This week on ‘An Interview with WiseOceans’ we spoke to Makenna Flynn, a Digital Communications Intern
Name: Makenna Flynn
Role: Digital Communications Intern
Company: Allen Coral Atlas
Top Tip: There are many ways you can contribute to conservation
Quick Fire Questions
1. What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
Sustainable development has always been an interest of mine. I first developed my interest as a volunteer at a local refugee office in Phoenix. That kicked off a series of roles promoting sustainable development at the academic and government level.
Over time, my interest in environmental sustainability grew. This is in part because of my social circle becoming interested in climate change. Through conversations with such individuals, I started to find that many of the sustainable development issues I had focused on before were in some way related to environmental issues. Consequently, I began looking for more climate change and environmental focused roles
2. What steps did you take or are you currently taking to achieve your career goals?
As someone new to conservation communication, I am focused on improving how I communicate highly technical content. With the Allen Coral Atlas social media and other channels can serve as a bridge to reach more people who can utilize the Atlas tool to further support coral reef conservation.
Some courses I have taken to support my understanding are;
1) Introduction to conservation from National Geographic, and
2) Introduction to molecular spectroscopy from the University of Manchester.
I am also really interested in improving my data analysis skills. Leveraging data is a huge way to target intended audiences with social media content
3. How did you obtain your current position?
I work for the Allen Coral Atlas through Arizona State University’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science. After an advert was posted in a local newsletter, I applied and was successful.
4. Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
My favourite part of my role is the people who I work alongside. An array of professionals make the Allen Coral Atlas possible. These include: spectroscopy and remote sensing experts, software engineers, marine biologists, program managers, communications specialists, and many more
5. Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
The most rewarding part of digital communications is when I speak to people who find out about the Atlas through our social media page. I will receive messages from students or coral reef scientists sharing how they have started using the Atlas. That is always a huge moment to realize the content we create and share on our social media has connected this tool to people who are doing the work on the ground to protect our world’s coral reefs
6. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I will constantly be learning new things in this role from biology to spectroscopy and the role of AI in data collection. When I originally started, I thought that I was completely unprepared to communicate highly technical concepts to a scientific community.
What I have learned along the way is that it is not just about knowing the science. Instead, it is about asking the right questions and forming strong connections with those in the field.
7. Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
An unexpected skill that I am developing through my Masters coursework is the importance of data analytics. With improved analytics and resources provided by social media channels, there’s a wealth of knowledge available to guide communicators. In fact, data tells the story of your content, e.g. who is your audience and what is their preferred medium.
My current focus is to create a tableau dashboard that compiles info from all channels used by Atlas, highlighting key performance indicators
8. What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
My main advice would be to explore a variety of roles and that all support conservation. I thought when I first started at the Atlas that the role would require a background in conservation science or biology. But, I’ve now worked alongside individuals from many different disciplines. All of which who provide significant support to accomplishing the Atlas mission
9. What is your favourite marine creature and why?
My favourite marine creature is the Dugong. I had never heard of this adorable marine mammal until putting together the recent Animals of the Reef Campaign. After reading up, I found out that the Dugong is commonly linked to legends and lore of mermaid sightings. As someone who likes mythology, and has an interest in the ocean, the Dugong is the perfect combination
10. What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
Serving in a remote position, I haven’t been to the sea for my job. Yet, I have gotten to journey to reefs all around the world through the media I use for social content. For example, I received one unforgettable video which showed an Atlas diver swimming alongside a sea turtle. Even on screen, it was peaceful and awe-inspiring to watch. One day I’ll have my scuba certification, and I cannot wait. Until this day, it’s been a wonder to experience reefs everywhere through my team and their photos and videos
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