German title: Meine Reise mit Meeresschildkröten: Wie ich als Meeresbiologin für unsere Ozeane kämpfe.
In the heart of Costa Rica, a remarkable tale unfolds, one of a woman named Christine Figgener and her unwavering dedication to saving sea turtles. Her journey began with a viral video in 2015, showcasing her team’s heroic rescue of a male olive ridley turtle with a plastic straw wedged painfully up its nose. This incident ignited Figgener’s passion to raise awareness about the devastating impact of plastic pollution on marine life and led to her nomination as Time magazine’s “Next Generation Leader”.
Born in Germany, Figgener harboured an innate love for the ocean, spending countless childhood summers exploring coastal waters and volunteering at the nation’s sole dolphinarium. However, she found traditional biology courses lacking depth and inspiration. Seeking a more profound connection, she embarked on a transformative four-month volunteer stint with Tropica Verde e.V. in collaboration with ANAI in Costa Rica.
Arriving in Costa Rica, Figgener faced the challenges of living in humble accommodations alongside fellow interns and volunteers. Sleepless nights filled with beach patrols under the moonlight tested her determination, but her unwavering commitment to sea turtle conservation kept her going.
After her initial volunteer experience, Figgener felt an irresistible pull back to Costa Rica, a place she now calls home after 16 years. Mesmerized by the captivating world of sea turtles, she dedicated her life to their protection.
Diving deeper into the world of sea turtles, Figgener came face-to-face with the urgency of their misery. These magnificent creatures face numerous threats, including plastic pollution, habitat loss, and climate change. Without concerted efforts to conserve them, future generations may never know the wonder of sea turtles.
Driven by this realisation, Figgener continued her education, completing a master’s thesis on sea turtle biology using data from her Costa Rican organisation. This research yielded invaluable insights into the lives of these remarkable animals.
Figgener’s journey has not been without its hurdles. As a woman in male-dominated Costa Rica, she has faced discrimination and marginalisation. She also had to struggle with personal tragedies, including the murder of one of her colleagues while patrolling sea turtle nesting beaches.
Yet, despite these setbacks, Figgener’s commitment to sea turtle conservation remains firm. She believes that finding one’s purpose in life is essential for achieving true happiness and fulfilment. Every day, she rises with renewed determination, dedicated to safeguarding these endangered creatures.
Figgener’s dedication to her work is truly inspiring. She has not only made significant contributions to sea turtle conservation but has also set an example for other marine scientists, demonstrating that women can thrive and make a difference in STEM fields.
With her PhD in hand, Figgener continues to push the boundaries of knowledge, seeking to unravel the mysteries of sea turtle behaviour and reproduction. Her work has shed light on the remarkable lives of these marine reptiles and has paved the way for more effective conservation strategies.
I highly recommend Figgener’s book, a captivating tale of passion, determination, and an unwavering commitment to protecting our planet’s precious wildlife. Her story serves as a beacon of hope, reminding us that even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, we can make a difference. For her sake, I wish her to find peace in overcoming the constant feeling of not being worthy enough as a woman, which seems to be a recurring theme in the book.
Preorder the English version of My Life with Sea Turtles, scheduled to be realeased in May 2024.
Cover image: Photo of marine biologist Christine Figgener with baby leatherback on a nesting beach in Costa Rica by Christine Figgener.
I have a master’s degree in marine biology, ecology, and behavioural biology obtained from the University of Vienna. Since I can remember I wanted to become a marine biologist, despite growing up in a country without an ocean, but I guess my South African roots just kept on pushing to make this dream come true. After graduation I spent a year in Australia and assisted several NGOs with marine educational talks and citizen science programmes. Here I had the privilege of observing humpback whales on their annual migration passed the eastern coast of Australia, and participating in seagrass and rockpool monitoring activities. With a heavy heart I left Australia, but soon after obtained a position as a marine educator at Malta National Aquarium. Today I am based in Germany exploring marine critters in the North and Baltic Sea and if I am not too busy, you’ll find me diving in the Red Sea, blogging on my Facebook page, swimming, running, reading, and meditating.