This week we chat to…Kelly Hoareau from the James Michel Blue Economy Research Institute, at the University of Seychelles. Kelly specialises in ocean governance and leadership, and has a broad background in various sectors of the environment. A reminder from Kelly is that numbers are important! It’s great if you can get some skills with data management and statistics under your belt.
Name: Kelly Hoareau
Job Title: Director
Organisation: James Michel Blue Economy Research Institute, University of Seychelles
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I actually just landed up here by building relationships while looking for opportunities and grabbing them. I have a broad background – ranging across terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems. I started out as an environmental consultant, then a lecturer, and finally moved into leadership. One position was strongly linked to the ocean and I’ve been here ever since. My soul has always been connected to the ocean, but I never actually realised that I could be supporting something that is such a vital part of who I am.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in fields relating to geology, geography and environmental management and then dived in to the world of work and moved up from there.
- How did you secure your current job/position?
I worked my way up within the organisation that I am currently in, learning what I could and finding ways to strengthen and support wherever possible and within areas that interested me. It can be a challenging work environment, but the key for me has been creativity, persistence and adaptability.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Networking and negotiating for sustainable development – discussing people’s ideas and perspectives and linking them to resources that can progress their agendas and keep the ocean healthy and productive.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
Most of what I do, but I love connecting different people to each other and opportunities that advance ocean-based sustainable development.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
The slog was worth it. Doing what you love is great, but sometimes (especially when you start out) you have to do things you don’t love to be good at the things that you love. Take opportunities to learn new things. It gives you a broader perspective and helps you recognise other challenges and opportunities. There is still a fair bit of slog involved, but that’s how I learn.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
An obviously important one, but not my favourite…statistics (and data management)! Don’t underestimate the power of numbers, organising data and using excel (and other great programmes out there).
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Think creatively and innovatively. The challenges we face today are complex and we need to think outside of the box and with people who may have a different outlook and perspective. Respect local knowledge and experience, listen and learn, learn, learn. If you are too comfortable you are probably not learning anything new.
Can I say waves? I started out as a Geologist, so the “dead” things still resonate. I love all marine life, but I love the power and freedom that a wave represents. It is fluid, adaptable and moulds itself to the situation it finds itself in. It reminds me that we may have power over the ocean (and what we take from it/do to it), but it also has power over us.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
Probably at the sea… growing up and visiting my grandparents at the coast for many holidays from a very early age. I loved spending hours grounding myself on the beach and in the rock pools. The power and mystery of it puts everything into perspective and it still has that impact on me. Its where I find my soul. I remember seeing the negative impact that humans have on this space, particularly after national holidays, and also witnessing the impact of coastal erosion. I think this started my fascination with how we interact with the environment and started building the picture I now understand so clearly – the ocean is life.
Thank you Kelly, it’s great to get a perspective from a different aspect of marine conservation and research.