A Conservationist Offers Advice To The Next Generation Of Animal Lovers

Life & Culture Writer


Most of us will only live one life (though… who knows, y’know?). We’ll pick a career path and spend our time on earth adjusting as necessary to advance to the top. But there are also people who, for a variety of reasons, excel in multiple fields (lucky jerks). Maybe they’re polymaths. Maybe they’re easily bored. Maybe they have a series of life-changing events that make a pivot inevitable. This ability — to shift gears and thrive — makes for a damn interesting individual.

Marlina Moreno has always lived a bit of a double life. She spent her childhood both dancing lithely through ballet classes and getting her hands dirty on a farm. When it came time to move into adulthood, she kept all of her interests but focused on the dancing for a paycheck. During college, she worked as an NFL cheerleader and professional dancer while snapping up on-camera hosting and commercial acting. But, it wasn’t fulfilling her. There was an aspect of her personality that was languishing.

Moreno completed a bachelor’s degree in advertising and founded her own green cleaning company. While she was running it, she also went back to school and completed an MBA. But, it still wasn’t enough, she had travel and conservation dreams that weren’t incorporated into her daily life or career path. So, she began adventuring, and she picked up a camera to film the people she met along the way.

In 2016, she was named a finalist for National Geographic Wild “Wild To Inspire” film contest for her work in conservation media. Next, she founded Project:Conservation, a nonprofit media organization dedicated to raising awareness about pressing global conservation issues. She was finally incorporating all of her interests and building a life that fulfilled her and drew attention to the causes that she felt passionate about. The following year, she completed her second master’s degree. This time, her focus was conservation-focused biology.

At the moment, Marlina and her fiancee are driving an old Land Rover across Africa meeting conservationists and boosting their signals. So we felt lucky that she was able to find free time and a solid wifi connection to Skype with us about her life as a nontraditional conservationist. She talked about her evolution in the field, the resistance she’s felt from others, the difficulty of connecting her many lives, and how young people can join the movement.

Mar Gone Wild

How did you end up in the conservation field?

I wish there was one answer. I’ve always loved animals and nature… super cliché, I know. I had a really interesting lifestyle growing up. I grew up on a farm, and my dad is a professional falconer; he raised birds of prey my whole life. We’d always have people coming over, and he knows the curators at zoos. I was always surrounded by people who were really passionate about conservation.

I lived my “normal” American life for the duration of my later childhood and my high school and college years. Then, I woke up one day, and I was in corporate America and I was dancing professionally and doing all my little cheerleading stuff. I thought, “I want to do something more meaningful. What am I really passionate about?”

I had been dabbling in some on-camera hosting and commercial work, and I was living in LA at the time. I considered, “Maybe there’s a way to use this as a platform but to do something that has more of a purpose and gives back.” I love travel, so the idea of marrying travel with media was the first step, but I wanted it to be something that I could be passionate about.

Living in LA for so long and working in the entertainment industry, I had friends, but I also had this other side of me. It was the same when I was growing up. I always had my dance and cheerleading friends, but then I had my horse and 4H friends. I’ve always had these two very different lives. One of my motivations at this point was to blend them.

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