Who is Dani?


Once upon a time, in a Brazilian country city called Belo Horizonte, an 8-year-old girl in a science class received a homework assignment that left her very intrigued. The task was simple: Compare 8 elephants with a blue whale.

She came home with a question that wouldn't get out of her head "how can an animal be the size of 8 elephants?". She plunged into the books to understand how this was possible. The day came for the presentation of her work, she showed everyone everything she had discovered. Came home and went running to tell her mother: "Mom, Mom! Look! When I grow up I'm going to work with whales!" I didn't know it yet, but this dream job was going to change my life. My mother told me: "Whales? But we live 500 km from the beach! Isn't that too far?" It didn't matter to me at the time. I took every book and information I could get my hands on and dove into the world of cetaceans.

The distance to the beach and the difficult access to information at the time made this dream seems impossible. But I couldn't imagine doing anything else with my life. I continued studying and when the time came to go to college, I decided to embark on my first adventure, to study marine biology in Rio de Janeiro, 500 km from home and on the sea's shore.

When I got to college, what I heard most from my classmates and professors during the graduation was always a repetition of what I had heard a long time ago in Belo Horizonte: "forget about this whale thing, it is too hard, you will never make it, try something else". Actually, there were very few projects on the subject. But with calm and persistence, I managed to get an internship in the Rio de Janeiro lakes region. The activities consisted in staying at a fixed point on land observing through binoculars the animals that inhabited the region. It took long months of observation until one day I saw, after 22 years of that science homework, from afar, a spray! That's right, a spray!  I was so moved by this moment that I was sure "This is it. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to observe whales.

This project served as my thesis for graduating from college and I started my master's degree right after. I moved to São Paulo to study at the Oceanographic Institute at USP. Once again the scarcity of projects that worked with cetaceans made things difficult. My first project in the Masters was about southern sea lions, which are amazing animals, but my heart had been asking me for over 20 years to work with cetaceans, and I hadn't fought so hard to die on the beach.

It was then that I met Mia Moretti, that gave me a life-changing opportunity. She started a project on whales and I had the opportunity to go with her to Abrolhos to do observation and data collection for my Masters, again from a fixed point on land, using binoculars, but it felt like a dream to me, or at least one step closer to my dream! It was on this trip that I saw a humpback whale for the first time. And I fell completely in love with them.

During my master's degree, I started thinking about the idea of starting a project to promote science with Mia and Julia, who are my best friends, because we wanted to make people fall in love with cetaceans just like we do. So we created the Viva Whales and Dolphins Institute, which today is known as the Viva Green and Blue Institute, a beautiful institute that Mia still runs today.

When I finished my master's degree, I was quickly hired to work at the Instituto Baleia Jubarte and moved from São Paulo to Caravelas to work at the IBJ. It was a beautiful period in my life. I learned a lot, saw a lot of whales, and finally realized my dream of working with them. It was also during this job that I discovered a new passion, photography! The work made me learn how to take pictures and I fell in love with it, and I kept that idea of science outreach with me.

In 2016 I had the opportunity to work on a ship for the first time. It was my first expedition to Antarctica. Since then, I have become an expedition guide and traveled the world showing tourists the cetaceans' world.

Because of my experience and passion, I am producing a documentary about whale migration and the importance of whale watching and science outreach for the conservation of these animals. As my documentary isn't ready, I'm using social media to talk about these themes and other curiosities to anyone interested in listening.

I feel that I am still living my adventure and it changes as I evolve and develop. I believe that with this work I can inspire other girls and boys that, just like me, once dreamed with something that seems impossible, showing them they can achieve what they want if they follow their hearts and dreams.

I feel that my journey's connected to the sea and whales, which have enchanted me for so long. Nowadays, the little girl who loved science classes and had dreamed of working with whales has become Dani Baleia.

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My journey with photography

Aside from my passion for whales, I love to hang out with my camera and be able to take photos of such magnificent creatures and be able to transmit emotions.

My first trip to the White Continent

The day I received an email with an offer to travel to Antarctica, I couldn't believe that I was going to fulfill this dream. For years in my life, I thought that every dream I had was a hallucination.