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September 9, 2009

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Hark! Hark! The Shark

NOT everyone can get in touch with their warm cuddly side when living in Shanghai, but Dutch environmental education campaigner Julie Adams is helping to save the environment with the help of her cuddly alter-ego Sammy the Shark.

Sammy, Adams' softer side, is a hammerhead shark who spreads the word to local school children about the perilous state of the world's oceans.

Adams slips into her cute Sammy costume and makes friends with the kids, explains to young students that sharks are a vital and endangered part of the marine eco-system and urges them not to eat shark's fin soup.

Sammy has also taken on the Shanghai marathon and Adams has dived into the shark tank to get up close and personal with the Shanghai Aquarium's tiger sharks.

These are just a couple of the many educational initiatives of Marinedream, a foundation Adams established in 2007.

The foundation provides educational programs in Chinese, English and Dutch as well as practical projects like beach cleanups to get people involved in looking after their local waterways.

"We take a soft approach, we want to get to the point where people know there are not enough fish in the ocean and not enough sharks," she says. "Then we can start to see a change of mindset," she says of her approach to environmental education.

Marinedream features four main education programs aimed at a wide range of target groups, including school children, the fishing industry and even restaurants and diners.

Its first program was Aqualife, an online platform teaching students about the ocean and rivers. Targeting youth between the ages of 10 and 15, it provides entertaining ways to learn about, and help tackle, the challenges facing the marine environment.

Marinedream also runs Free Trees, an online language game in which students can test their Chinese language skills and earn "leaves" that go toward planting trees in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The trees are financed by Web advertising. Free Trees tries to improve language skills and help fight climate change.

Helping people make sustainable choices when eating fish is a high priority. Marinedream is working with restaurants to develop a labeling system that identifies which fish species on the menu are "sustainable to eat" and not over-fished.

Finally, the Foundation runs Aqualife Xplore that develops educational materials for fishermen and organizing beach cleanups, like the Nanhui beach litter collection in May. More than 400 volunteers from Shanghai International Studies University, Donghua and Tongji universities tied up a 2-kilometer stretch of sand.

Adams, a keen scuba diver, became interested in helping to save the world's oceans after seeing the damage to coral reefs first hand.

"When I was diving I saw so much coral reef destruction that I had to tell people about it," she says.

Adams studied environmental waste management at university and worked in the Philippines and Indonesia before changing careers in the late 1990s.

She moved into IT working for IT consultant Capgemini before helping in her husband's market research company.

It was while the couple were living in Singapore that Adams decided to commit herself full-time to setting up the foundation.

The couple moved to Shanghai in 2006 and it took her a year to obtain her first grant from the Dutch government to establish the foundation.

She later convinced the corporate world to come onboard.

"One of the reasons I like being in China is there are more than 1 billion people here, so if you can make a change here you can change the world," she says.

The foundation counts Siemens and footwear manufacturer Crocs as some of its corporate supporters and depends heavily on volunteers for most of its research and activities.

"I am a resident of Singapore, I was born in Rotterdam and I now live in Shanghai, so I have lived in three of the biggest ports in the world and I feel like that is my connection," Adams says.

"I feel like I really want to give something back and try to ensure that the oceans will be okay and we can still enjoy it. Whatever happens, I want to feel like I did my best to make a change," she says.

For more information, visit or Adams

Nationality: Dutch

Age: 38

Profession: Managing director of Marinedream Foundation


Self-description:Easygoing, environmental, goalgetter.

Favorite place: M1NT

Strangest sight: Guy on bicycle with boxes in his cart stacked up to about 4 meters.

Worst experience:Air pollution.

Motto for life:Always believe in yourself.

How to improve Shanghai:


Advice to newcomers:Join one of Shanghai's volunteer clubs: Beans shanghai, Hands on Shanghai, Marinedream Foundation - it

is a great way to get to know new people while helping others.


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