Category Archives: Center for the Blue Economy Fellows

A tour of WildAid

I finally got around to taking a few pictures of the office.

Here’s our front desk– the view as you walk in from the elevator and Nicolette’s candy bowl… I’ve definitely paid a few visits there!

Here’s my desk and lovely wallpaper.

We have some amazing prints around the office including this elephant one and the amazing sea turtle picture below.

Finally, we have some pictures of random campaigns and some of the celebrities we’ve worked with. Can you spot Harrison Ford below?

From Fishermen to Conservationists

Last week I traveled with colleagues from Conservation International to the small community of San Francisco del Cabo in Esmeraldas Province where Conservation International and Instituto Nazca have been working with local lobster fishermen to help rebuild the degraded fishery and build knowledge of the fishery so that it can be successfully managed in the future.  Conservation International is supporting the project through a conservation agreement in which the local lobster fishermen receive monetary payments in exchange for not fishing and for working on monitoring and conservation efforts for the project.

The local fishermen have formed an organization, Arte Longosta, to carry out the conservation actions.  This organization is split into four groups which work in monitoring of the biological health of the area; monitoring the fishery; community outreach and education; and enforcement.  What impressed me most about the visit was the knowledge and interest that the fishermen showed not only in performing the tasks of the conservation project but in truly understanding the effects of the conservation efforts and how future management efforts would work.

Tagging and measuring lobster

The first morning we went out into the reserve with the fishery monitoring group and the project manager from Nazca and Nazca’s Executive Director.  The fishery monitoring group serves two purposes, first, they test new fishing equipment and second they collect data on the lobsters caught and the by-catch.  In the past the fishermen have used bottom drag nets which result in massive amounts of by-catch and damage the corals and other life on the sea floor.  They are now testing lobster traps which would not only reduce the level of by-catch but also reduce the damage to the sea floor. On our monitoring trip we took in two bottom set gillnets (better than the drag nets but still not ideal) and one trap.  The nets proved relatively successful catching about 20 lobsters all below the size limit, and about 30 fish were caught as by-catch. Unfortunately the trap was broken, but the next day after the fishermen had mended the trap they caught two large lobsters so hopefully the traps will prove to be a viable alternative.  In addition to testing the effectiveness of the different methods, the fishermen are also marking and recording the size of the lobsters, and recording the size and species of the by-catch.


After getting back to shore we had a marathon meeting with Arte Longosta, hearing from all the fishermen about their work, and the benefits and constraints of the project.  Almost all of the fishermen talked about what they had been doing in their groups and what they had learned.  I was very impressed with their presentations and the desire they had to understand what they were observing and to educate the rest of the community about the project.  Among their outreach efforts is a children’s picture book produced by Nazca that helps explain the need for better management of the sea.

More updates to come when I have the time to write.

Fun times in DC

These are a few of the highlights of living in DC for the summer, outside of working at IUCN (which has been pretty fantastic so far):

Indonesian festivals:

One of the highlights of living in DC so far has been discovering the large Indonesian community here in DC and in nearby Philadelphia.  My husband is Indonesian, and I spent several years living in Indonesia before coming to MIIS, so this is especially exciting for us.  A few weeks ago, we were invited by a lady we met on the metro to an Indonesian festival in Maryland, where we were shocked to find an authentic Indonesian street fair set up in the backyard of a house in the suburbs!  Probably a couple hundred people were there.

We had an eye-opening experience when we visited an Indonesian family friend in Philadelphia the other weekend.  She lives in South Philly in an area known as “Little Surabaya”, where there is estimated to be over 5,000 Indonesians, mostly undocumented workers, who provide much of the labor for the factories in the surrounding industrial area. Overall we had a great visit,  got stuffed silly with amazing Indonesian food, and learned a lot about the history of Indonesian immigrants in the US.

The Indonesian Embassy organized a big festival on the mall with the highlight of the event being an attempt to break a world record for largest angklung ensemble.  The angklung is a traditional Indonesian instrument made from bamboo.  We broke the record on the second attempt, with a total of 5,100 people.

