People of the Reef ·
Nicole Rosser: 'I feel a responsibility to do whatever I can to help'
As a tourism operator and marine scientist, Nicole Rosser is driven by her deep love of the ocean and her desire to educate others.
Nicole Rosser is no stranger to hard work. She simultaneously juggles a range of careers across the tourism, marine science and business sectors, as well as being a passionate advocate for marine conservation.
As the owner-operator of ZigZag Whitsundays, she runs tours of the Whitsunday Islands with guest experiences including snorkelling, bush walks and relaxing on the famous Whitehaven Beach.
Nicole says environmental education is a huge part of what ZigZag offers its guests.
“ZigZag Whitsundays gives me an opportunity to educate and give back to the Reef. Seeing the reef can be a life-changing experience. It has such a profound effect on people and being able to take that moment where they've formed a deep connection with that environment and turn it into an educational experience is an amazing opportunity.”
Nicole admits her biggest professional achievement has been keeping ZigZag Whitsundays afloat against a wall of external influences.
“We've had such a tough run since we started. Our first ever trip was supposed to run during Cyclone Debbie. Then there was the devastation on the Reef caused by hot summers and navigating around that as we're just trying to start a business. Then, COVID hit.”
“Our business doesn't market itself the way other boats do. We rely on word of mouth and online marketing. To see our business grow, thrive and be recognised alongside some of the bigger, well-established and very highly regarded businesses makes me really, really proud.”
Nicole says ZigZag Whitsundays gives her an opportunity to educate and give back to the Reef. Credit: ZigZag Whitsundays
Nicole regularly offers her boat for local marine conservation efforts and encourages her staff to get involved. ZigZag Whitsundays is actively involved in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef surveys, the Tourism Reef Protection Initiative and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s Reef Islands Initiative. As a Whitsundays Reef Islands Initiative partner, ZigZag Whitsundays is heavily involved in local coral and seagrass restoration activities including the Boats4Coral program. Boats4Coral sees researchers and tourism operators working together to collect coral spawn, grow larvae and deploy the baby corals onto targeted reefs for rehabilitation.
“It is an amazing project to be involved with. The crew have really enjoyed it, working alongside Traditional Owners and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. The crew have learned more about the corals, their lifecycle and the things that can impact them and we're doing something to help sustain reefs into the future.”
Nicole says she wants people to understand that the value of coral reefs is so much greater than just their beauty.
“It's such a momentous thing and an incredibly important environment. It has so many uses beyond recreation that most people don't truly understand, from carbon capture, protecting our coastlines, providing food and even inspiring medical and engineering breakthroughs. Reefs are significant to people everywhere in the world.”
As a Great Barrier Reef Foundation partner, ZigZag Whitsundays is involved in our Boats4Coral program. Credit: Australian Institute of Marine Science.
Nicole grew up in Western Australia snorkelling on the reefs off Perth, Rottnest Island and Ningaloo. From a young age, Nicole aspired to be a marine biologist like her mother.
“I think it's in my bones. If I was sick from school, I'd go into the labs with mum and help with her experiments and she'd show me amazing things, so I've always loved the Reef and the ocean.”
In fact, it was due to illness that Nicole wasn’t able to finish high school.
“I just couldn’t catch up on the workload. So, I never finished school but I still found a way to get into university. I worked for a few years until I could qualify for mature age entry.”
She started her university life studying biology with a focus on conservation and wildlife, but she admits she suffered from a lack of focus. She decided on a six-month break on the other side of Australia at Queensland’s Airlie Beach, and says “the rest is history”.
Nicole made the Whitsundays home in 2009, working on overnight boats. She found she loved working with passengers and other people in that industry. “I just really connected with them,” she said.
But her passion for marine science remained and she returned to university, this time to study marine biology at James Cook University in Townsville. Once she finished her Honours year, she moved back to Airlie Beach and started ZigZag Whitsundays.
Nicole grew up in Western Australia snorkelling on the reefs off Perth, Rottnest Island and Ningaloo. Credit: Nicole Rosser.
As a marine biologist, Nicole works with another Great Barrier Reef Foundation partner, Central Queensland University, as the research assistant for the seagrass nursery in Airlie Beach. As part of our, this nursery produces vital supplies of seeds that can be used to restore and expand the Reef’s seagrass meadows and to provide vital habitats for marine life including dugongs, turtles and juvenile fish.
“I keep the nursery running, remove epiphyte growth from the seagrass, keep the pumps running, and deal with any problems. We’ve also got the seagrass seed storage set up in the office, which is like having our own little water feature.”
Nicole is a research assistant for the seagrass nursery in Airlie Beach. Credit: Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
As if all her accomplishments aren’t enough, Nicole is currently studying a Masters in Environmental Management, as well as being the Business Manager for Coral Sea Technology: a one-stop shop for IT, Security and Internet Solutions.
Nicole says she is motivated by “a desire to leave the world a little bit better because I've been in it.”
She adds: “I feel this is the way I can have a positive impact on the planet. There are so many negative things happening around the world and I feel a responsibility to do whatever I can to help.”
When asked what advice she can offer people at the beginning of their careers, she says: “say ‘yes’ to as many opportunities as you can. You never know where they will lead and there is usually more than one way to achieve your goals. Think outside the box for ways to get started, even a tiny step takes you closer to where you want to be. I never imagined that walking down the docks at the Coral Sea Marina one day would result in multiple businesses, working to protect the Reef, a family and who knows what else will happen in the future.”