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Eyes can change the world.

2012 March 16

Manta-Ray-Palau-2011

Ever looked a manta ray in the eye? I never thought I’d get to either.

Their eyeballs are bigger than you might expect. If you’ve had a pet, you’ll most likely understand where I’m going with this and if not, well call me crazy.

We had a moment.

Through my scuba mask, between about a foot of sea water, our eyes met and our mutual curiosity in one another collided. The only difference was, he snuck up on me. That means he had a motive.

When it’s not a matter of who is lower on the food chain, I love it when roles reverse like that. He was bigger than I was by quite a margin. Even if I had the time to be frightened or see a teensy bit of my life flash before me, I wouldn’t have been. His eyes said it all. He was just plain curious about me. Humans are a bit out of their element underwater, so I guess it’s not all that strange that he wanted a closer look.

And I mean close! I’m less sure what our exchange meant to him, but it changed my life. I’m also fairly certain my guide hasn’t forgotten either. He was the one to motion for me to turn around, his expression read, “somebody wants to say hi.” Bubbles of laughter followed and he later said that my expression, particularly my eyes, grew so much in my mask that I more closely resembled a cartoon.

These are the things I think about on a regular basis. Just like dogs that have looked up at me for a belly rub, hand out, or just a return look of adoration. A lot is communicated through eyes. It can stop you in your tracks. That experience and others have shaped who I am and what I do for work. I can’t ignore those few seconds where an entirely different species met my glance and held it.

That’s their only chance to speak up. It makes you want to do something.

That something might be as simple as being tuned in to what’s happening in our oceans. Being tuned in might lead to conversations. When people talk, that’s when the action happens. EPA’s two year photo project, State of the Environment, isn’t just about photos. It’s about experiencing our incredible planet and finding the inspiration to take more action every day thereafter.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

8 Responses leave one →
  1. Larry Teller permalink
    March 16, 2012

    Jeanethe, Quite an encounter! “HE snuck up on me?” Is the gender of a manta ray plain to see? Any obvious differences in behavior, such as curiosity and aggressiveness? Where was your dive?

  2. Arman.- permalink
    March 16, 2012

    Life is An Adventure……

    Congratulations to Jeanethe Falvey who has been dedicating her life for State of the Environment,- for EPA,- that I am sure its done should be monumental archives in the future.

  3. Maria permalink
    March 16, 2012

    This blog is so amazing,Jeanethe thank you for this.

  4. Jeanethe Falvey permalink
    March 16, 2012

    Thanks Larry it was! This was during an unforgettable trip to Palau a few years ago. After talking to the guide, he was pretty sure it was a ‘he,’ the largest one we saw that day. Between the number we encountered on that dive and throughout the trip, none of them showed any signs of aggression. Sometimes our group would sit on the bottom to watch them and every so often one would swoop over us to check us out. The one in the photograph was one of those. I didn’t have time or the space to get a picture of my not-so-secret admirer. :) One fun fact, manta rays have specific spots and markings on their underbelly (?) but that’s how the locals can attempt to keep track of who is a newcomer or a regular. Right now they don’t really know how many there are in the area. I plan to go back as soon as possible and help them out with that challenging task, but I have a bit more work to do first…

  5. Jeanethe Falvey permalink
    March 16, 2012

    Thank you Arman, I’m glad you enjoy the blog and the projects!

  6. wej permalink
    March 16, 2012

    Congratulations to Jeanethe Falvey who has been dedicating sohbet chat

  7. kiyohisa tanada permalink
    March 17, 2012

    The manta is in “the top of the food chain”.
    The food “is plankton”,
    It is long life
    If growth is slow,
    I may make “the extinction” by the environmental pollution
    The population of the manta
    It is barometer of the environmental maintenance.
    I think so

  8. Jeanethe Falvey permalink
    March 19, 2012

    Thank you Maria, your note brought a smile to my face!

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