Forth of July:

We were warned that the national mall would be complete chaos, but decided we had to try to watch the fireworks there anyway.  You may have seen “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS – we were there, watching that concert on the lawn of the capitol building.  I have to say, it was a lot of fun, and the musical lineup was very impressive.  It wasn’t the best spot for actually watching the fireworks though, since the wind was blowing towards us and the view was partially obscured by smoke.  But it was a memorable night nonetheless, and not nearly as chaotic as I had feared.

Free concerts:

Summer in DC is awash with free concerts going on all over the city.  A few of my favorite events have been Jazz in the national sculpture garden every Friday, the blues tent at the Folk life Festival, and the free nightly free concerts on the Kennedy center’ millennium stage.  We also won free tickets to see OkGo at the Kennedy center!  Not bad DC.

There’s a New Sheriff in Town…

Howdy y’all!

We got a bit of an issue in this part of town thats been botherin’ folks for years. It ain’t bandits, or coyotes (kai-otes), or even the drought. Its the abuse and downright destruction of our smooth scaled friends also known as the Sharks. Now, its been a problem for quite sometime, but it seems like with all these Chinese folks expandin’ their middle class, demand for this tasteless shark fin soup has increased, meanin’ that we might be fresh out of our toothy friends by the time our grandkids can put on their boots…Whatever happened to some good ol’ chili!?

Well, have no fear. The Shark Sheriff has arrived in Austin, and he is on a warpath like no other. Under the tutelage of Shark Marshall Pam Baker, I’m leaving no stone unturned, no cactus unrooted, and no research document unread. Tryin’ to gather info for this tri-national shark conservation agreement with the Mexicans and Cubans is tough work, but someones gotta do it. By understanding the nations’ pelagic longline fleets in the Gulf, how they do their business, where they do it, and what they’re wranglin’, our unit is finding clues everyday to sort out this here agreement so that we can implement it in the near future. Our Whitetip, Blacktip, Silky, Mako, Thresher, and Hammerhead brethren are in dire need of some help, and I reckon it’ll be the Shark Sheriff (myself), under the head US Shark Marshall (Mrs. Pam Baker), that’ll crack the whip on this case right open and bring this town (Gulf of Mexico) some justice (conservation), Texas style! YEEEHAAW!

Until next time,

Shark Sheriff Reynolds——-Austin, Texas

How to Save Sea Turtles?

For the past four weeks I have been working with the Conservation Stewards Program at Conservation International in Arlington, Virginia researching incentive based sea turtle conservation efforts. The Conservation Stewards Program at Conservation International has worked with partners and local communities around to establish conservation agreements to provide communities the incentives and support so that they can afford to conserve the natural treasures in their communities.

All seven species of marine turtles are listed as endangered or critically endangered by IUCN, yet they all still face threats from incidental catch by fishers targeting other species, direct hunting, or the killing of nesting turtles.  Collection of turtle eggs for subsistence consumption or sale also presents a serious threat.  The challenge for conservationists is that marine turtles often live and nest near some of the poorest communities in the world.  How do we conserve these endangered species without harming the livelihoods of the communities that currently rely on them?

Conservation agreements have been shown to be particularly successful affecting a reduction in poaching of nesting sea turtles and their eggs.  However this approach is most successful when there is a long-term financing available.  So over the past month I have been developing the building blocks to make the argument for a global fund for sea turtle conservation agreements to the conservation community.

I have just arrived in Ecuador to see firsthand how incentive based conservation agreements are being used to promote marine conservation.  Tomorrow I will go with CI staff to visit a project in the Galera-San Francisco Marine Reserve.  The project includes a voluntary agreement with local fishermen receive monetary and non-monetary incentives in exchange for committing to the following conservation actions: temporary closure of the lobster fishery, physical demarcation and surveillance of no-fishing zone, testing alternative fishing practices, biological monitoring, and disseminating information in nearby towns.

