Meet The Indian Woman Building A Unique Marine Learning Lab In The Andaman Sea

Meet The Indian Woman Building A Unique Marine Learning Lab In The Andaman Sea
Tasneem Khan

Contrary to what a lot of us may believe, almost 90% of our oceans remain unexplored. We cannot account for even half the species that live deep down under. In fact, it is safe to say that we’ve sent more people to explore space than to the depths of the oceans. Not only have we been quite backward in acknowledging the oceans, we’ve also not shown them the consideration they deserve. The waters are cluttered with plastic, which has impacted at least 267 species worldwide. Thus there is a dire need for us to revolutionize the way we interact with our oceans by not just learning about but also understanding our responsibility towards them, something that would not happen within the four walls of our classrooms. But for the curious laymen, the depths of the oceans are usually inaccessible. However, a new field-learning initiative is soon going to change that. One Indian woman’s project is all set to provide access to hundreds of marine enthusiasts to learn about the various facets of our rich oceans, revolutionising the way we interact with our oceans – in a floating laboratory.

A marine learning lab that will provide a literal and conceptual learning environment in a laboratory and a studio aboard a traditional wooden sailboat, bringing together innovation, sustainability, science, practice, dialogue, pedagogy, documentation and continued learning through the creation of the ‘vessel for inquiry’. It is the brainchild of 32-year-old Punekar Tasneem Khan, a marine zoologist, diver, educator, photographer, sailor and explorer who has spent a decade working on curating, coordinating and developing field research and education on island-ecology in the Andaman Sea.

It was her drive and interest that brought her to focus on the value of curriculum-design and field-based-learning experiences and the practice of experimentation with art, science, translocality and ecosystem immersion. Currently based out of Thailand, she tells Homegrown, “I strongly believe that there is a need to merge science and art - create a space where people can interact. The vessel will be this space on the Indian Ocean – a mobile and a floating lab, studio and a workshop.”

The vessel for inquiry’s pilot project which will be conducted within the scope and duration of the upcoming ‘Digital Naturalism Conference’ (DiNaCon) is gearing up to kickstart within the next week or two. The first phase in June will see a group of 50-100 professionals, consisting of artists, professors, researchers, and divers, among other, who will come aboard to collaborate and ideate as to how this space could be enhanced, be made more cohesive and creative by monitoring systems and operations.

In the months that follow, the launch phase would begin which would conduct modules on marine biology, physics, diving and sailing tools, thus providing students and practitioners from all fields of study with an observation and experimentation platform for access, documentation and analyses. With a variety of equipment and onboard lab hacks, the vessel provides for sampling, measurement, imaging, microscopy, perspective and connectivity.

They further plan to tie up with various schools and colleges so that students can get a hands-on practical experience of exploring the vast repositories and diversity of the Indian Ocean. The launch phase will also hold cabins for sponsored researchers wanting to study the geography and culture in and around the Indian Ocean.

The SV Diva Andaman. Image Source: Tasneem Khan

All this would be atop a spectacular, traditional wooden sailing boat, the SY Andaman Diva that will sail on the Andaman sea. Designed and owned by Yannick Mazy, he too intended for the boat’s purpose to go beyond its current use as a dive liveaboard. Stating that there is no better metaphor than a boat to be a Vessel for Inquiry, Tasneem in her campaign states, “ Wooden ships are among the most complex wooden structures devised by man; three-dimensional sculptures built from countless pieces fit together like a jigsaw. Offering the ultimate platform for global and contextual education and inquiry, it provides access to a cross-section of ecosystems, the constant need for critical thinking and applied concepts of various disciplines.”

With the vessel of inquiry, Tasneem aims to first expand to the Indian Ocean region and then to the rest of the oceanic world to create a floating, mobile, open-source learning facility for students, institutions and expeditions. “I want to start telling a story of our oceans, develop a network of yachts that are accessible to students and researchers and eventually create a feasible pop-up version of my model to generate a new breed of citizen scientists.”

The Vessel For Enquiry initiative is being backed by Earth Colab, an environmental venture that Tasneem is the co-founder of. However, the funds for this project are also being crowdsourced here. Though of most of the money needed is almost raised, this will just cater to kick-starting the project. The Vessel For Enquiry seeks your support to keep its pilot phase up and running. Click here to find out more or reach out to Tasneem at

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