Meet the team of scientists and other contributors who help carry out the Olive Ridley Project mandate.
Martin Stelfox – Founder/Chief Executive Officer
Biologist and Founder and Director of the Olive Ridley Project, Martin Stelfox, was known as “Reptile Boy” throughout his school years; from the age of 8 he was taking care of injured and abused reptiles and eventually had over 100 snakes and lizards in a specially designed reptile house in his parents back yard.
By age 12 Martin was working with some of the best herpetologists of his time, even writing articles in international herpetological magazine called “Reptilian”. It was no surprise to anyone that he graduated from Manchester Met. University in Biological Sciences.
Martin fell in love with diving and marine biology during his time at university. His passion for biology saw him working on many different projects around the world, including organic farming in Hawaii, thresher shark studies in the Philippines, coral reef research in Mexico, salmon tracking in the UK, coral propagation and marine biology management in the Maldives, to name just a few.
Martin is an avid adventurer and has explored some extremely remote places in the world. The one problem he always encounters, whether on top of the highest peaks in Alaska and Japan or 100m beneath the sea level in Egypt, is the negative effects humans have on the world’s ecosystems; Martin always seems to find garbage.
The Olive Ridley Project was founded in response to the alarming number of Olive Ridley sea turtles Martin found entangled in ghost nets in the Maldives.
Martin’s life has turned full circle and he now dedicates his time to saving a different type of reptile, the sea turtle, from the perils of ghost gear in the Indian Ocean.
Dr. Jillian Hudgins – Senior Project Scientist
Born and raised on the east coast of Canada, Dr. Jillian Hudgins has been fascinated with nature since she was a child. Though she has a background in geology and a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from University of New Brunswick, Canada, Jillian has been working in the field of marine conservation since 2010. After surveying fish and coral health on the Meso-American Barrier Reef in Mexico, she moved to the Maldives to work on a coral restoration program in 2011.
As a consultant for the Maldivian government on issues of turtle conservation, Jillian is working with resort marine biologists and local islanders to raise awareness and promote education about the marine ecosystem in the Maldives.
Jillian has been working with the Olive Ridley Project since its inception in 2013 and is currently the Senior Project Scientist. She lives in Canada but travels regularly to the Maldives to run educational workshops and awareness events in resorts and on local islands.
Imaha (Kaia) Mohamed – Community Outreach Officer
Imaha Mohamed, or Kaia as she is known, was born in the Maldives but lived in Sri Lanka much of her childhood. She was fascinated by the ocean and with marine life from an early age, and decided to become a Marine Biologist after learning about the threats facing the ocean and it’s organisms.
Once she returned to the Maldives, Kaia volunteered for various ocean conservation organisations, began studying Marine Science, and embarked on a course of PADI dive certifications to realize her dream of becoming a Marine Biologist.
When Kaia was introduced to the Olive Ridley Project in 2015, she immediately wanted to be a part of the work to save turtles and other marine organisms from being caught in ghost nets. Along with other volunteers at Project Damage Control, a social action project founded in 2013 as part of the Commonwealth Change Makers program, Kaia is heading up a project for the Olive Ridley Project that aims to recycle old ghost nets into arts and craft.
Project Jinni Dhaa (meaning ghost net in Dhivehi) will work with local artists to recycle old ghost nets into artworks, small sculptures and jewelry, selling them through resorts in the Maldives. The aim of Project Jinni Dhaa is to reduce the number of discarded ghost nets ending up back in the ocean and to provide a platform for local artists to create extra income.
Kaia is currently working as a Coordinator for the MSPEA (Maldives Seafood Processors and Exporters Association) and continue to study Marine Science.
Dr. Claire Petros BA BVSc MRCVS – Sea Turtle Veterinarian Surgeon
As a biologist and a veterinarian, Claire has always had a passion for nature and has known from a young age that she had wanted to work with wildlife. After completing her undergraduate course in Biological Sciences at Oxford University she went on to complete her veterinary training at Bristol University to become a veterinarian.
During her time in Oxford Claire specialised in marine ecology, and undertook her final year dissertation on the study of the health status of the coral reef in the Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia following a bleaching event. It was during this time that she developed her love of marine conservation.
At Bristol, much of her work experience involved working in South Africa and at wildlife and exotic centres in the UK, in particular London zoo. In her final year as a veterinary student Claire travelled to Thailand to take part in a spay clinic for Worldwide Veterinary Services (WVS). She spent her final year elective working with the exotic veterinary team in North Carolina State University (NCSU), specifically working with Box turtles as part of the student run Turtle rescue team. During her time in NCSU, Claire witnessed a cataract surgery on a Loggerhead sea turtle! It was an invaluable experience that led to a deeper fascination in turtle medicine.
After graduation, Claire spent some time in Grenada working as a research assistant for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDESCAST), a leatherback research centre. It was here that her ambition to become a ‘turtle vet’ and marine wildlife conservationist began.
