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Exhibit at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps

This is Octavio’s speech at the opening on June 28, 2014. If you come to San Diego don’t forget to visit the aquarium and take a look at this exhibit showcasing the underwater world surrounding Mexico’s coastlines and the wonderful work local communities are doing to protect it.

MaresMexicanos_28 junio 2014(WM)

Thank you everybody for being here and supporting this event. Wow! This is such an incredible venue. First I want to thank Scripps, CMBC, and Birch Aquarium for hosting this exhibition. Thank you, directors Margaret Leinen, Lisa Levina, Greg Rouse, and our new Birch director Steven Schindler for your support. Also, Nigella Hillgarth, previous director of Birch Aquarium who supported the idea since the beginning. I don’t have words to thank the huge support that Patty and Rick Elkus have given me. Their vision and great commitment for marine conservation and science have made great projects possible. I really appreciate their support to the Mares Mexicanos initiative, and in particular thanks for making this initiative into an exhibition.

Ribbon cutting_28 junio 2014(WM)Margaret Leinen, Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Octavio Aburto, Patty Elkus and Rick Elkus during the cutting of the ribbon.

Few of you know that my first underwater camera was one donated by the Birch Aquarium to the University of Baja California Sur. I attended this University to get my undergraduate degree in marine biology; as student I got the unique opportunity to use photography as part of my studies. And here we are, 20 years later, these are the results. Two people that made this important bi-national research program possible were former Birch director Donald Wilkie, and former international liaison Patty Beller. Thank you for starting this great journey with me. Those days were fundamental in my professional formation.

Speech_28 junio 2014(wm)Octavio during his speech at the Mares Mexicanos exhibit opening; on the background Mary Munk, Dr. Water Munk and Rick Elkus.

In these 20 years I have been dividing my efforts between doing science and photography. As scientists, most of the time we tell stories that are not necessarily inspirational; we have to tell what the data says, and the majority of the time the data reveal negative stories. As photographers we may not always have all the elements to understand what is happening in the frames that we capture. But when you put together these two ingredients, the results can be explosive. But there is another very important ingredient: Fascination/Passion. I have learned this from great mentors and friends that I need to thank as well. Dr. Exequiel Ezcurra, who has endorsed my science and outreach activates; and Dr. Walter Munk, who has encouraged and stimulated my work here at Scripps. Thank you to both of them and of course a special thank-you to Barbara Córcega and Mary Munk who have adopted me, since I am always in their homes.

Octavio-DrMunk_28 junio 2014(WM)Octavio Aburto and Dr. Walter Munk share a moment while contemplating a photo of the Munk’s Devil ray (Mobula munkiana), named after Dr. Munk.

What you will see in this exhibition is the work of a team that I coordinate and which looks to communicate science in a different and creative way. With the help of researchers and students, we travel to different sites and work in collaboration with local communities. Thank you Brad, Marcia, Tim, Josh, Nadia, Matt, Gustavo, Ismael, Alexandra, Jose; this is a true team effort. You will see marine ecosystems, you will see nature photography, but what I ask you to do, is to look carefully at the message these communities are telling us: It is very simple “People can protect the ecosystems and at the same time generate economic benefits” We need to communicate these stories and this is what Mares Mexicanos is all about. Debbie Zmarzly and her team, Charlie, and Kevin, captured its essence and displayed it through this exhibition. Thank you to all of them, and also thank you to those who made it possible for all of you to come and see the launching of this exhibition: Michelle, Lucille, Leslie, Fernando, Stuart Krantz, Jessie, Raquel, and many others thank you.

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