Sunday, 27 March 2016

Loving the Sea, Walking like a Crab and Running for Change - Sea-Changers Founder Talks London Marathon

I love the sea. The smell of it, the sight of it, the feel of stinging cold water on my legs, the excitement of jumping in for a dive, the thrill of seeing a tiny nudibranch that I haven’t seen before, the heart pounding thrill of seeing a shark swim by. I love it. The sea makes me feel nostalgic for wonderful family holidays as a kid, relaxed as I feel the sand between my toes, thankful that I live in a country with such gorgeous coastlines to enjoy. 

My love of the sea, and my concern about the threats it faces were the drivers behind starting up Sea-Changers five years ago alongside Co-Founder Rachel Lopata.  Sea-Changers  aims to raise money for vital marine conservation projects around the UK's seas and shores. The idea is simple. We form relationships with marine related businesses to raise money for conservation and we do this for one simple reason…the oceans are in real trouble and they need our urgent help. I won’t quote the facts (but you can read them here).  We all should care for the sea – not just because it is beautiful, life affirming and fun to be near; but because it is vital for our future and the health of our planet. It provides food, transportation, and oxygen for us to breathe.

I think Sea-Changers is a pretty cool charity. We have no paid staff, and no significant income for running costs. Over the last quarter our running costs were less than a fiver! But this hasn’t stopped us having a BIG impact:
  • Since 2012 we have given out 47 grants to vital marine conservation projects around UK shores.
  • Through innovative partnerships with marine businesses we are raising thousands of pounds for marine conservation.
  • 100% of the money we raise through our marine business partnerships goes directly to marine conservation projects.
We have funded marine projects that:
  • Can show a long term positive impact on the marine environment.
  • Are innovative in their approach.
  • Are often grassroots or community based.
  • Would not have happened without our grant.
In a short time Sea-Changers has achieved a great deal, but we want to develop further and this is where running comes in…

I love to run. I have run for many years now. I started in order to get fit, lose some pounds and to take away my guilt for eating too much chocolate. But over the years I grew to love it just for the feeling of it – the freedom of setting out, listening to my breath, having time for me, the feeling of achievement, the joy of all the stuff I see along the way.  If I had to choose between being a diver or being a runner it would be a tough choice. Both have enriched my life but I think running may just come out on top – it makes my everyday life brilliant.

So this year, I am thrilled to be able to combine my love for the sea with my love for running. No, I am not running a race whilst dressed in scuba gear (although that has been suggested!) or running whilst underwater (I have tried that and I don’t get very far). On the 24th April I will be running the London Marathon to raise money for Sea-Changers.

Running a Marathon really is a marathon task. It isn’t just about running a very long race that causes your legs to hurt alot and causes you to walk down stairs like a crab for several days afterwards. Running a marathon is about months and months of:

  • Dark, early morning runs;
  •  Cold, wet, sometimes muddy runs;
  • Weekends filled with long, long runs;
  •  Achy knees, ankles, feet;
  • The feeling of wanting to sleep most of the time – even when I am running!
  • Having to eat loads of gelato to recover from long runs (I think this is a running tip that many top athletes neglect and could benefit from knowing);
  • Having to constantly stop yourself from telling everyone you meet “I am running a marathon and that is why I walk like this”;
  •  A feeling of satisfaction to have completed your weeks training plan;
  •  A feeling of looming terror about the day;
  • A feeling of constant excitement. 
So as the 24th looms I am nearing the end of this adventure. I have really loved it all and I am sure I will love the amazing opportunity to run the London Marathon. But I will love it even more if you can support my run. I am running to raise money for Sea-Changers that we can use towards future conservation grants. In addition, we are keen to develop our volunteer base to help us ensure Sea-Changers develops into a sustainable and even more effective charity. We would love it if you can help us with this. Please make a gift, no matter how big or small and help us develop our volunteer programme so we can continue to develop Sea-Changers.  

In addition, if you are also a runner, or doing any kind of sponsored event this year, please  consider doing it for Sea-Changers. We make the most of every penny we have and appreciate every contribution made. So if you can support our work, that would be amazing, just get in touch as

And, if you are still not convinced, why not let Stephen Fry have the last word in this fab fundraising video.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Using his passion for underwater photography to highlight dangers facing our seas - Mark Kirland Photography Guest Blog

Sea-Changers is working in  collaboration with passionate and talented UK wildlife photographers over the next few months. Part of this collaboration is a series of Blogs which celebrate their talent, their work, the beauty of the sea.In the fourth of these blogs we introduce Mark Kirkland

'My name is Mark Kirkland and I’ve contributed to the Sea-Changers photography project to help raise awareness about UK marine wildlife, and showcase how important the work of marine conservation organisations for our seas and shores.


My interest in the sea stemmed from childhood holidays spent exploring the rugged West Coast of Scotland. Weeks were spent in Dumfries and Galloway, exploring deep sandpools and rockpools in isolated beaches or  clambering over cliffs at Portpatrick to stare down at the wreck of the SS Craigantlet standing defiantly from the water, only to return each year and see nature gradually win the battle. Logan Marine Life Centre was a small research centre which gave me a closer look at what was under the water, as did Oban Sea Life Centre.

As an adult, this fascination continued and led me to marine fishkeeping. My conscience soon caught up and I decided Id rather see this life in it’s natural environment. Selling my many fish tanks, I starting diving at 25 and picked up a camera a few years later. I now only dive to take photographs. I love sharing this weird and beautiful part of Scotland with non-divers, and to fellow divers I try to capture the familiar in a way which will still excite and captivate them. 

As my experience has increased I’m now starting to tap into a creative streak which has lay dormant since I last studied illustration in my late teens. Now at 31 I’m working as a Social Worker near Glasgow and doing a part time university course in the field of mental health. In my free time, I hope to start using my passion for the underwater photography to highlight the dangers facing our wonderful marine environment and illustrate exactly why it is worth saving. 
Overfishing is a global concerns and the debates rage on at a local level. I hear many experienced divers telling me they’ve seen numbers and variety of life decline massively throughout Scotland’s coast. As a country with a world renowned fishing heritage which remains the lifeblood of many rural communities, I hope the Government’s sustainability and conservation strategies such as Marine Protected Areas will not only preserve this way of life but will reverse the damage already done to a hidden world which, just it is doing to me, can enchant and fascinate people for an entire lifetime.'

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Wildlife Photography Guest Blog - Peter Bardsley

Sea-Changers is working in  collaboration with passionate and talented UK wildlife photographers over the next few months. Part of this collaboration is a series of Blogs which celebrate their talent, their work, the beauty of the sea.In the fifth of these blogs we introduce: Peter Bardsley

'Photography is an all consuming passion that drives me to walk the fells and forests in Cumbria where I live and work. Following graduation in Environmental Science, my career  shifted to a role in geoscience and I'm currently engaged in protection of the environment and pollution prevention. I'm a diving instructor,underwater photographer and  marine conservationist . I dive all year and  started diving 1976. 

Although I've dived the coral reefs around the world, I  still  think that UK marine life is a very special and worthy of protection. I have seen the devastation from scallop dredging and noted the decline in fish and lobster population over the last 40 years and feel we need to preserve and protect our delicate marine environment for future generations. Underwater photography is my means of showing  the weird and wonderful world beneath the emerald sea to help people understand why the habitat and marine life need management. Each dive is different and every experience is unique - swimming with dolphins, playing tag with grey seals or watching guillemots and puffins chase fish are all in my top list of photographic experiences.' 

All photographs are copyrighted to Peter Bardsley.