Naturalist Spotlight: Maddie Buresh

“So what brought you out here? And … how? How did you do it?”

We get this question a lot. Many folks are fascinated by the steps it takes to become a Pacific Whale Foundation certified Marine Naturalist. Our naturalists are college grads from all over the country – Minnesota, Kansas, California, Idaho, Florida, you name the state – we’ve most likely had a naturalist from there. The majority of us applied online and had numerous phone and Skype interviews, where we were able to show our enthusiasm and demonstrate our knowledge of marine conservation. Plenty of us had other experiences outside of college before we started here, including marine mammal research, internships, and other field work. Our hiring managers must have an incredibly difficult time making their selections from all the interested and skilled applicants – who doesn’t want to move to Maui?

In this upcoming series of blogs, I’d like to introduce some of the incredible naturalists who work for our organization and explore their passions and experiences that led them to Pacific Whale Foundation.

Meet Maddie Buresh. This red-headed force of nature has been passionate about animals and biology since childhood. I asked her a few questions about how she got her start and what motivates her on a day-to-day basis. Check out our conversation!

1) When did you first realize you wanted to be involved with marine conservation?

I wanted to be a veterinarian since kindergarten, and it was only when I switched my college major from biology to marine vertebrate biology that I realized that I wanted to pursue that instead. No classes had ever made me feel that passionate about a subject or so driven to go and share what I learned.

2) What is your favorite part of being a Marine Naturalist?

The keiki. I love working with the kids. They’re just so enthusiastic and excited about the smallest things. You teach them, and they teach you too.

3) What’s one of the coolest experiences you’ve had out on the water?

There are so many amazing moments, but the coolest one was during a Sunset Cocktail Cruise, when a mother humpback whale and her calf came mere feet from our boat’s swim step.

4) How do you spend your free time on Maui when you’re not out saving our oceans through science and advocacy?

I like to spend time journaling and drawing in coffee shops, and I like to be outside. I also really love hanging out with my friends and their three little children.

5) What’s one thing folks may not know about being a Marine Naturalist?

We’re often in the spotlight as boat crew and educators, and many people probably think that is all that we do. But there is a lot that happens behind the scenes. As a PWF naturalist, a day’s work may require me to be a lifeguard, a research assistant, a wildlife interpreter, a cocktail server, a maintenance assistant, and a free diver to name a few. We have a lot of job descriptions wrapped up together, and a lot of responsibility –  but we also have amazing jobs.

6) You’re headed to Australia soon! Can you tell us what you’ll be doing down there and what you’re most excited/nervous about?

Pacific Whale Foundation is operating Hervey Bay Ultimate Whalewatches in Australia this summer – which is their winter. I’ll be playing a few different roles, from whalewatch naturalist, to research assistant, to office worker and retail staff. There is one word that can sum up both what makes me nervous and what excites me: CHANGE! It will definitely take me out of my comfort zone and challenge me, but I’m definitely looking forward to the whole experience and the growth that will come from it.

7) If there’s just one conservation message you’d like to leave folks with, what would it be?

If we let them, environmental issues can really get us down. But what would it look like if everyone in the world just did something as seemingly small as picking up one piece of trash a day? That would be over 7 billion pieces of trash. Let’s reflect on the negative things only as much as it takes to learn from them how we can make changes and work toward more sustainable lifestyles and a healthier planet.

Isn’t Maddie awesome? We think so too! Stay tuned for more features on our other naturalists. If you have any questions for us, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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PWF Awarded Sustainable Tourism Certification

Since its inception 35 years ago, Pacific Whale Foundation has remained committed to not only educating the public about the ocean environment, but also ensuring that our operations are as environmentally friendly as possible. We work to reduce our overall environmental impact, and have been an industry leader when it comes to practices like pumping, and not dumping, waste, replacing styrofoam containers with compostable products and mooring our vessels at snorkel sites instead of dropping anchor on reefs.

Pacific Whale Foundation guests and crew work together to remove a large net from the ocean during an Eco-Adventure

Pacific Whale Foundation guests and crew work together to remove a large net from the ocean during an Eco-Adventure

A main component of Pacific Whale Foundation trips is also inspiring passengers to take an active role in protecting our oceans – be it through making lifestyle changes or joining one of our many ocean advocacy campaigns.

We are excited to announce that the education and sustainability standards set by Pacific Whale Foundation, and other eco-tour companies throughout Hawai’i, are being officially promoted through the Hawai’i Ecotourism Association’s newly revamped “Sustainable Tourism Certification Program”. Formed in 1994, the Hawai’i Ecotourism Association (HEA) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for ecotourism as a means to protect Hawai’i’s natural environment and native cultures.

HEA Certification Logo Blue CERTIFIED Dates

Ecotours that receive the Sustainable Tourism Certification must meet specific criteria, including:

  • Provide a direct, personal experience of nature for customers;
  • Employ environmentally sustainable practices to ensure that their activities do not degrade the environment;
  • Maintain a written Sustainability Commitment Statement that guides operations and demonstrates a commitment to HEA Sustainable Tourism principles;
  • Make ongoing, positive contributions to the community annually, both economically and in contributing to local conservation initiatives;
  • Provide accurate interpretation of resources to guests during tour and ensure that staff are qualified and appropriately trained.

Pacific Whale Foundation is one of only five tour operators on Maui to receive the Sustainable Tourism Certification for the 2014-2016 cycle. We are a proud member of the Hawai’i Ecotourism Association and look forward to promoting the values of sustainability throughout Hawai’i’s tourism industry.