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Freelance writer, photographer and blogger Wendee Holtcamp considers herself a bohemian in every sense of the word--even in the marine sense! She's done some of the unthinkable and in most people's cases, unimaginable--traveled the world, seen several sea turtles, dived with sharks, lived in a one-room log cabin and toured the tropical rainforests of Australia. She also lives to tell about it--and more so, lives to write about it, using her experiences to publish countless articles, blog posts, and even to start writing a memoir.

Wendee was kind enough to answer some of The Reef Tank's questions for her on her marine experiences (hanging out with sharks and sea turtles, snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, and experiencing coastal Alaska are just a few of the many amazing things she's done!)

One thing's for sure--her adventures won't be over for a while!

Tell me about your Bohemian Adventures blog. Why do you call yourself a bohemian?

I grew up in part with my dad who was a true hippie. But hippie has a different connotation than what I consider myself. I like to joke that I'm "hippie spawn" but to me I relate more to being a bohemian. To me, bohemian represents valuing intellectualism, art, and the freedom of making my own choices including my own mistakes. I include some rather artistic definitions of bohemian on my blog I found, which I related to.

  • A nonconformist writer or artist who lives an unconventional life.
  • Bohemia is a district ... bordered on the north by cold, on the west by hunger, on the south by love, and on the east by hope.
  • Bohemians express themselves without regard for social convention. They attempt to experience the mysteries of life through their unique perspective.
  • Must be known as an artist to the wider world; They know both how to be frugal and how to be extravagant and can fit in in squalor or luxury.
My Bohemian Adventures personal-professional blog was born in the midst of a personal crisis, and what do writers do when faced with challenges? They write! In 2005, I decided to start chronicling the evolution of my life as an ordinary single mom with extraordinary adventures - both around the world, and in my little corner of Houston suburbia. I bare my soul in many posts, and photo-document my travels for article assignments in others. It's really a mix, just like any real-life person.

When you were young you lived in a log cabin and also in suburbia? Tell me about the two different experiences.

Oh how very different they were! It's easy to wonder how my divorced parents were ever married. My dad moved from L.A. to the backwoods of Oregon in the 1970s, and built a one-room log cabin from his bare hands and hard labor. We had no running water, grew our own vegetables and chickens, had wood stoves for cooking and heating and for many years there was no electricity at all. On the other hand, my mom married a businessman and they lived in a typical suburban home, but moved me across the country every one to two years. Both situations taught valuable lessons, but I related most to the back-to-nature and voluntary poverty mentality of my father. However I also learned some about discipline and responsibility from my mom and stepdad. And they helped pay for my college, which my dad could not have done.

What is your scientific expertise and background in studying marine and evolutionary biology?

As a junior in college, I had a life-changing experience when I went to study abroad in the tropical rainforests of Australia. I fell in love with ecology and science! When I returned back to my home university, I changed my major from pre-Med to Wildlife Ecology. I focused mostly on terrestrial ecology, but always had a deep love for the ocean and marine environment. During the study abroad program in Australia I snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef and was wowed! When I got back home, I immediately became certified to SCUBA dive. This came in handy during the writing career I developed over the last 15 years. In April 2008 Discovery Channel sent me to dive with sharks in Australia and blog about it for Shark Week. After returning from Australia the first time in college, I went on to earn a B.S. and M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from Texas A&M University. Later I returned to work on my Ph.D. at Rice University in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, but took a leave of absence after my divorce. I had one of the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowships, and had even achieved candidacy but it was not the right path for me at the time.

What has been your experience with marine life and the marine world?

Besides diving with hundreds of sharks encircling me while scientists lassoed them with "shark rodeo" techniques (all for research) in Australia, I have a fondness for sea turtles. I've written several articles on sea turtles, including a live blog for Discovery Channel on leatherbacks in Costa Rica, a feature on Kemp's Ridley turtles for Defenders Magazine, an article for California Wild Magazine about the oceanic lives of sea turtles which scientists had just started unraveling, and a piece on community-based conservation in Baja Mexico for Animals Magazine. I recently won a first-place writing award for my feature on the Gulf Dead Zone for Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. For this article, I went into the Gulf with a team of biologists, which is always a blast. I've also written about dolphins, estuaries, virgin birth in sharks, and adventures in coastal Alaska - in all of these cases getting to interview marine biologists and conservationists and most of the time visiting the locales in person.

You've had a good number of adventures including coverage of the leatherback turtle for a live expedition in 1999. Tell me about some of your other marine adventures.

The expedition to Costa Rica was one of my first really exciting trips in my writing career. Discovery Channel sent me to report about the decline of leatherback turtles in the Pacific Ocean, so I traveled to Playa Grande and followed along with whatever the biologists were doing. Then, each evening I wrote dispatches about that day's adventures, which went online. This was before the term blog had been coined but that's what it was. Other writing-related adventures include bringing my two kids to Australia, which included snorkeling on Daydream Island in the Whitsunday Islands at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef and also an amazing eco-cruise in Australia's Moreton Bay, where we saw a huge herd of dugong, spotted eagle rays, and dolphins. This was life-changing for them both and I wrote travel article about it for E/The Environmental Magazine. And how can I forget the eco-cruise I took in the Galapagos Islands with Ecoventura, a carbon-neutral company? I also wrote about this for E. I have some great photos from that trip online. I snorkeled daily with sea lions, rays, and myriad colorful reef fish, but unfortunately I didn't have underwater housing for my camera. I did get some photos of marine birds, Galapagos penguins, sea lions, and marine iguanas on land.

What is your favorite part of what you do?

I absolutely love traveling and meeting with various people around the world. I am so inspired by the great things happening in the conservation world, because we can so easily get bombarded and overwhelmed with the negative news when it comes to the environment. Getting to watch wild animals in their element inspires me to continue fighting the good fight - through my words. Being paid to dive with sharks in Australia was not only one of the best assignments of my career, it was also truly one of the best experiences in my life! I got to see a hammerhead, a thresher shark, and hundreds of gray reef sharks, whitetail reef sharks and silvertip sharks. And the best part was educating others - through my writing - that sharks have far more to fear from humans than we do from them.

I also truly enjoy teaching and mentoring people. I teach a 6-week online writing class for anyone who wants to get published, and get paid to write. The class is designed to meet people where they're at, whether someone is unpublished or whether they're simply wanting to take their writing and publishing to the next level. The class was initially conceived for "green" writing (broadly defined to cover any conservation, science, and outdoor or adventure travel topic which would of course include marine life), but people signing up for the class have modified it to fit whatever their area of interest - from social work to spirituality to technology. The feedback I've received has been very positive and I get very excited to see my students getting articles they worked on during my class published. There's more information on the class at the website.

What are your plans for the future?

Who knows where I'll be led, but I'm working on a memoir about making peace between evolution and Christianity. Educating the public about science, evolution and Christianity is a long-time passion. I've been involved with the battle to keep evolution education strong in Texas, which has gotten much national media attention. I also hope to continue writing about wildlife and conservation, and teaching students how to make their own writing dreams come true!
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