How to pursue your passion and thrive

Marc Anthony said, ‘If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life.’ Gina Mascord is the Fire Safety Manager with Central Coast Health. She is also a Citizen Scientist who has found her love of life in the ocean. 

It has been researched, studied and proven, that pursuing your passion, outside of work, can benefit you in many ways – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Not everyone has the luxury to get paid for their hobbies but if you are lucky enough, the passions you pursue will benefit your career and your personal life. 

At Form1 we meet wonderful people on a daily basis, especially at the Aged Care facilities, Schools, Hospitals, Hotels, Pubs, and Commercial buildings we service. One thing we are always reminded of is that everyone has a story and if we slow down, for just a minute, to ask the right questions we have the opportunity to learn so much. 

When she’s not overseeing fire and evacuation training at Gosford Hospital, Gina Mascord is often underwater, taking photos to protect our marine life. We caught up with Gina for a chat. 

Gina, you have always loved the ocean and it’s an important part of your life. Can you tell us why?
Gina: I was born asthmatic and was a very sick infant. I would have asthma attacks on a regular basis and swimming was recommended to my mum, as a way for me to learn to breathe properly. At the age of 18 months, I could ‘dog paddle’ 25 metres. I learnt to swim before I could walk and this gave me a love of the water. Growing up at Catherine Hill Bay (Lake Macquarie) there was nothing to do except go to the beach. At one stage I was the fastest junior girl in east Lake Macquarie and had Olympic prospects but not the desire. I enjoyed surfing, snorkeling, fishing and exploring the rock pools. 

Is it true one of your asthma attacks was almost fatal?
Gina: At the age of three one attack was very severe and I stopped breathing. My sister performed mouth to mouth and was able to get me breathing again. I went swimming training three mornings a week, all year round, until I was 14 years old. I have not had an asthma attack since I was six.

When did scuba diving come into your life?
Gina: I got my first underwater camera when I was 14 and used it mainly for taking surfing pics and when I snorkelled. I was nearly 38 when one Friday night a conversation came up, ‘What is something you have always wanted to do?’ This led to a discussion about sharks and cage diving – I enrolled in a scuba diving course the next day. It doesn’t matter what you see underwater, if there is no photo it didn’t happen.

And now you’re a Citizen Scientist, which is public participation in scientific research. Can you tell us about that?
Gina: It is a way for me to give a little bit back. I love diving and I love taking pictures, if someone can use this information to help protect the marine environment, that is great. Citizen Science is available for just about everything. Apart from RedMap, I am also involved in ORRCA, Ocean Coastal Care Initiatives, Combined Hunter Underwater Group and regularly post in Climate Watch, SharkBase and INaturalist. All these groups have their own people, with degrees, but need help collecting data and photos. It can be something as simple as going for a walk along the beach and taking note of what you see – someone out there is interested in that.

How many underwater photos have you taken?
Gina: At the beginning of this year I went on a diving holiday where I did 37 dives in 12 days, and took over 6500 pictures. I average around 130 on a normal dive and have done almost 700 dives. I have a Facebook page called Wot I Sea where I post most of my underwater pics.

Great Hammerhead. Photo by Gina Mascord

What are your favourite species to photograph?
Gina: Sharks, turtles and seahorses but fish are enough to keep me busy. Nudibranches are a Sea Slug that is related to our common garden slugs but are much prettier and easy to photograph. On a holiday to Bimini – a small island near the Bahamas – in search of Tiger Sharks and Great Hammerheads, a 4.5m Hammerhead swam around us and then in between me and the person next to me. It was awesome. 

What changes have you seen in the ocean over the years?
Gina: One of the spots I dive the most is in Swansea Channel. I have noticed more tropical fish turning up each summer. Most of these fish die when the water cools down but a couple of species are starting to call Swansea Channel home all year round.

Have you seen changes during COVID?
Gina: Unfortunately, we are starting to find masks, gloves and wet wipes that people have thrown away carelessly. 

What are your thoughts on climate change?
Gina: Yes, it is real. It is not about global warming – the climate is changing. We are getting more fires, droughts and storms each year and they are getting more intense but we also get snow in places that hasn’t had snow for decades. The environment is delicately balanced and as good as humans think we are, if it collapses we will die. It sounds dramatic but it is the reality. Nothing else on this planet relies on humans to survive but we rely on everything else.

Research shows interacting with nature can significantly improve our mental health.
Gina: I totally agree. I am not a tree hugging hippy but listening to the waves at the beach is so much better than listening to people complaining. One of things I love about diving is that you can’t hear people talking. I work to live, not live to work and firmly believe if you are not happy, you are the only one that can change it. I love my job but always look forward to my next holiday.

What advice would you give others about pursuing their passions?
Gina: You don’t need a degree if you have passion. There are a lot of resources out there, you just need to find reliable ones. Getting involved in Citizen Science means you don’t have to have a degree, you just do the fun stuff. 

How would you like to be remembered?
Gina: It’s a bit corny but just as a nice person. No matter what I’m doing I live life to the fullest. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

3 ways to discover your passion

Ask yourself – What in this world do I really care about? Take your time write down 10 things you really care about.

Choose three – Pick three things that bring you the greatest joy.

Do your research – How can you include atleast one of these into your life.

Insights from the field – Join Form1 Air on their project at Kareena Private Hospital.