Deep Impact

In celebration of World Oceans Day on Jun 8, sea-centric beauty brand La Mer is honouring the work of marine biologist Dr Andrea Marshall, and launching a special World Oceans Day Crème de la Mer (available throughout May and June, AU$620/NZ$660, 100ml). Here we interview Dr Marshall – Conservation Biologist, National Geographic Emerging Explorer and founder of the Marine Megafauna Foundation.

What has been the biggest turning point in your career?

In my opinion, the most significant turning point in my career came on the day the first major documentary on my work aired in the UK, in November 2009. That evening more than 2.8 million people tuned in to watch one of the first dedicated documentaries about manta rays. I was totally unprepared for the public’s reaction to the program. Hundreds of people contacted me that night, some typing notes during commercial breaks as the show was underway. Each person wrote to tell about an inspiring experience they had had with mantas, to share their thoughts about the show or to thank me for introducing them to such an incredible animal for the first time. Since that day, that particular documentary has aired in over 100 countries and I have responded to thousands of e-mails and letters from individuals all over the world.

What has been the most defining moment of your career?

Manta rays are globally threatened species, vulnerable to extinction. Over a decade ago, I began working to list manta rays on CITES, an intern-governmental treaty which will offer them protection across the globe. Over the last decade, my team and I have carefully developed strategies to study key aspects of the biology and ecology of manta rays. This research has played a fundamental role in creating momentum for their protection. It was with great pride and relief that our long-term vision paid off and manta rays were successfully awarded protection on CITES last March in Bangkok.

Why should manta rays be protected and how do you stay motivated to keep pushing for their conservation?

Every species plays a role in the ecosystem of the ocean – eliminating manta rays will inevitably have an effect on the natural order of the pelagic environment.

In what ways do we rely on the world’s oceans without even realizing it? What role does the health of the oceans play in our daily lives?

Water is actually what sets us apart from other planets. It’s what makes our home habitable, beautiful and full of diverse life. Water is without a doubt, the key to life and in our case, it is our great oceans that support the planet and all of the life on it.

How do you suggest people at home can help the ocean conservation movement?

1. Use Your Voice – cast your vote or express your opinion. It may be difficult to keep up with campaigns globally, it is realistic to keep an eye on local or regional campaigns seeking support for the protection vulnerable species or the development of marine protected areas. It might not seem like it, but many species have been protected and marine sanctuaries created off momentum fueled by public outcry.
2. Respect Our Oceans – To have the continued privilege of going out into the nature, seeing wild places and engaging with marine life, it is important that we protect the places/things we love. This means not disturbing or touching animals, plants or structures in the sea, it means taking only photos and memories away with you and nothing else, and it means not leaving anything that you brought to the sea behind when you leave. As conscientious citizens, you are not only responsible for your own actions, but you may serve as a role model, influencing the behaviour of others around you, so do your part for the ocean!
3. Direct Your Support – As consumers, you have the power of choice – for example, abstain from eating unsustainably caught fish and support conservation minded tourism operators. This small act can have huge impacts and in turn encourage others to follow in your footsteps.

What does World Oceans Day mean to you? What impact does this day have in overall ocean conservation?

World Oceans Day should inspire us all to pause and reflect on what the ocean means to us and what we as individuals can do, in our own small way, to give back. Perhaps it means participating in a beach clean up, or even better, making a continued commitment to clean your local beaches. You may want to go on a dive or share your stories and underwater images with friends that don’t know much about the ocean. If you don’t live near the sea, perhaps you want to blog or post about what the ocean means to you and your hopes for its future. If you have children, use the day to enhance their understanding of the underwater world; engage them with marine related educational activities, watch a documentary together and have a question/answer session after it, or take them to a local aquarium or interpretation center. Be creative and have fun, but just don’t let the day pass you by.

Aveda founder, Horst Rechelbacher, dies

I was truly sad to learn of the death of Horst Rechelbacher – founder of Aveda – on the weekend from pancreatic cancer. Horst was a true pioneer in the beauty industry, and his ecological vision, values and business savvy influenced not just the world of cosmetics, but had wider resonance across, food, fashion, wellbeing, media and brands in general. He w as one of my personal and professional heroes.

Originally from Austria, Horst trained in hairdressing and after moving to the US and opening his own salon, he founded the naturally-based Aveda in 1978. The company was bought by Estee Lauder in 1997, and for many years Horst remained at the helm, before handing over to the equally committed Dominique Conseil, Aveda’s CEO and President.

I was very lucky to meet Horst on several occasions, while working as a beauty editor in London. Sustainability has long been a passion of mine, and being able to talk with someone who held such a deep commitment to enabling ecological change at both a grass roots and mass level was tremendous.

On one occasion I travelled to the biannual Aveda congress (a truly egalitarian affair where everyone from the CEO to the press to the far-flung distributor, travels coach class on possibly the world’s most cheerless airline), held in the company’s hometown of Minneapolis. To see Horst in his own environment – complete with cutting edge hair cut and colour demos from some of the world’s top names in the biz, factory tours, seminars with indigenous elders from across the globe, an art exhibition echoing with chanting Buddhist monks, and yoga sessions – was to get to grips with the wonderful mix that had made up his company. Aveda lives and breathes sustainability, and despite many knockers, from my under-the-hood experiences of the company over the past 15-years, it is one of the most commercially committed.

This is a testament to Horst’s ability to blend what people want with what we and the planet need. Aveda and his subsequent company Intelligent Nutrients (, have been a blend of top class aesthetics and styling, with wellbeing and sustainability. Aveda was one of the key forerunners of the LOHAS (lifestyles of health and sustainability) way of life that we take for granted today.

Every meet-up with Horst was filled with learnings about sustainability and wellbeing, a shared hope that people like him were going to change the world for the better, and many many laughs. What press images of Horst Rechelbacher never capture is the twinkle he always had in his eyes. He was often up to mischief and thrillingly scurrilous in his opinions. If I can keep some of his passion, impact and vision going, then maybe I can share some of his twinkle. For now though, I’ve only got tears in my eyes.