Hola from Ecuador

I have officially completed one week of my internship here in Ecuador and am starting on my second week today, Monday the 4th of July. While in spirit celebrating this fine holiday, hoping to find some “American food” for lunch if nothing else, I am spending the day in an office. I am working for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in their South American office in Quito, Ecuador.

The IUCN, “supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world and brings governments, non-government organizations, United Nations agencies, companies and local communities together to develop and implement policy, laws and best practice.” My purpose here is to help assemble a database of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) for the entire continent. The idea is to have a baseline of management practices and total area of MPAs, among other pieces of information that will paint a picture of the current status and serve as a baseline. Ideally, this well help countries identify gaps and motivate them to meet their commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity 2020 target of having 10% of all marine and coastal ecoregions as protected areas, In South America, there exists currently only about 1% of coverage for each country. This research can be difficult and some of the information I would like to find simply doesn’t seem to exist, such as quantification of some advancement indicators for the MPAs such as amount of fishing reduction or increase in tourism. Nevertheless I am motivated that there seems to be a lot of momentum and appreciation for the need to protecte and sustainably use the oceans here on this continent. I hope to make a positive contribution to this effort.

Attached are two pictures from the office.

WWF work

In the past 4 weeks, I have deepened my knowledge about the technical aspects of aquaculture via the projects I’ve worked on.  I created short documents for the Steering Committees of the Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue (SAD) and the Freshwater Trout Aquaculture Dialogue (FTAD), including “Relevancy of using Daphnia as an aquatic surrogate toxicity species,” “Species Threatened by Freshwater Aquaculture, by Region” using IUCN Red List data, a global list of banned chemicals, and persistence data on known toxins.  On a grander scale, I collated and summarized 100s of pages of public comments for both SAD and FTAD, so that the Steering Committees will have an organized overview of the opinions of groups and individuals as they meet to discuss the final drafts for the aquaculture certification standards for salmon and freshwater trout.

What am I talking about?  Well here’s a video that describes the Tilapia Aquaculture Dialogues (TAD).   Aaron McNevin, one of the participants in the TAD was my boss for the FTAD.

Sir Robert Swan

Last week I went to hear Sir Robert Swan speak for the Resources for the Future lecture series. He was the 1st man to walk to both the South Pole (900 miles) AND the North Pole (700 miles). Due to global warming and the melting polar ice sheet up north, he may be only person ever to be able to accomplish this feat. (Click here for video) On the way to the South Pole, they had food for 80 days pulled on sledges. They had to cross 6000 crevasses, averaged 12 miles per day, and only had a sextant and a watch to guide them. On days that they didn’t move at least a mile south, they didn’t eat (he lost 67 lbs). The average temperature was negative 65 degrees farenheit. They made it in 70 days. The ozone hole was discovered during the same time they were traversing the continent, and thus they were not prepared for their faces blistering and eye colors changing permanently. “We hadn’t read in Scott’s diary (first man to walk to the South Pole), ‘chaps face fell off today, all blind, rather tricky’–it wasn’t something we were expecting,” he joked. He asked how many people knew that the ozone hole was patching itself up nicely nowadays, and I was one of only 3 people in the room of 150 audience members who was aware of that fact (thank you, Jim Williams’ Quant class). Next year he plans to reverse the trip, starting at the South Pole and heading north to Cape Evans. He hopes to do it using only renewable energies (no coal or gas this time!), and they plan to harness the wind (imagine parachute/kites pulling them on skies), to complete the trek in only 45 days!

Sir Swan was super, super inspiring. As someone who has recently begun to explore the nexusbetween storytelling/inspiration/performance and intellectual/environmental/lecture-based presentation, his lecture was just what I needed to see how it can be done well.

He goes to Antarctica every February with a group of determined, passionate people; to share the awe of the place, so they can take back their stories and inspire others to care about Antarctica too. (Pick me! Pick me! I have always wanted to go to Antarctica, and am seriously scheming about this.)

