70 years of helping people to care for our ocean

Celebrating 40 Years of Voluntary Work for SAAMBR

By: Dr Judy Mann

At the South African Association for Marine Biological Research’s AGM this week we had opportunity to award SAAMBR’s highest honour – the MEGALODON AWARD. This award recognises outstanding service to SAAMBR and marine conservation and in the 70 year history of the Association, it has only been awarded six times.

 The award was made to Sylvia Jacobs who began work as a voluntary guide in 1980. The Award was presented to Sylvia by the SAAMBR President Jean Senogles and the citation was read by Dr Judy Mann, SAAMBR Conservation Strategist. Sylvia was overcome with emotion at receiving the award. “I have enjoyed every minute of it and the wonderful people I have met.” She said. “All of you have inspired me in different ways”. With her to receive the award was her husband Peter Jacobs, who first introduced her to the ocean and who has supported her throughout her time at SAAMBR.

This excerpt from the Citation gives just a glimpse into the reason Sylvia is such a worthy recipient of the award.

Since 1980 Sylvia Jacobs has contributed to marine education in South Africa. Her support of SAAMBR has been unstinting and she has worked constantly towards improving people’s knowledge and love for the sea.  From collection trips on the once well-known research vessel the ‘Meiring Naude’, to sharing pink polony sandwiches with a thousand children on their first train visit to Durban from Johannesburg, from the first courses for learners at Sea World to painting whole buildings –  Sylvia has played a critical role in the success of SAAMBR. She epitomises the values of hard work, commitment, and perseverance. She also embodies love of the ocean and a passion to share that love. Indeed, Sylvia is a role model for every single SAAMBR staff member.  

Sylvia is always enthusiastic and eager to try something new and her knowledge of marine biology puts many scientists to shame.  During the early years she spent hundreds of hours learning about the sea as she eagerly sought new knowledge. This thirst for knowledge has never waned and she continuously updates her knowledge to maintain a high standard of education.  She is always willing to share her knowledge and likes nothing more than to teach new guides and staff about the sea.

She has a wonderful way with children (and adults) and, through her love of the sea, has been able to inspire many young marine biologists.  In fact, several well-known ocean advocates can trace their interest in the sea to Sylvia and they remember her inspiring them when they attended a marine life course at the old Sea World. She is friendly and helpful to everyone and never has a bad word to say about anyone else. She brightens the day when she is at SAAMBR with her smile and enthusiasm.

As one of the first voluntary guides at Sea World she has, in many ways, shaped education at SAAMBR. In 2000 she received the SANCOR Marine and Coastal Communicator of the Year Award, in recognition of her incredible contribution to marine education in South Africa.

Sylvia is special because of her exceptionally long service, her enthusiasm, her modesty, her willingness to share, her incredible spirit, her special talents, hundreds of hours of hard work both at Sea World and at home, and her dedication to SAAMBR and the sea.

Words can never express our gratitude to Sylvia. We hope that the Megalodon Award, the highest honour that can be bestowed by SAAMBR, expresses our immense appreciation.