What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?
The final product of my work with WWF and IUEM was a spreadsheet of compiled economic data from published research and studies on coral reefs and mangroves in East Africa. The data was organized according to relevance towards the Blue Economy, such as economic impact towards fisheries and tourism–sectors of valuable significance towards Kenya and Tanzania’s overall economy. The data would later on be used by the organization to provide an overall assessment of Kenya and Tanzania’s Blue Economy. This assessment would put an economic value on mangroves and coral reefs within the two countries that would hopefully advocate for the protection of these vital marine habitats.
Describe the benefits of this experience for you professionally and personally.
As someone who came straight from undergrad, this fellowship gave me the work experience I needed to get my foot into the door. It gave me the feel of what working in the environmental field would be like. While my bachelor’s degree in International Studies gave me needed knowledge in the fields of policy and the international arena, I had little knowledge in the field of environment prior to coming to MIIS. This summer experience was able to give me that sought after knowledge on top of what I have already learned in my master’s studies. On top of that, it has also helped me comprehend economics–a subject I had always struggled with since high school–better than before. This could prove useful in my professional career.
Did your experience provide any unexpected discovery, self-reflection, or epiphany?
Though highly important and most likely exciting for others, I have learned that the field of research may not be may calling for the far future. I have realized that it is not within my nature to simply sit at a desk and not see how my work would affect the site of research. Thus, I have also realized that I would never be satisfied if I were to work in a developed country alone. Something that had come across my research many times was that, while these habitats do have significant contribution to the overall economy, they are even more vital to local communities who depend on these resources for their livelihoods. I want to contribute to the development of these resources for these communities and be able to see first hand how the conservation of these habitats can make the life in these communities even just a little bit better. Whenever people asked me why I decided to not stay in Europe or the United States, I tell them it’s because I realized my passions are set on where help is needed the most.