An Interview with WiseOceans… Georgia Coward from Coral Reef CPR
This week, Georgia Coward, Coral Reef Ecologist and Program Manager for Coral Reef CPR tells us all about her passion for marine ecosystems and translating science into conservation action. Her advice is to continue to learn, be patient and don’t give up.
Name: Georgia Coward
Job Title: Coral Reef Ecologist and Program Manager
Organisation: Coral Reef CPR
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I have always wanted to do marine biology. My mum always jokes that I could ‘swim before I could walk’! I grew up in various coastal countries and in a family that loves the marine world and diving- so I was always exposed to marine conservation. I read everything I could get my hands on and watched everything that included the oceans. I was always drawn to coral reefs the most, being astounded how such vibrant ecosystems have such important roles and can support such high biodiversity.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
I was lucky that I knew I wanted to study marine biology. I chose the most appropriate A-levels to get into university and applied for the university that offered me the best course – Bangor University, Wales. I worked very hard during my degree, driven by my total passion for this subject. I decided to do a Masters degree afterwards as I still felt I needed to learn more. The University of York offers a great degree as you get to conduct a research-based placement. My placement in the Cook Islands is what truly gave me the love of field work.
- How did you land your current job/position?
I have worked on coral reefs around the world since I graduated from York. Working with different organisations provides the best chances to network with fellow biologists. After I finished working with a small NGO in the Solomon Islands, I met my current research partner, and the Director for Coral Reef CPR, Dr Andrew Bruckner. We have worked together now for two years.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I love the field aspect of my job. I love being underwater and diving new reefs. I love seeing the ecosystem in action – I think this has made me a better marine biologist, there is only so much you can learn from a textbook!
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
All of it. The whole goal of Coral Reef CPR is to take science and translate this into conservation action. We educate guests, divers, school children and local communities on coral reefs and I love that we can change their perspective of reefs and teach them just how important they are. We have inspired several school children to do school projects on coral reefs – that is a good feeling! Then we are also making a direct difference to coral reefs by removing coral predators and growing corals to rehabilitate degraded reefs.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
That I will never stop needing to learn and study. The environment, especially coral reefs, changes very rapidly and very little is still known about them. It is really important to keep up to date and to continue learning even once you finish studies.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Patience. Working in the field offers many challenges and it means plans don’t always work out. Weather for example can totally alter plans and all you can do is be patient and willing to modify them!
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Don’t give up. It is a tough industry but it needs people that are driven and ambitious.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
Tough question! I love all reef fish the most, they are always so busy and I like how they each have their own role on the reef.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
Diving in the Chagos Archipelago. Here were many dives where I couldn’t even see my transect tape because of the thousands upon thousands of (huge) reef fish! It was magical to see such a vibrant, healthy ecosystem and I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity.
Thanks Georgia, you are doing great things to educate and inspire others in the importance of coral reefs.
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