A few things I have learnt so far about Peggy Stap of Marine Life Studies:
She rarely stops! Peggy typically works a seven day week from whatever time she wakes up in the morning, (I think I usually hear her up and about by six am, sometimes she goes to the gym even earlier), till when she goes to bed. From 2006 when she set up Marine Life Studies until today she has undertaken this work on an entirely voluntary basis. Any funding that Peggy receives pays for various costs and projects, such as buying equipment for the Whale Entanglement Team (W.E.T), none of it pays for Peggy’s time. And none of it pays for the huge firecracker amounts of energy which she invests in her work
Peggy is the friendliest, most enthusiastic, exuberant, talkative person you could imagine. She has a wonderfully childlike openness that embraces anyone and everyone. This communicative nature is an absolute asset for her work. It enables Peggy to work in a cooperative manner with others; be that whale watch operators, researchers, conservationists or the public, including children who she carries out education work with. It also draws people to her; Peggy has a small pool of local people who dedicate their time to work voluntarily alongside her. And somehow she manages to get the most amazing favours and offers of help given to her that make others say “How on Earth did you get him to do that?”
If there are no people present to talk to, Peggy will fall back on talking to her dog Whiskie. Whiskie is herself quite a character. Her full name is Whiskie the Whale Spotter™, and of course she lives up to her name. Whiskie assists Peggy with her research, travelling on the research boat and helping to find whales and dolphins. She can even tell some species apart; if Northern Right Whale dolphins are present she acts quite differently than with other species. Peggy thinks this may be to do with the high frequency sounds which these particular dolphins emit and which Whiskie can probably hear but us humans cannot
Peggy is blessed with having a mix of creative aptitude, scientific ability and good communication skills. To have all three attributes can be a rare thing indeed. These skills linked with her unstoppable energy and determination have enabled her to succeed where others certainly would not. However, it has to be said, her keeping-things-tidy-skills leave a lot to be desired; her office looks like a Humpback whale has breached in the middle of it and sent everything flying
Peggy first found her love for whales and dolphins at the age of forty. An encounter with a Humpback whale in Maui literally changed her life. Sixteen years later and she is a highly knowledgable and respected cetacean conservationist. She is testimony to the fact that is never too late to find your passion and follow it.
I’ll leave you with this last little taster…
Peggy got her first research job with the Hawaii Whale Research Foundation in 1999 after delivering her CV to Dr Dan Salden, highly respected director of the organisation, in a rather unusual way. She attached it to a packed lunch and threw it overboard from the whale watch boat she was working on at the time straight onto the research boat containing Dr Salden and his team.
More on the history of her life and how she came to be a conservationist soon…