, and is a passionate science communicator for all ages and often in the press, partaking in podcasts and speaking at conferences.
Melissa hails from West London, where her parents and family of Polish and Ukrainian descent, still live. She and her partner reside in the East Midlands. In her spare time, Melissa is an avid artist and cook, her pieces and food inspired by her travels around the tropics. She’s also an equestrian of 25 years, birder, and loves to be in the ocean.
Hi, I’m Eleanor and I am thrilled to introduce myself as the first ‘Big Blue Rising Star’ in marine conservation! I am a product design engineering student at Loughborough University with a passion for design, sustainability and the outdoors.
I am so excited to take on this internship with Big Blue and VivaLab in Portugal and have the opportunity to develop my skills and passion in a way that is kind to our planet.
I cannot wait to work with some amazing people who share this passion to challenge conventions, think boldly and contribute to protecting our oceans with the support of Big Blue Foundation and the generous donors that made this internship possible.
Hello, I’m Flora. I have just completed my Master’s degree at the University of Oxford, specialising in fish cognition. I have been lucky enough to have some awesome chances to work in the marine environment including projects surveying coral health in Belize, evaluating a Marine Protected Area in Kenya and monitoring turtle health in Costa Rica.
In 2021 I narrated a documentary about cetaceans called Ocean Souls and was invited to join them on a filming expedition to the Red Sea in 2022. I was able to identify endangered species for them to film, as well as writing the script. A bit closer to home, I have also worked with Blue Marine Foundation both in their London office and in the field in the Solent, helping them to survey their oyster beds.
I have undertaken additional online qualifications including an Open University Course in Marine and Antarctic Science from the University of Tasmania. In my free time I am a keen scuba diver and love to get under the water as much as I can! But I also am a trained yoga instructor and really enjoy teaching yoga as well as playing squash and frisbee.
When life gives you lemons … GO SWIM THE CHANNEL!
At the age of 25, Jim was a hardworking mechanical engineer, motorbike racer and rugby player. Everything was looking up until a freak work accident on 27th July 2015 left him paralysed from the waist down with multiple vertebrae fractures, numerous prolapsed discs, a spinal cord compression and a brain haemorrhage.
Jim lost his job, relationship, house and his sporting potential and found himself bed-bound, not even able to go to the toilet by himself. Deep depression led to him attempting suicide – twice. He could have given up, but decided to fight back. Twice weekly hydrotherapy sessions sparked his love affair with the water, rendering him weightless and becoming the only time where he was truly pain free. Given the severity of his injuries he should have been paralysed for life, but he used his mental resilience over a period of three years to learn to walk again.
He went from struggling to walk and swimming one length of a 30m pool to taking on a 10km Lake District swim across Coniston Water to swimming the English Channel and then to swimming from Jersey to France and back to Jersey in 2022, a total distance of 65 km over 16 hours with best friend Simon Hagger. A remarkable achievement.
Now a full-time Swim Coach and men’s mental health advocate, Jim uses his passion and experience to encourage others to step out of their comfort zone. He also has a huge passion for conserving the oceans, lakes and rivers that helped him to heal and he will be helping Big Blue Foundation to do exactly that. In 2024 we are joining forces to create an inspiring range of water and land-based conservation challenges for our supporters….
Tom is an academic in Loughborough University’s Division of Geography and Environment. His research and teaching is focussed on advancing understanding of aquatic pollution in rivers, lakes, and the ocean. This focus stems from a childhood of rowing on the River Trent in Nottingham, UK, and his research continues to be motivated by the physical and mental health benefits he experiences from these waterways on his paddle board today.
With a primary focus on material pollution – both plastic and not plastic – Tom is leading work investigating the abundance and impacts of natural fibres, such as cotton and wool, relative to their plastic analogues (e.g. polyester and nylon) in aquatic environments.
His work includes research with community scientists, and he is always keen to learn from communities about the nature, perception, and impacts of the pollution that he puts numbers to. This approach was at the heart of the 50 Years of Litter on Skye project that Tom led recently with Melissa Schiele.
Steve is a professional children’s book illustrator represented by the Bright Agency in London and New York. He has worked with countless publishers including Scholastic, Hachette and Oxford university press and recently collaborated with Jeffery Archer on a series of books.
Nominations for various awards have come his way, including being shortlisted for the Children’s Book of the Year and Young Persons Book of the Year. Steve’s passion for painting led to The Brighton Box Gallery offering to represent him and his work.
Spending time with his family in and on the water along the Kent coast, Steve is naturally passionate about the ocean. Big Blue Foundation is delighted that he has chosen to collaborate with us on some exciting projects that will enable us to engage with and empower youngsters to become the next generation of ocean advocates.