Conservation & Research

By Kim Stone – Director of Fishes and Invertebrates

St. Helena is a Mission Blue recognized Hope Spot in honor of the island’s ongoing initiatives to manage and monitor its marine environment as well as to grow a sustainable economy. Georgia Aquarium works with the St. Helena National Trust and Marine Conservation Section promoting conservation and education on the island and contributing to ongoing marine research.

Day 1 – Island Tour

March 10, 2024

Today, we commenced an unforgettable journey on St. Helena. We started our week-long adventure touring the island from dawn to dusk with a local guide. Throughout the tour, I was enthralled by the island’s rich culture, history, and biodiversity. Spanning 47 square miles, St. Helena offers a striking contrast between its two sides. One resembles a barren planet, vast and desolate – while the other is a lush paradise teeming with wildlife and vegetation. It was like witnessing two worlds within a single island half the size of Atlanta. 

Throughout the day, I absorbed every detail shared by our guide, learning about the history and becoming immersed in the lives of its native people.

Day 2 – Marine Plastics Research

March 11, 2024

Today was an incredibly fulfilling day spent with the St. Helena National Trust team. We joined the group at ‘Sandy Bay,’ to assist with their ongoing research project involving collecting and studying plastic particles that wash up on the beach with the outgoing tides. It was disheartening to witness the impact of human activity on such a picturesque coastline.

By analyzing the properties of these plastics, we aim to identify their quantity and source of origin. This will give us a better look at the overall and long-term effects they have on the surrounding waters. This valuable data will contribute to global microplastic studies, informing policies and practices worldwide. 

As we diligently collected the debris, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of purpose, knowing that our efforts were part of a larger initiative to understand and combat the scourge of plastic pollution. Our actions today will have ripple effects beyond just this beach. It’s moments like these that remind me of the importance of environmental stewardship and the power of collective action in preserving our planet’s precious ecosystems.

Day 3 – Setting Sail

March 12, 2024

Today’s boat ride with members of the Marine Conservation Section and National Trust, along with government diplomats, was both exciting and educational. While we only managed to spot one whale shark from a distance, the discussions about oceanic conservation efforts were truly enlightening. It was inspiring to hear about the ongoing work to protect the marine ecosystems in St. Helena.

Despite the limited sightings, I was grateful for the opportunity to share insights into shark conservation, particularly regarding the care of whale sharks. Every conversation and interaction brings us closer to understanding and safeguarding these magnificent creatures. Here’s hoping for more fruitful encounters and meaningful discussions as our journey continues.

Day 4 – A Day on the Shorebird Survey

March 13, 2024

Today, I embarked on a captivating journey alongside two members of the St. Helena Nation Trust for their biweekly shorebird survey. Our expedition led us along the undulating coastline of St. Helena, where we ventured for miles, encountering the nests of the island’s resident masked boobies perched atop the coastal cliffs. These birds hold a special significance, serving as focal points for our conservation efforts to understand their migratory patterns and populations.

Witnessing the unique bond between the masked boobies, highlighted by their ritual of gift-giving with pebbles, was truly remarkable. Each return to the nest brought forth a symbol of affection, meticulously arranged in a circle pattern, echoing the enduring commitment of these avian parents.

After a day filled with exploration and insights into the island’s rich biodiversity, we joined the local community for their weekly fish fry. Amongst the aroma of freshly cooked fish and the sounds of laughter, we shared tales of our adventures, reaffirming the deep sense of connection that unites us all on this island paradise.

Day 5 – Whale Shark Wonder

March 14, 2024

While Dr. Dayne shared marine knowledge with local students, I joined a boat ride with the National Trust team, hoping to spot whale sharks before our departure. Luck favored us, and we encountered two of these gentle giants, allowing us to gather valuable data for ongoing research. It was a fitting end to our expedition, reinforcing the importance of marine conservation and leaving us with lasting memories of St. Helena’s beauty.

The evening was dedicated to advocating for the conservation of our oceans and the creatures within, with a particular focus on sharks. Through public talks, we shared our passion for protecting and preserving marine life, highlighting the vital research and care efforts underway at Georgia Aquarium. By offering firsthand insights into our daily interactions with sharks, we aimed to transform fear into respect and fascination among our audience, fostering a desire to safeguard these creatures for future generations.

Day 6 – Fare(whale) St. Helena

March 15, 2024

Today marked our final day on St. Helena island; a mix of excitement and sadness filled the air. I joined a boat ride with the Marine Center team and with local students to kick start their Marine Awareness Week. It felt very fitting that our journey began with a similar sense of purpose as when it began – setting out to explore the wonders of the ocean that surrounds this remote island. Marine Awareness Week on St. Helena Island aims to educate and inspire the next generation of ocean stewards. I was honored to be a part of this initiative, which steams back to Georgia Aquarium’s mission of inspiring awareness & preservation of our ocean and aquatic animals worldwide.

As we bid farewell to this remarkable island, I’m grateful for the experiences and lessons learned here. This trip serves as a reminder of the vital importance of protecting our oceans and their inhabitants. 

Final Thoughts:

This trip has been an unforgettable blend of discovery and purpose. From immersing myself in the island’s native culture to marveling at its incredible wildlife, every moment has left a lasting impression. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as our visit coincided with the island’s Marine Awareness Week. 

Throughout the week, we engaged with locals, spreading knowledge and fostering appreciation for the marine life that graces these waters. Partnering with the St. Helena National Trust and Marine Conservation Section, we worked towards advocating for policies that protect these precious species and their habitats. It’s been a successful journey filled with hope and inspiration for the future of conservation efforts on this island. As we head back to Atlanta, I carry a renewed commitment to continue making a difference in preserving our oceans. 

Until we meet again, St. Helena, you’ll hold a special place in my heart.


Georgia Aquarium is a leading 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Atlanta, Ga. that is Humane Certified by American Humane and accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Georgia Aquarium is committed to working on behalf of all marine life through education, preservation, exceptional animal care, and research across the globe. Georgia Aquarium continues its mission each day to inspire, educate, and entertain its millions of guests about the aquatic biodiversity throughout the world through its engaging exhibits and tens of thousands of animals across its eight major galleries.

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