Happy World Oceans Day! This year’s theme is ‘Gender and the Ocean’- a great opportunity to celebrate the women involved with the marine and freshwater conservation and science work happening here at ZSL.
With projects in the UK and across the world, the roles may vary but one thing they all have in common is a passion for the ocean! Meet some of the inspiring ZSL women working to better understand and protect our oceans and find out more about their work in marine and freshwater conservation:
Anna Cucknell – Estuaries and Wetlands Project Manager
I work in our Estuaries and Wetlands Team and manage several of our projects working on the Thames Estuary: a busy urban environment which seems to be London’s wildlife secret. People are always surprised to learn that the Thames is teaming with life and it is our mission to spread the word so that people in London, Essex and Kent are inspired by, and value their river. With the large tides, fast currents and busy boat traffic it can certainly be a challenging environment to work on, but also truly fascinating. I specifically run research projects focusing on all species which use the Thames river and estuary as protected nursery grounds for their young. This is a dream job for me as I’ve always been inspired by ocean wildlife and am thrilled that it is my job to try and conserve a small part of it.
Isabel Cotton – Evidence and Evaluation Officer: #OneLess project
I’m part of the team working on the #OneLess campaign, a movement in London tackling ocean plastic pollution. #OneLess campaigns for Londoners to ditch single-use water bottles, and to instead enjoy tap water from home, from cafes or restaurants, and from new public drinking fountains around the capital. My role in the team involves gathering evidence to document and evaluate the impact that the campaign is having in London. This could be interviewing stakeholders about the changes they are making, designing research tools or plans, or undertaking desk-based analysis. My favourite place to relax is by the sea, so it’s always hugely satisfying hearing about the actions citizens are taking with #OneLess to eliminate bottle water for good – and for the good of our ocean!
Surshti Patel – Technical Specialist
I work in Conservation & Policy as a technical specialist, currently conducting social research on marine plastics for the National Geographic Society’s Sea to Source expedition. I work with an international team investigating multidimensional poverty and socioeconomic drivers behind the plastic waste crisis. Findings will contribute towards understanding the relationship in the poverty and plastics dialogue and will help develop science-based solutions for waste management in poor rural communities. Before this expedition, I’ve worked on projects in Europe, Africa and South-East Asia, conducting interdisciplinary research and conservation, and leading the development and implementation of monitoring and evaluation systems and have found it really rewarding developing pro-poor, equitable and scalable solutions for community-based marine and freshwater conservation, integrating plastic waste management, protected area establishment, sustainable livelihood development and access to financial services.
Rachel Jones – Project Manager
I’ve worked on marine species for ZSL for over 20 years – first with our animal collections specialising in the UK’s most diverse collection of live corals at ZSL London Zoo’s aquarium. I designed and built new reef exhibits and worked with HM customs and the police to take confiscated animals under CITES restrictions. Now, I manage a diverse portfolio of science focusing on a large, remote, marine protected area in the Indian Ocean. My ‘team’ is a group of 70 + brilliant marine scientists from all over the world who study sharks, seabirds, turtles, fish, reefs and the ocean itself. The job is an exciting mix of people management, travel and negotiation and I’m proud that ZSL is bridging the gap between scientists and policy makers to address issues that affect all protected areas such as illegal poaching and climate change pressures.
Ana Pinto – Outreach Specialist
I work in community-based marine and freshwater conservation as outreach specialist. Being part of initiatives like ZSL’s Our Sea Our Life and Net-Works™ which work towards bringing replicable sustainable change and impact, is really exciting for me as I’ve always had an interest in the relationships between humans & nature and the complexity and challenges involved! For Our Sea Our Life, we work with vulnerable coastal communities in Mozambique to manage local fisheries and improve the resilience of coastal ecosystems and community well-being. It’s a great learning curve and very rewarding! Another part of my job is supporting the inspiring Net-Works™ team in delivering “less plastic and more fish”- to date, Net-Works has collected 224 tonnes of discarded fishing nets- that's enough to go around the world 5 times! I’m excited to be part of these projects and see what progress we can make towards healthier oceans and improved livelihoods.
Heather Koldewey – Senior Technical Advisor
My work at ZSL started 25 years ago, initially as a postdoctoral research scientist, then as curator of the ZSL London Zoo Aquarium and then as Head of Marine and Freshwater Conservation. This year, I changed my role to split my time between running the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science and as a National Geographic Fellow and science co-lead for their Sea to Source expedition. I’ve always loved combining science with conservation and working across disciplines and sectors to find solutions. This started in 1996 with Project Seahorse, one of the early pioneers of community-based marine conservation and where I began working in the Philippines, resulting in ZSL-Philippines becoming one of our first registered overseas offices. Our work there has diversified hugely, from pioneering Net-Works™ to initiating the first freshwater protected areas. I’m also particularly proud of our long-term partnership with Selfridges which pioneered retail activism and bringing marine conservation to new audiences. Our unusual collaboration has brought about real change, including #OneLess, our systems change approach to building a more ocean-friendly society through working to make London the world’s first capital city to stop using single-use plastic water bottles. While environmental problems are daunting, I am definitely an ocean optimist!
Francoise Cabada – EDGE of Existence Marine Biologist
My name is Francoise, I am a Marine Biologist who is lucky enough to have grown up swimming in the southern Caribbean. I am the Marine Biologist at EDGE of Existence, a programme within ZSL’s Conservation & Policy directorate. My job entails many things, but by far one of my favourites is assisting and supporting young conservationists from around the world in their projects to protect marine and freshwater EDGE species. These species have a unique evolutionary history, not shared with many of their relatives, and are currently at the brink of extinction. Spending time and working side by side with EDGE Fellows is extremely enriching - I get to learn and share so many diverse global views from people who as me, love the ocean and are committed to keep it – and all life in it - healthy for future generations.
Charlotte Pike – Marine and Freshwater Intern
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is a tool to inform conservation decisions and actions and my role at ZSL is to lead the drafting of Red List assessments for the 16 species of anguillid eels. Working within the IUCN Anguillid Eel Specialist Group, I collate information on each species, including available data and literature. Due to their incredible life history, which includes utilising both freshwater and marine environments, anguillid eels are exposed to a wide range of anthropogenic threats and have undergone dramatic declines in some parts of the world. This role enables me to study these fascinating and enigmatic species, and contributing to their conservation helps to improve the overall state of freshwater environments, in turn benefitting many other species.
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