An Interview with WiseOceans…Ninja Mueller from Cyan Planet

This week we chat to…Ninja Mueller from Cyan Planet. Ninja is the founder and Chief Operating Officer for Cyan Planet based in Germany. Ninja and her partner Michal have a vision of bringing the ocean to land using virtual reality technology. This ambition has led Ninja down an interesting career path, but she cites a sighting of dolphins as the inspiration for her career and her company. She reminds us that working in conservation can be difficult so we must remember to look after ourselves!

Name: Ninja Mueller

Job Title: Chief Operating Officer/Lead Researcher

Organisation: Cyan Planet

  • What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
A pod of Hector’s dolphins in New Zealand when I was out on a sailing boat. I had never seen marine mammals in reality before, and it really touched me to see dolphins in the wild. I remember how the captain said, “Look, there are some dolphins” and turned on “May it be” from Enya. The dolphins put on a show of spectacular jumps and joy – it was all too perfect to be true. I know it sounds really cheesy, but I knew in that moment that I wanted to dedicate my life to keeping these beautiful creatures and their habitat safe and protected. I was 20 then, travelling after school, and trying to find the path I wanted to take. Well, I found it in that very moment, and decided to study something that would help me to most efficiently protect the environment.
  • What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?

I studied environmental science at the Leuphana University in Lueneburg, Germany, and continued with an international joint Masters programme in Marine Biological Resources with a specialisation in Applied Marine Ecology and conservation (IMBRSea). During my Masters, I founded Cyan Planet together with my partner, and have worked full-time in our company since I finished my studies. I am trying to build a strong network in all the fields I am interested working in, namely marine conservation, environmental conservation, XR and Gender equality. I join work groups, boards etc. so I meet people that I can learn from, and that can help me in finding my way.

  • How did you land your current job/position? 

As co-founder of Cyan Planet, I could probably name my position however I want, that’s the great and difficult thing about founding your own business. You cover basically every position there is!

  • Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?  

Being able to combine creativity with marine conservation. I am a musician, I acted in theatre and I enjoy writing, but I wouldn’t have thought that I could incorporate my “artistic side” into marine conservation. Also, the XR industry (Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and other immersive media) is still rather young compared to for example the film industry. We are all one big family, trying something new, and I love meeting the same people over and over again during different festivals and events, because it evokes a feeling of belonging and going on an adventure together.

  • Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’? 
Mainly when working directly with people, doing workshops and letting them dive into the ocean with virtual reality. These are the moments when I can see the direct impact on other people. I also started conducting small research projects with our immersive experiences, so I am excited to see what the measurable outcomes will be.
  • What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?  

Just because the majority of people in the room have a different opinion than you don’t mean that your opinion is wrong.

  • Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?

Posting a story on Instagram! I personally do not have an Instagram account, but of course, Cyan Planet does. It’s important to be able to communicate your work, to communicate science, in a way that a broad range of people understands it and is interested in it. When studying a scientific discipline, it often happens that you learn all the lab work, the software, the statistics, the scientific writing and so on, but you do not learn how to effectively communicate what you are doing in an easy and engaging way.

  • What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?  

Take care of yourself and your mental health!

I know that most people in the field of environmental protection are driven by a strong intrinsic motivation, ideals, and a deep love for nature. Living in our times, when many conservation efforts are moving too slowly, even though we have all the information to know the consequences, can be incredibly frustrating and painful. Environmental grief is something I am constantly confronted with, and I must keep reminding myself about the positives, the successes, and the reason why I am doing what I am doing.

  • What is your favourite marine creature and why?  

That’s a tough one! I cannot restrict it to one species I’m afraid. My first thought was a seal, because they are just adorable and have been my favourite animals as a child. But while diving, I also enjoy watching trunkfish and pufferfish in their clumsy way of swimming, I could spend hours watching them. I wrote my Undergraduate thesis on Ostracods and you will not believe how much these little dots under the microscope became like my personal friends that I knew by name over time. I believe, every marine creature could become my favourite if you just give me enough time to watch them and learn about them.

  • What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?  

The first time when I went swimming in a water column of more than 1000m depth, during a boat survey. I had a mask and snorkel with me, and took a look down into the depths, and there was just the blue. Nothing but blue! It probably doesn’t sound that exciting, but the feeling of thousands of meters of water underneath you, not knowing what else might be there, what the seafloor looks like… it was a scary feeling. I love the ocean – I also deeply respect it.

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Thank you Ninja, please don’t forget to check out Cyan Planet’s kickstarter campaign here to bring the experience of the ocean to those on land!

Don’t forget to sign up to our weekly job alert emails and keep an eye on our WiseOceans Careers pages so you don’t miss your dream opportunity in marine conservation.

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