Schannel van Dijken

Conservationist, Diver, Educator, Researcher

Schannel is a National Geographic Explorer and the Marine and Heritage Director for Conservation International (CI), Asia-Pacific Program based in Aotearoa. He has over 20 years of international experience in environmental initiatives across 15+ geographies, including Antarctica, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific. For past 13 years, while mostly based in Samoa he has worked throughout the Indo-Pacific across multi-stakeholder, multi-national environmental initiatives.

As a motivated Pacific citizen, Polynesian voyager, divemaster, educator, and field scientist, Schannel intimately understands the challenges facing our oceans and communities. His extensive voyages and field work across the Pacific, from Aotearoa NZ through Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Mexico, Cocos & Galapagos, inform his work. With a focus on impact, he has effectively led grassroots to high-level engagements, helping co-found and lead local NGOs, such as Samoa Voyaging Society. Recognized as a trusted strategic Pacific environmental practitioner, he serves on the NZ UNESCO National Decade Committee and the Pacific Koloa Collective.

He is committed to building trusted partnerships, and led development of Conservation International's engagement with NZ MFAT, facilitating significant funding and investment into innovative Pacific programs. Since 2018, he spearheaded the co-development of Samoa’s voyaging canoe-based Environmental Education Program or “floating classroom”. Locally referred to as the “Guardians” program, this was co-developed with government and NGO partners and is now being institutionalised into Samoan primary school curriculum. He continues to lead development of this culture-based education work, scaling approach to Tokelau, Cook Islands, Fiji Lau Islands, and Tonga through collaborations with international and local partners.

Guided by passion, heritage and ongoing pursuit of innovation approaches to development, he is currently exploring the applications of blockchain, digital assets, and AI to help enable our marginalized communities.