Other notes from the lecture:

I try to live by, “If you can do or dream you can, begin it now. For boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

I keep hearing “save the planet!”. The planet will look after itself, it’s our involvement in it that may suffer. However, “the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it”

4 things I have learned:

  • 1) I hate walking
  • 2) negative 89 degrees Farenheit is cold. I don’t like sweat ice in my underpants.
  • 3)no insurance agency dares insure my life
  • 4) there are so many negative people. We MUST be positive because no one is inspired by negativity.
  • You never forget starving, I hope you never have, but it makes you grateful not to starve.
  • People ask me “Why did you do it?” I remembered my dreams. Don’t lose yours!
  • Leadership is delivery agains the odds, with minimum resources. If you make a committment, follow through.
  • Inspire others by showing it, living it, don’t just send an email. Get out there and DO it! Leadership is about response to challenge. But it’s also about being RELEVANT, not just honorable and good. STAY RELEVANT.
  • On a team, choose different and strong people. Tell eachother the truth. Laugh. On the way, look for champions (people who will support you!)
  • Sometimes leadership is supporting people to do their jobs.
  • He was in debt $1.2 million at age 28 (the boat he borrowed to get to Antarctica sunk), and it took him 10 yrs to pay off (there’s hope for me yet!). Later, with $12 million and 8 yrs, he was able to remove 1500 tons of Soviet scrap metal from Antarctica and recycle it in Uruguay.
  • We are overloaded with information, we don’t need information. We need inspiration. The best way to be inspiring is to engage people rather than talking at them. He invites young people, globally to join him on his ventures to achieve this. It’s about Sustainable Inspiration, which is not difficult to achieve in a gloomy world, but it is important to revist the inspiration ourselves so we don’t get bogged down as we do our jobs.

Saving Sharks

Somehow until Tuesday, I had never stepped foot into a state capitol. Sure, I’ve been to many capitals, but never to the capitol.

On Tuesday I left my apartment at 6:15 a.m. to join a group of committed ocean-loving policy people on a visit to the capitol in Sacramento. The Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee held a hearing to vote on AB376, a bill that bans the purchase, sale or possession of shark fins.

The shark conservation movement continues to gain steam worldwide. Hawaii, Oregon and Washington have now banned the possession, sale or trade of shark fins.  Honduras announced this week a shark sanctuary in all of their national waters. Sharks play an important role in ecosystems and they need some special protections.

A passionate group of marine conservationists are now working for a similar ban in California. Thanks to the dramatic and successful work of WildAid, I am familiar with the shark fin issue. Check out one of WildAid’s most powerful public service announcements.

The experience in the capitol involved a ton of standing around, holding signs, being polite to security guards and whispering my questions about the process with fellow supporters. I had a ton of questions about the hearing process—Why is that guy leaving before the vote? She voted affirmatively, right? What is my role? (just to be a body that raises her hand when asked who supports the bill) Who is that lady in a suit? Why would anyone send in a set of amendments after the deadline? How many people are on the committee? Where are they? Why are they late? How many votes do we need? Only three people voted? What just happened? So we have no result? Why would they wait until 2:00 to vote? No matter what they have to vote today, right?

After the hearing that resulted in nothing but questions, we stayed around to show our support for the bill and try to talk with one of the senators that seemed against it. Eventually we headed home and received news of the bill’s approval via text message. Now the bill heads to the appropriation committee. The good news is this: it passed this round, it’s gaining support and sharks are a bit closer to having the protection they need.

The experience felt a bit like high school civics class meets college environmental demonstrations. I learned a lot, supported sharks and met some awesome marine conservationists. I also went to bed really early that evening. Perhaps next time the lawmakers will be considerate enough to schedule the hearing at noon!

(If you’re interested in getting involved in the movement, here are links to a few sites that work on the the shark fin ban: WildAidSeaStewardsOcean Conservancy)