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Mermaid of the month March – Pia Ve Dahlen

There are few who dedicate themselves so much to making the sea cool, like Pia. And there are few who ‘get it’ just as well as Pia. Never has it been more fun watching anyone dissect a fish and teaching us about everything that exists in the ocean. Pia’s heart burns for the ocean. And we think the ocean burns for her too.

Who?

Pia Ve Dahlen. 30 year old marine biologist from Sarpsborg, Norway. Living in the heart of Oslo, but escape as often as I can. I like to draw, read, and stand on things that move backwards. I am the happiest creature on the planet when I can be outside, and preferably on/in/by the sea. 

What are you doing these days??

Good question. I tend to lose track myself, but I am working as a freelancer and I am in between projects right now. Occasionally I take some teaching or mapping assignments, and write a bit for magazines here and there. I am a house biologist at ‘Kystlotteriet’ and I am helping them establish their presence in several harbour towns along Norway right now. 

I am also becoming a certified freighter instructor, and I am working on a subsea teaching plan – to be tested together with  Spearos Oslofjord and the Coastal Lottery Club in spring / summer this year. We (Spearos) will visit the Sjøholmen Children’s Art Center during the summer and will continue with a lot of cool activities for the people out there.

Other than this, most of my time goes on working with this year’s Passion for Ocean Festival. This year, it will be bigger, better and more accomplished, with even more players and lots of activities to inspire and engage the people of Norway. 

In addition to the festival, we are also working on making a quite extensive program for school students (initially high school children) to get more marine biology into school.

I’m also working with ‘Ten Thousand Images’ to build an interactive, digital knowledge portal, iHavet, which aims to gather knowledge about the marine environment in Norway in one place. The idea is the least possible text, and mostly images, animations and movies, so it will be as rewarding for Klaus 4 years as it will be for master student Klara at 24.

Yes, and then I work for the Snowboard Association. And a bit of education at the University of Bergen. And a bit of cutting into dead things up at Blindern. I think it was all? Have probably forgotten something. I always do that.

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What do you do to take care of the ocean? What does tavaha mean to you?

Trying to spread the happy message. Show that it’s good to care.

To me, tavaha means both searching and spreading knowledge. The more I learn about the sea, the more I realize I do not have a bearing.

Try to take some action in everyday life to reduce my impression (avoid unnecessary packaging, eat a little less meat, run more collectively)

Yes, and we are now working on some concrete measures to fix the seabed conditions in the Oslo fjord. Together with landscape architect and phD at NMBU, Elin Sørensen, I will experiment with different ways of restoring marine habitats outside Sjøholmen. The plan is to look at some large-scale solutions, and some small-scale “DIY” kits that can inspire more people to do the same in their area.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenge we have to solve to save the ocean??

Knowledge and attitudes.

We have (with all islands included) the world’s second longest coastline (103,000km) and live in one of the most important and fertile areas in the world. Our entire nation, with the exception of the forest inland, is built around the sea (viking-taunted, fisheries and oil, to name a few). Nevertheless, it is pathetic little about the sea in the school, and marine biology has become a small curiosity for particularly interested people.

It is time to revise the learning plan now and bring the ocean into the curriculum. One can not expect people to make good decisions when they do not have a reasonable factual basis to base them on.

Once the knowledge is in place, I think the attitudes come by themselves, so you do not have to spend so much time explaining Carl I. Hagen why you can not build any hydropower plant anywhere, or “just do that” to fix things.

The world is heavenly complex and there are no miracle solutions.

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What are your 3 tavaha tips?

  1. Become an aware consumer. Learn where your food and lifestyle products come from, and whether or not they are sustainably produced.  
  2. Engage – and and keep a fact-based stance in debates. Scientific knowledge base takes you surprisingly far into discussions.
  3. Do not give up. Nobody can do anything, but if everyone does a little bit, we’ll come very, very far. There are so many good solutions to things out there now that you do not have to make huge changes in everyday life to make a difference.
    Keep on rocking in a sea world (Yes, I’m ashamed a bit. (But only a little))

What are your happiest ocean moments?

How much time do you have ..? I am disappearing into a completely different mental world, once found myself at / on / in the sea, but can try to give you those that have made the most impact on me:

  1. The first time I saw blue whale, on a tour around Svalbard as a whale watcher for the Institute of Marine Research. We though that we would not see any as the stock has gone down so sharply. But then we saw eight whales, including a mother with calf right by the boat!
  2. When I got to snorkel with 13 wild seal in Berlevåg two summers ago. We were going to dive for crabs and starfish to show to the kids, but ended up dipping the surface for half an hour together with the curious seals before we managed to settle down at the bottom.
  3. When I strolled around in a lagoon in Hawaii (where I lived half a year) and suddenly got a visit of two hard dotted eagle skates. They hung out for a good half-hour, and I snatched about 4000 pictures before they swam out to the sea again.
    Down here I also visited a sea turtle during a dive. I was admiring some nice snails when suddenly a heavy turtle came down and lay on the bottom right next to me. We were staring at each other for maybe a minute or two before it swam away. Then I felt like Ariel.

Other than this, nothing in the world is better than taking kayak / canoe and a fishing pole out when the sun is shining. 

Or to be in the field of course. Thaaat is fun!

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Who are your everyday heroes?

Everyone who makes a little change in their everyday life to make the world a better place. Whether it’s garbage picking, volunteer homework or just talking to your new neighbors. People who have stopped thinking “me, me, mine,” and help everyone in the community to do well regardless of social background or story.

And lastly, what would you like to thank the ocean for?

First and foremost, I am quite a big fan of an activity called ‘respiration and metabolism’ (aka breathing and combustion). Depending on who you ask, the ocean is responsible for between 50% (nooa.gov) – 70% (natgeo.com) of the world’s oxygen production, providing the basis for the favorite activity of all of us who like to be alive. Also, just thank you ocean – for all the great experiences. The sea gives and the sea takes. It has taken away quite a few mobile phones, but in return, I have been given almost all my best moments throughout the 30 years I’ve been around this globe.