Vanessa Bézy ’10

March 11, 2021

Vanessa Bézy ’10 first had a taste of UNCW as a MarineQuest camper. She later enrolled as an undergraduate to study marine biology.
After graduating with honors from UNCW, Bézy earned a master’s in marine biology from the College of Charleston and a Ph.D. in biology from UNC-Chapel Hill. Receiving a fellowship from the National Science Foundation, working with National Geographic and earning her Ph.D. are among her proudest moments.
Bézy moved to Costa Rica in 2015 and conducted her master’s and Ph.D. research on sea turtles at the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, which led to the founding of her first nonprofit, TortuGuiones.
“I always loved biology and the ocean and knew I wanted to be a marine biologist. When I had an experience working with sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica, I knew that was what I wanted to do the rest of my life,” she said.

She met fellow island resident and executive director of the Guanacaste Community Fund, Steve Mack. Their collaborative work resulted in the establishment of the Wildlife Conservation Association in 2018. The nonprofit is dedicated to promoting wildlife conservation through research, outreach and immersive educational experiences.

Bézy admits that 2020 was a difficult year, but she is proud of all WCA has accomplished, including a new Virtual Field School course they are offering in collaboration with National Geographic Explorers. The course offers seminars, virtual field trips and mentorship opportunities with field experts across Latin America. Bézy, a 2012 explorer, is one of five instructors.

“We have already worked with the University of Memphis and are open to establishing alliances with universities to offer the course as a virtual option for field or study abroad experience,” she said.

Her National Geographic explorer profile notes that integrating scientific research into the lives of local communities and visiting travelers is important to Bézy, as she believes it is fundamental to inspiring the behavioral change needed to protect our planet.
-- Caroline Cropp