Network of Women in Marine Science

Inspirational Women in Marine and Ocean Science: Cindy Chorongo

Join the WiMS Network for a week dedicated to celebrating women in ocean science in honour of International Women’s Day. Throughout the week, exceptional women from the WIO will share their stories and key moments from their journeys in this field. 

Today, we spotlight Cindy Chorongo- a distinguished Marine conservationist and a SCUBA research diver, making waves in the field of marine science. She was honoured with the 2023 People of Nature Awards for Conservationist of the Year Marine Award. Her dedication to restoring marine ecosystems in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region is impressive.

As a founding member and Vice Chair of Shimoni Sea Turtle Watch, a community-driven youth organization, Cindy spearheads efforts to research, conserve, and protect sea turtles. Her expertise in coral reefs, seagrass, seaweed, and mangrove restoration has led to invaluable contributions. Collaborating with REEFolution Trust Kenya, she educated communities, especially school children, on ocean awareness and engaged in coral restoration initiatives.

Moreover, Cindy actively participates in community outreach, featuring in various media outlets like Radio Rahma, ORAIMO, Voice of America, and the BBC.  Her initiative Dive to 1000 facts project educates the public on ocean animal facts through social media to inspire and drive positive change in marine conservation efforts.

Currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Sustainable Resource Management at the
Technical University of Munich in Germany, Cindy has represented developing nations at the student
UN Climate Action Simulation Summit. Her journey exemplifies a profound commitment to marine
conservation and sustainable management of ocean resources.

1. What led you to pursue a career in marine/ocean science?

Growing up near the coast of Kenya, I was captivated by the vastness of the ocean, which seemed
endless from the shore. Initially, I was drawn to the idea of becoming a marine engineer hoping to
experience life on the waves aboard ships and boats as that felt like my best bet. However, after
watching documentaries highlighting the fragility and complexities of our oceans, the urgent need
for conservation, and seeing women SCUBA divers, my perspective shifted.

I realized that my true calling was to become a champion for ocean preservation. I was deeply
moved by the profound beauty and complexity of marine life to this date and felt compelled to
contribute to its conservation. This led me to pursue a career in marine science. I was certain that
my place was below the surface, where I could explore the depths of the ocean and play a role in
safeguarding its ecosystems and inhabitants.

2. As a marine/ocean professional, what three critical lessons have you learned? Share your
insights and experience with others who aspire to become experts in this field.

Don’t get lost in the sea of many fishes –   One critical lesson I’ve learned as a marine/ocean
professional is the importance of patience and perseverance. The marine field is vast and can be
challenging, especially when you’re new in the field. There are numerous sectors to it and a wealth
of information to learn and keep up with. Climbing the ladder to top positions might not be a
straightforward path. My advice to those aspiring to become experts in this field is to stay patient
with yourself, learn as much as you can, and be open to acquiring new skills and participating in
various activities.

However, the most crucial piece of advice I would offer is to identify a niche within the marine field
that yor’re passionate about. Once you’ve found it, put in extra effort to become the best in that
area. This will help distinguish you and increase your chances of more opportunities.  In this vast sea
of many fishes, it’s easy to get lost, therefore, it’s essential to pick what you like and become
proficient in it. This will not only make you more competitive but also help you contribute
significantly to marine conservation and sustainability efforts.

Be Bold, like the Great White Sharks – I have learned that standing out and making a difference
requires more than just expertise and knowledge. It demands boldness, curiosity, and a relentless
drive to achieve your goals. To truly excel in this field, you need to be willing to push boundaries,
express your ideas, and question everything to deepen your understanding.” It’s about doing more
than what’s expected, putting in that extra effort, and not backing down easily when faced with
challenges. To become an expert in this field, aspiring professionals should focus on active and
creative contributions to conservation efforts. Passive approaches are often overshadowed by those
who push the limits and take risks. Just like the Great white sharks are apex predators known for
bold hunting tactics, aim for greatness, be bold.

Be Like the Currents – Lastly, the critical lesson I’ve learned is the importance of networking and
personal branding. The field of marine science is vast and interconnected, mirroring the linked
oceans and this applies to the professionals. Networking allows for a broader perspective, fostering
collaboration, facilitating the exchange of knowledge and resources and a pool of opportunities.
Connect with others in your field, hone your people skills, and master the art of meaningful
conversations that leave a lasting impact. Cultivate the ability to nurture and maintain connections
over time, ensuring they remain vibrant and fruitful.

Moreover, It’s vital to see yourself as a valuable asset. By sharing your journey on social media, you
can reach more people and make a bigger impact. If you brand yourself right, you can share your
achievements and lessons with others online. This way, you can inspire and build your networks
across borders.

3. In celebration of the International Women’s Day theme “Inspire Inclusion”, what progress do
you envision for women in the Western Indian Ocean region?

I envision a future where women and girls in the Western Indian Ocean region are actively empowered through grassroot initiatives.  Where school and community hubs implement comprehensive programs focusing on ocean education and SCUBA diving (traditionally seen as a male-dominated skill).  Community hubs will serve as spaces for women and girls of all ages to learn about the ocean, its ecosystems, and the importance of conservation. These initiatives will nurture a sense of stewardship for the ocean from a young age and can inspire a new generation of ocean advocates and professionals.

I envision the integration of mentorship programs within these initiatives, where experienced women in marine-related fields, guide and inspire younger generations. This mentorship will create a supportive network that fosters inclusion, empowers women to pursue careers in marine sciences, and helps them overcome challenges they may face in male-dominated fields.

As a result of these efforts, I foresee a Western Indian Ocean region where women and girls actively contribute to ocean research, conservation, and sustainable practices. This empowerment will not only benefit individual women but will also lead to a more diverse and inclusive marine community, contributing to the overall health and protection of the ocean in the region.