Meet Shamoy Bideau, a graduate fellow with the U.S. Virgin Islands hub of the SEAS Islands Alliance. Bideau is a student at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI). He’s in his second year of a master’s program in marine and environmental science.
Tell me about yourself.
My name is Shamoy Bideau. I’m 25, born in St. Croix but I grew up in St. Lucia, another Caribbean Island where both my parents are from. Don’t ask me why they had me grow up there, but somehow it benefitted me. I identify as Afro-Caribbean. I’m currently at UVI studying coral reef restoration, looking at different out-planting techniques for thick finger coral, Porites porites.
Do you enjoy your graduate studies?
It’s fun. Honestly, the only thing I could have is fun because if I don’t, I’ll be stressed. That’s been my graduate school experience, just work and have fun. We’re starting my thesis data collection in November. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m super excited.
When did you first become interested in marine science?
When I was a kid, my dad was a member of the St. Lucia National Trust. He used to go to all the meetings and events, and I used to be there with him. When they had youth environmental forums, I used to be a part of them. And when I got old enough, I was one of the mentors. From sea turtle hatchling emergence, to kayaking, to mangroves, to learning about reefs, endemic animals, and historical parts of the island—I used to be around all these things when I was a kid. Everything just really stuck with me.
My first year of college was geared toward med school. I wanted to be a plastic surgeon like my uncle, but then I said no. It was already my passion to be in and around the water and to be a part of facilitating restoration and inclusion for communities. To be like, this is my island, and I want to care for and protect it. That’s something I’m very passionate about.
When did you get involved with the SEAS program?
My first intro to SEAS was with Emerging Caribbean Scientists at UVI. I was stationed in St. Croix with the East End Marine Park. We were looking at coral reefs and bleaching and the prevalence of rain events. I applied again in my senior year. And then after applying to grad school, I was offered a fellowship. So, I think I’m four years in now.
And how has your experience been so far?
It’s been great. I can’t complain. I just started community outreach and informal education with Howard Forbes Jr. and Jarvon Stout of the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service (VIMAS) and VI-EPSCoR. This allowed me to lead the St. Croix’s leg of the Youth Ocean Explorers Summer Program. It was pretty much the beginning of my giving back to the community for the next generation of potential marine scientists in the territory. Because when I was 11 or 12, somebody who was in my position right now allowed me to see that being in marine science is more fun and rewarding than it seems. And frankly, there are so many things you can do. You learn a lot just because it is such a diverse discipline. All that came from informal learning.
Is community outreach something you want to focus on in the future?
It’s part of my journey, and it’s going to be for a little bit longer. Because I feel like, especially in the Caribbean Islands, there’s little to no representation of what an actual marine scientist is. You see people doing the work, but you don’t really get to know that hey, kids can do marine science too. And the exploring part. In St. Croix, some of the kids told me, “Why have I never been here? This place is so cool.” So, as much as I enjoy learning, I also enjoy teaching and allowing the youth to learn from me in a very relaxed environment. I think that will be part of me for a really long time.
Would you like to find a career on the island after you graduate?
I have not exhausted any careers yet, but I have done unorthodox things that I feel would couple with me being an environmentalist and a marine scientist. I parasailed for two years. And I got my captain’s license, so I’m a licensed mariner. I just decided I’m going to get those qualifications now and practice them. People tell me I work too much.
How have your SEAS mentors and peers helped to shape your experience?
They’re great. You can pretty much talk to them about any and everything because mentors have been where you are. They may not have the same experience, but they can still advise you. And I love my peers. In the workplace, they’re pretty much my family. For some people, when it’s an easy workplace, you feel like you’re not getting stuff done. But we get stuff done. And it happens quickly because we all know what we’re doing and what we’re here to do. That’s what I enjoy, especially at The Nature Conservancy in St. Croix. That’s where I am through my fellowship and where I’m doing my thesis data collection.
You mentioned your thesis data collection. What will that look like?
Diving, measuring. It will consist of lots of coral collection and adhering coral fragments to substrates. We’re doing a pre- and post-study. The first part is out-planting corals using different methods. We’re going to look at their growth over time, meaning linear expansion and girth. That’s going to last six months.
In the post-study, which is going to be on survivability, we’re going to take corals from the same colonies collected and directly out-plant them. And then we’ll look at the survivability for the next six months between the ones which were on nursery tables and the ones which were out-planted. It’s going to be a lot of work.
Has anything been surprising or challenging in your academic career so far?
Sometimes navigating when not to work. I feel like I work 60 hours a week, either reading papers or diving or entering data, or reading more than I need to. And there are so many other things I have to do at home. There are days when I just don’t know how to take a break. Sometimes when I’m diving, I feel like I’m on a break even though I’m working. But that’s why, with everything I do, I try to have fun. My job is fun. I don’t get tired of it, but I do get tired. So, I think that’s the most surprising thing for me.
Is there any advice you would give to other students?
Immerse yourself in everything. Even if it’s not surrounding marine science, there’s at least one lesson you could learn that could relate to what you want to do in life. Any opportunity you get, take it. Even though someone might tell you that you are biting off more than you can chew, that is part of your growth. Eventually, you’ll learn how much to put on your plate. And if at any point you’re beginning to feel like you’re burning out, sometimes you just need to push a little harder. Just hang in there. You will do it. You’ll get through it.
What do you like to do outside of school?
I have so many interests. I’m a plant dad. Plants are my way of easing out or starting the day. I’m part of a bonsai society. I’m a self-taught mechanic, and I have an ’03 Toyota Celica GTS project car that I’m currently working on. I parasail for fun. I hike a lot, and I go to the beach all the time. Beaches are my thing.
What do you hope to do after you graduate?
Any and everything. The reason I’m trying to attain as many qualifications as possible is so I can pick and choose what I want. I want to do it carefully. Like, I’m a boat captain on a research vessel, but I’m also doing research on that vessel. I’m a marine scientist, but I’m also leading outreach. I know my field of expertise, which is data collection and stuff underwater, but I like reading a lot, so I learn everything. Mostly because I want my kids to think I’m smart [laughs]. No, I’m just inquisitive, and I like knowing a lot of things.
Anything else you want to share?
Just don’t forget to have fun. You need it. It’s going to save you. A smile on your face is always a good thing, regardless of how you feel. Sometimes you can’t keep it, but don’t forget to smile. Don’t forget to have fun, because life is short. That’s Shamoy’s way of life.
Interview by Ashley Goetz, science writer and digital specialist with Maryland Sea Grant.