There’s a new marine biologist in town, and Yalla duck dives into her world to have a look at the hotel’s forward stance on sustainability.
When her early dreams of becoming a mermaid didn’t pan out, Emily Armstrong chose the next best thing; she became a marine biologist. As the new Marine and Environment Manager at the new Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort (JSIR), she spends her days mingling with marine life on one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the region. So, with the capital’s hawksbill turtle nesting season fast approaching (from April to July), we thought we’d pick her brains about the nature of her work.
What are your first impressions of Abu Dhabi?
So far, I like what I see! The city has so much to offer and is such a great mix of different cultures. One thing that has really stood out for me is the commitment to sustainability
from both residents and local businesses; I’m happy to see so many people embracing a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
What animals are you most surprised to find here?
Although they are not typical visitors, I was very surprised to hear about the whale sharks at Al Bateen and the Corniche! It’s so lovely though to see the amount of wildlife here, especially the diversity in the cooler winter months, as people might not usually expect such a wide variety of species from a city born out of the desert.
Tell us about your environmental programmes for kids at the hotel?
We wanted to offer activities in the Kids Club that get the children outside and exploring the local wildlife. In the Nature Ranger sessions. They can tour the resort and learn about our sustainability initiatives, the popular local wildlife and at the end learn what they themselves can do to help the environment. Alongside the Nature Ranger sessions, the kids can go on Saadiyat Safari to find and identify local species of flora and fauna. They can journey through the turtle’s life-cycle, and they can treasure hunt on the beach for nurdles (small plastic particles that are easily carried in the tide and wash up).
Your resort takes a forward stand on sustainability. What is your advice to people wanting to also make changes to their habits?
I would say first take a look at the bulk of your waste and see what is the main item you seem to be throwing away – is it food, packaging, containers? Then focus on that to begin with and make manageable changes. Sometimes it involves a little more planning for a day out, or a shopping trip, but doing something is always better than doing nothing.
The hotel must make decisions that aren’t in its best financial interest in order to protect the
animal life that was here first. Is this a metaphor for the less convenient things one must do to be more sustainable?
Absolutely! I feel many people these days choose convenience over the environment – yes it’s easier to take a disposable cup, for example, rather than remembering to bring and wash your flask every day, but we have to change the mindset that 5 minutes of our time is more important than the pressure these single-use resources are putting on the environment. If we all start to approach things differently, I am confident we can make a positive impact.
At what age did you know you want to become a marine biologist?
From as young as I can remember I only ever wanted to be a mermaid! As I grew up, the marine world fascinated me, and I decided from a young age to pursue marine biology. I love the mystery of the ocean and am excited to think how much we can still discover in the future.
What is your favourite thing to do outside of work?
Scuba Diving, snorkeling, watersports, and hitting the beach – I chose this job for a reason.
What is your favourite marine animal? You can only pick one!
That’s easy – the orca whale. Seeing them in the wild is a dream of mine.
To learn more about the environmental programmes at Jumeirah Saadiyat Island Resort, visit Jumeirah.com
Published on March 2019