Ibrahim Shameel – Project Coordinator
Shameel is from the Maldivian capital, Male. Shameel has spent the last couple of years researching whale sharks with our friends at the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) . He was a key member in carrying out the in-field research operation, as well as the community initiatives, such as the Maldives Whale Shark Festival.
After spending a year abroad in the UK to complete a foundation year in science, he is looking to complete his undergraduate degree in the next couple of years, either in the Maldives or abroad. In the meantime, he has joined the Olive Ridley Project to work as a ‘Project Coordinator’ as we look to reach out to more fishers and island communities and maintain a consistent presence in the Maldives.
Dr. Annie Kurian – Project Scientist
From a dream that took birth during her bachelor days in Environmental Sciences in Bangalore in 1999, Dr. Annie Kurian pursued sea turtle research in her Masters in Marine Biology in Karwar, resulting in some pioneering research and conservation work on Olive Ridleys in the area between 2000 and 2002.
The quest was broadened for a Ph.D. from 2002 to 2008 and involved investigating nesting ecology along select turtle nesting habitats in nine coastal states and the major islands of India.
Annie was the Editor of the 2013 WWF-India publication “Marine Turtles along the Indian Coast” and she is also involved in climate change impact studies in the Southern Ocean, initiated in 2009.
Annie is co-founder of Terra Marine Research Institute (TeMI) with Dr. Mridula Srinivasan, a marine mammal scientist/marine ecologist. At TeMI she directs the Programme for Sea Turtles and Coastal Resources, studying how the livelihood of traditional fishing communities are factored into research and conservation programmes.
Abandoned fishing gear are among the biggest threats to marine life, including marine mammals, sharks, and sea turtles. TeMI partners with the Olive Ridley Project in researching the extent of the problem, actively removing ghost nets from the Indian Ocean, and in setting up facilities to transform old fishing nets into useful products, along the west coast of India. The aim is to ultimately develop livelihood schemes and incentives for traditional fishing communities to not simply discard fishing gear at sea.
Absar Khan – Project Coordinator
Absar Khan is driven by passion for the natural world; he is a scubadiver and mountaineer who loves nature and adventure so much that he left his career practicing law in England and moved to back to his home country of Pakistan to pursue his lifelong dreams.
Marine and mountain conservation resonated with Absar and he is our latest addition to the Olive Ridley Project team. Focusing on field surveys, logistics and expedition planning, Absar has been directly trained by ORP Founder and Director Martin Stelfox, and coordinates ORP projects in Pakistan.
Asbar is a Dive Master as well as an Assistant Climbing Instructor with Mountain Wilderness – Pakistan. He brings a wide range of skills to the field that helps him tremendously in achieving our goals. Our latest projects in Pakistan focus on conducting surveys to identify the scale of the ghost net problem, as well as initiatives for reusing ghost nets and working with the local communities.
Susie Gibson – Graphic Designer
Susie Gibson grew up on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, close to the Pacific ocean. After completing a Bachelor of Visual Communication Design at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand, she worked in commercial design studios for several years before heading to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
In Mexico Susie spent 5 months volunteering on a coral reef monitoring project and completed her PADI dive master. Susie was fascinated daily by the myriad of creatures out on the reef; after learning more about the threats facing the ocean environment and seeing some of these first hand, she decided to focus her design work on projects that would raise awareness for ocean conservation issues.
She became involved with the Olive Ridley Project in 2013. She designed the project logo and created educational materials to support the team’s ongoing mission. With a passion for illustration, Susie enjoyed creating the imagery for the Olive Ridley Project’s animation ‘Threats of Ghost Nets’.
Although now based in New Zealand, Susie continues to travel back to Mexico and in 2014 was lucky enough to witness an arribada (pictured) of Olive Ridley Turtles on Mexico’s west coast, in the state of of Michoacan.
Danielle Gravon – Artist/Editor
After meeting members of the Olive Ridley Project in the Maldives, Danielle wanted to use her skills as a writer and artist to help the cause. She has contributed to the website design, protocol illustrations and the editing of project content. She also occasionally writes for our blog and narrated our informational animation released last year. Currently, she is creating installation artwork using ghost gear and is working to facilitate community projects that use ghost gear as a creative medium.
Jannicke C Hallum – Website Administrator
Jannicke is a recreational diver who first got involved with the Olive Ridley Project in 2013 as a citizen scientist, rescuing turtles and removing ghost nets from the ocean. Whilst based in the Maldives for several years, she was also active with the Reef Recharge coral restoration project, both in the field and in the virtual world, and a volunteer with a Coral Reef Monitoring Project implemented by the Maldivian Ministry of Environment and Energy.
After completing her Bachelor of Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London, Jannicke spent many years working in IT management in the hospitality industry in various countries. She is currently working as an independent IT consultant and using her computer skills to help raise awareness about ocean conservation issues.