The most enchanting voice from The Siren project

I can’t remember when my daily 1.5 hour-long walks turned into a routine and then from a routine into something that was more like a meditative state rather than exercise. 

When I quit my job as a Marine Biologist in the Maldives at the end of November 2019, I didn’t think that it would take me so long to find a new position and that by the end of February I would still be living at my parent’s house. Finally, after having sent 100s of job applications, I was finally offered a Marine Biologist/ Environmental Officer position in the Maldives… and I was so relieved. But as life has it… things didn’t quite work out as planned and by the beginning of March, the world plunged into a Pandemic (COVID-19) that left Millions of people unemployed (myself included) and would test the world, its people, the economy and country leaders.

So, when I felt overwhelmed being a 28-year-old woman living back in my childhood bedroom, frustrated with unemployment, and the sense of having no greater purpose, I started to go on long walks. Breathing in the crisp winter air felt like an escape from the frustrations of daily life as a young conservationist that hadn’t quite achieved what I had set out to do at age 17 when I decided to become a Marine Biologist.

During my walks I started listening to podcasts, anything from global news, marine science to human rights and I felt so inspired listing to all these activists and scientists that dedicate their lives to making this planet a better place for wildlife and humans alike. I was faced with a question I had been pondering on for quite some time: “Where do I fit in? How can I make a difference? What am I good at?”

And while I always imagined myself being a Marine Scientist, doing research and analyzing data… that wasn’t me, and I had to come to terms with that. I love the ocean, its vastness, its alien-like inhabitants, its colorful coral reefs, and its raw power, and I hope that Ocean Conservation will always be an integral part of my life. But what I had realized, especially working in the Maldives among an incredibly diverse team, was that I care about people. As much as I care about the ocean I care about humanity and the incredible injustice that dominates this world today. Witnessing unfair double standards, the exploitation of my co-workers, and blatant disregard for human dignity, I often felt powerless and the only thing I knew how to do, was to listen and be there for others. 

As human creatures we long to be listened to, to be understood, and to be seen. It sounds incredibly simple, but in today’s fast-paced society, how much do we actually listen to each other, and to what degree do we acknowledge the people around us and the work that they do? While movie stars, pop stars, and athletes are making a fortune, the people who are actually trying to preserve a livable planet for the next generation often barely earn a living, are mostly unseen and considered “hippies” or “tree huggers”. With a society that chooses short term capital gain over kindness and a healthy environment, I wanted to give a platform to the wonderful women who are dedicating their lives to protecting our oceans in their own ways (arts, photography, sciences, community outreach, filmmaking, tourism …).

So here I was, trying to figure out how to combine my love for the ocean with my desire to make people feel heard and appreciated for the work that they do. Without having any funds and truly not a lot of connections within the Ocean Conservation Community I figured social media could be the answer … and The Sirene Project was born. 

The Sirene Project is a platform for women from all walks of life, with different talents, different backgrounds and ethnicities, that highlight and connects female ocean conservationists to empower each other, inspire positive change, exchange ideas, create opportunities, and to be a resource for the next generation. While The Sirene Project might not tackle injustice or climate change within itself, I hope it gives a voice to the women who are trying to solve those problems. 

Leoni Dickerhoff

How do you get where you are today

Very often, I receive questions about how I arrived to do what I do, especially in the field of working with sharks. Some people want to know my field of studies, what I minor and major in, how much biology helped me with my work, and how someone else can arrive to do what I do. 

Every time, I find it hard to explain the complexity of my journey. Let me start with one simple fact: I didn’t study marine biology. I didn’t even study biology. I studied languages and all the subjects related to art, history, culture, poetry, literature. 

I had a childhood dream to have sharks for friends while working as an underwater scuba ranger that would control the safety and health of the oceans. However, I had a family that encouraged my passion for the water, going into marine biology was never a thought; it was a very foreign concept at my time and in my culture. I am glad things have changed, and more young people are aware and interested in these opportunities.

So how did I arrive here?


Challenges That Change Our Future

“Humans are the only creatures with the ability to dive deep in the sea, fly high in the sky, send instant messages around the globe, reflect on the past, assess the present and imagine the future.” 

~Sylvia Earle, American Marine Biologist

When I first interviewed Cristina Zenato for my podcast What it Takes to be Wild, I thought she would be a great guest and would likely bring some real insight to our audience.  I had no idea that talking with her would open up a completely new personal challenge for me.

I’ve always struggled to believe in my capacity to live fully and explore worlds bigger than myself.  As a result, I created a small, safe life, with an acceptable job and reasonable marriage.  But there has always been a hidden part of me yearning to be stronger than I think I am. It is like a small white light in my chest  that occasionally glows bright and says: “You’re bigger than this”.  


Shark Journey

As an underwater photographer, there is no animal more charismatic and exciting to create an image of than a shark. As a biologist, there is no marine creature more impressively adapted to life as an apex predator than a shark is. As a writer, there is no story more polarizing or important to tell than that of a shark. And as a conservationist, there is no animal that needs more help with PR than a shark does. Being both critically important and chronically misunderstood is a tough act to balance, so it is my greatest hope that through images, articles, and activism, we can all work together to tip the scales in favor of sharks around the world. 


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