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Exploring the world of coastal conservation & communities, meaningful travel, and life along the way | tswhitty.com | PhD in marine conservation
Looking through a window at a ramshackle dock and the sea with small outrigger fishing boats and big bamboo fishing structures scattered around
View from the ground floor of the Malampaya Sound Protected Area Office — including its very run-down dock — in 2011.

About a year ago, I had a mini-revelation about international conservation that made me feel marginally better about my seeming inability to stick to the really excellent goals I regularly set for myself.

I was once again (as many times before) growing frustrated with my tendency to craft gorgeous to-do…

Two young researchers holding binoculars and sitting in the bow of a boat, scanning the sea for dolphins and porpoises

Allow me to stroll in, fashionably late, on an issue that sparked furor in my corner of the conservation world about a year ago: unpaid conservation internships. Though, of course, I’m only “late” in the sense that I’ve missed the most recently major swarm of impassioned tweets and group chat…

The rationale behind the Conservation Realist series

Two intrepid researchers walking through a small fishing village, with thatch huts and wooden fencing, in a torrential downpour.
Accepting the soggy reality of southeastern Myanmar’s rainy season, equipping ourselves appropriately with raingear, and forging on with what we need to do. Is this a forced analogy to conservation realism? Perhaps. (photo: Wint Hte)

Welcome to the Conservation Realist publication! I am a conservation researcher who specializes in studying the interactions between conservation and communities. I’ve worked as an academic and as a conservation practitioner, and currently am a consultant for various conservation projects, including as a…

A group of people sit on a small porch overlooking a beach. One young researcher is interviewing two fishers, with another student looking on.

As a conservation researcher whose work focuses on the interactions between conservation efforts and communities, a critically important part of my job is to better understand people. Those who aren’t particularly familiar with conservation might be surprised to learn that there is often conflict between conservationists and communities. This is…

Two groups of villagers sit in the ground in circles, sharing ideas with a team of local researchers in Myanmar

I’ll be very candid. When I first learned about Design Thinking, I internally rolled my eyes. “This is just… common sense. Why does it need a flashy label?”

And then I thought it over, and remembered — to quote many elderly people in my life — “common sense isn’t very…

Apparently, I took very few photos while in Jakarta, and those that I did take were with a tiny smartphone. Here’s my first tempeh experiece — revelatory.

Jakarta, August 2012.

My first visit to Jakarta, completed.

It was not as bad as I’d expected, based on warnings. …

About a month or so ago, the grumpy old lady who lives in the not-so-deep recesses of my mind was stirred by social media posts like these:

“Nature is healing! Humans are trash!”

“The COVID crusade is saving the planet from humans doing bullshit.”

“Mother Earth is now healing. Maybe…

Rainy season in this part of southeastern Myanmar is miserable. It brings relief to the scorched remnants of the hot dry season, but then it runs amok and often floods the cities and villages and rice fields. It is a time of mud and mold.

It is not an ideal…

Zion shot me a look of doubt, which I deftly avoided by gazing off into space. I snuck a glance at the man sitting in front of us — a grizzled old salt, a man of the sea, a sinewy and no-nonsense fisherman. He was one of the first participants…

My father’s birthday was last week. He would have been 76. As with so many of his birthdays, I was far from home, though the situation this time was certainly more surreal. I was whiling away the days in my partner’s apartment in Yangon, self-isolating instead of pursuing my original…

TS Whitty

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