Q&A with Marine Biologist and Pakaloha Ambassador Kori Garza

Pakaloha Bikinis recently did a Q&A with our ambassador Kori Garza, a marine biologist and conservationist who loves the ocean and works to protect and inform us on its most misunderstood inhabitants everyday. She told us a little bit more about herself, passion, and new Keiko Conservation X Garza Photography awareness totes. Q: Who or what inspired you to become a marine biologist and conservationist? A: Growing up in the Midwest, I wasn't able to experience the marine environment first hand. My inspiration and education came primarily from the discovery channel, animal planet, and weekend visits to the zoo with my father. In particular, Steve Irwin had a MAJOR impact on my decision to pursue a life in conservation and science, particularly sparking my interest in behavioral studies of predatory species. Even today Steve remains my absolute biggest idol and inspiration. Q: What is your favorite part about your job? A: There isn't a single day that goes by that I don't feel overwhelmingly grateful that I am able to combine my passion and my career into one. The absolute best part of my job is being able to share my passion with people who typically would never encounter a shark face to face. Sharing the same space with these beautiful predators every single day is such a beautiful experience, and I am so happy to be able to share that. Not many people who aren't marine biologists or conservationists can say that they have swam with sharks without any form of barrier. I feel honored that I am able to make that a reality for the average person with One Ocean Diving. To incorporate the public into scientific research in such a hands on way is invaluable to both the individuals involved and the positive impact these interactions have for society's perception of sharks. Q: What is your favorite animal or animal(s)? A: Oh gosh... I could list a thousand different animals! Obviously sharks are my absolute favorite, but if I had to pick a specific species of shark I would have to say the tiger shark. They are one of the most misunderstood species on the planet. Interactions with tigers are incredibly special to me, borderline spiritual even. Every moment spent in water with a tiger leaves me in awe. They are just so incredibly beautiful, majestic, and powerful. Q: Where were the pictures featured on the bags taken, and who took each one? A: The blacktip reef shark photo and the humpback whale photo were taken off the island of Mo'orea in French Polynesia. The green sea turtle photo was taken on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. All photos were taken by Garza Photography (John Garza & myself) from our recent adventures this past summer. We teamed up with Natalie Parra of Keiko Conservation to create the awareness totes. Q: Where did the idea for the reusable bags come from? A: I have many friends involved in promoting sustainability and along with the girls of Water Inspired and Keiko Conservation we held a few reef cleanup events across the island this past year. Visually seeing how much rubbish we were pulling out of the ocean in just one small spot in only a few hours was overwhelming. I felt like I wanted to do more than just clean up the rubbish, I wanted to help prevent it. The plastic bag ban was put into place and that was an incredible step forward! But when I went shopping a couple weeks after it was placed into effect, I noticed that rather than removing the plastic bags these companies had simply made the plastic thicker and printed the words "sustainable" on them. There is nothing sustainable about plastic. They had found a loophole to the ban that is currently in the works to be eliminated (fingers crossed). So I approached Natalie Parra of Keiko Conservation about creating reusable grocery bags with beautiful marine life imagery and a conservation message printed on it relative to that species to help spread awareness and hopefully inspire others to think twice about using plastic. Q: Why do you love Pakaloha Bikinis? A: I spend every single day in a bikini, sometimes up to ten hours each day. I love Pakaloha Bikinis because they are beautiful enough for a relaxing day at the beach but are also strong enough to handle my crazy everyday wear and tear. You can look incredible and ACTUALLY wear them in an active lifestyle. I used to go through dozens of bikinis in no time at all, until I started wearing Pakaloha. I still have sets from over a year ago that are in perfect condition! Q: What are your favorite styles and why? A: My favorite top is the kahana. It's perfect for my active lifestyle and is so incredibly comfortable and flattering. It's perfect for underneath a wetsuit without any strings or ties. My favorite bottom is the koki. It's a very flattering cut for the bum and doesn't budge in the water, perfectly designed for diving and playing in the water. Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time? A: Any free time I have is usually spent in the water. Days off are like torture when you love what you do! I also love to hike, especially anything with a serious ridge line or heights. I recently became captivated by skydiving and would love to get into that more. I guess you could call me an adrenaline junkie... Also love spending any free time dreaming up the next adventure. I'm currently preparing for a five week solo backpacking trip through Southeast Asia in April! Q: Where can people find more info about you and your work? A: My social media is my most up to date and frequently used platform. (Instagram: @korigarza). I also just got our website up and running and hope to focus more on the conservation blog and adventure blog where I will be posting videos along with journal entries talking about different experiences and conservation campaigns. (w​ww.garzaphotography.com)​. Q: Dream travel destination & why? A: I have been completely fascinated by Antarctica for a very long time. It is by far my number one dream travel destination. It's just one of the last places on earth left somewhat untouched by humans and has some of the most beautiful scenery and unique marine life on the planet. I would love to dive the underwater ice cathedrals while listening to the other­worldly vocals of the weddell seals. An up close, in­water interaction with a leopard seal would be absolutely incredible too!  Turtle BagBehind The Bags Hawaii’s ban on plastic bags In July 1, 2015 Hawaii proudly began the first state­wide ban on plastic bags. However, large corporations found a loophole in this ban by using THICKER plastic bags with the words “recyclable” and “sustainable” printed on them, which are actually much WORSE for the environment using more gas and oil to create and posing greater risk to wildlife with it’s durability. There is NOTHING sustainable about plastic. Impact on marine life and ecosystem Did you know that more than five TRILLION pieces of plastic weighing in at nearly 268,940 TONS is currently floating around the ocean? Plastic never decomposes, it only breaks into smaller and smaller pieces over time. From humpback whales and sea turtles consuming plastic bags to various fish consuming plastic nodules, plastic has the ability to collect toxins which are then transferred to the tissues and organs of whatever consumes it. This is such an important issues in Hawaii where we rely so heavily on the ocean. Unfortunately, you are what you eat. Show your support & inspire others Each bag is designed with a unique campaign hashtag focusing on raising awareness for a current threat to marine life. Tag a photo with your bag and use the campaign hashtag for a chance to win more awareness gear and to be featured on the @keikoconservation instagram.  The Keiko Conservation X Garza Photography awareness totes in these prints will be available for a limited time only for purchase in­store and online, $5.00 from every bag sold by Pakaloha Bikinis will be donated to marine conservation and research.