Dr. Heather Koldewey
Head of Marine and Freshwater Conservation Programmes
My role at ZSL
As Head of Marine and Freshwater Conservation Programmes I lead our cross-cutting programmes that are implemented across the world. These include Marine and Freshwater, EDGE of Existence and Conservation Technology. I am interested in finding solutions that work for both people and the planet and protecting the last ocean wilderness areas.
I am a conservation scientist and active conservation practitioner focusing on the application of sound science to solve conservation problems. I started working for the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in 1995, initially as a research scientist, then as curator of the ZSL London Zoo Aquarium and currently as Head of Marine and Freshwater Conservation Programmes.
My expertise is primarily in the aquatic environment and I oversee the Marine and Freshwater, EDGE of Existence and Conservation Technology programmes.
I have used research into threatened species (particularly seahorses) to focus conservation responses around fisheries management and marine policy. I have active projects in the UK, Philippines, Cameroon, Mozambique, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Chagos archipelago, and the Pitcairn Islands.
Highlight of my conservation career so far
The moment that was the highlight of my career was then day when I got the phonecall to say the Chagos archipelago was declared as the largest marine reserve in the world in 2010. Having the opportunity since to build a programme of science and conservation in Chagos has been amazing and it is a privilege to dive in one of the most pristine places on earth.
Working in Chagos is like living in the highlights of the best underwater nature documentary.
A species I admire
It has to be seahorses, which led to me co-founding Project Seahorse in 1996 and working on them for almost 20 years. They are stunning to watch underwater or in an aquarium, appearing both beautiful and fragile. To me that summarises the ocean and why I am passionate about marine conservation.
A word of advice if you want a career in conservation
Good people who want a career in conservation do get jobs, even if it takes time. Volunteering can help, as can gaining other practical experiences beyond qualifications. Take time to write a short but careful covering letter – it is fundamental in determining whether you get an interview. Spelling and formatting errors look careless and could lead to your application being put to one side.
I am interested in interdisciplinary research at the interface between communities and environment. My research is both collaborative and varied, usually responding to conservation issues that have been identified.
Current projects include reef and open ocean work in the Chagos archipelago with the goal of strengthening the effectiveness of the marine reserve and our understanding of the benefits of large marine reserves for mobile species. I sustain an interest in research into the conservation of threatened species - particularly seahorses, and ecosystems - particularly mangroves.
I currently co-supervise five PhD students and regularly supervise Masters students.
Projects I’m working on
- Project Seahorse – I co-founded (with Dr Amanda Vincent) in 1996 which is recognised as the leading authority on seahorse research and conservation. We used research into seahorse biology, fisheries and trade to inform policy, resulting in all seahorses being listed on CITES in 2002 (a first for marine fish of commercial importance). We continue to do innovative research, including the iSeahorse citizen science programme. www.projectseahorse.org
- Marine conservation in the Philippines – I lead our conservation efforts in the Philippines, which is implemented by a dynamic local team from the ZSL Philippines office. We conduct a wide portfolio of projects designed to build resilience for people and the environment, with a focus on mangrove conservation and rehabilitation, and marine protected areas.
- Net-Works – This is a novel community-based supply chain for discarded fishing nets that are recycled into carpet tiles addressing issues of marine debris and poverty alleviation in coastal communities. The basis and guiding principles of this programme resulted from my PhD student’s socioeconomic research in fishing communities in the Philippines. We are working with Interface Inc. www.net-works.com
- Chagos Marine Reserve – I led the consultation response that justified the closure of the commercial tuna fisheries in Chagos (subsequently published in Marine Pollution Bulletin) and supported the establishment of the world’s largest marine reserve in 2010. Now I am involved in collaborative research projects to: a) strengthen the management of the reserve through monitoring; b) develop a programme of pelagic research around sentinel species and ocean observation; and c) understand the role of large MPAs for migratory species. Find out more.
- Pitcairn Island fisheries – I am part of a collaborative project to build a sustainable fisheries management plan around Pitcairn Island (a UK Overseas Territory), build knowledge of the underwater biodiversity and increase awareness about the environment of these remote islands. Find out more.
- The Marine Reserves Coalition and Great British Oceans – I am a member of these collaborative initiatives to increase the protection of the ocean, particularly in the UK and UK Overseas Territories. More information at www.marinereservescoalition.org and www.greatbritishoceans.org
- Project Ocean - retail activism in action, a long-term partnership between Selfridges and ZSL to stop overfishing and pollution and to protect our oceans through the creation of marine reserves. Find out more.
- Circumnavigating Hope - I am interested in how we share solutions in conservation and shift the narrative beyond one that is dominated by doom and gloom. I am part of a small group that developed the hashtag #oceanoptimism that is now used globally to share ocean conservation success stories.
- EDGE of Existence – developed by ZSL, this programme works to increase knowledge, awareness and conservation of the world’s most evolutionary distinct and globally endangered species and building the next generation of conservation leaders in developing countries. I was involved in designing the methodology that led to the establishment of EDGE Corals. www.edgeofexistence.org
1. Thompson, B.S., Clubbe, C.P., Primavera, J.H., Curnick, D., Koldewey, H.J. (2014). Locally assessing the economic viability of blue carbon: A case study from Panay Island, the Philippines. Ecosystem Services. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2014.03.004
2. Letessier, T.B., Meeuwig, J.J., Gollock, M., Groves, L., Bouchet, P.J., Chapuis, L., Vianna, G.M.S., Kemp, K., Koldewey, H.J. (2013). Assessing pelagic fish populations: The application of demersal video techniques to the mid-water environment. Methods in Oceanography, Available online 14 December 2013, ISSN 2211-1220, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mio.2013.11.003.
3. Veitch, L., Dulvy, N.K., Koldewey, H., Lieberman, S., Pauly, D., Roberts, C.M., Rogers, A.D., and Baillie, J.E.M. (2012). Avoiding empty ocean commitments. Science. 336: 1383-1385.
4. Vincent, A.C.J, Foster, S.J., Koldewey, H.J. (2011). Conservation and management of seahorses and other syngnathids. Journal of Fish Biology. 78(6): 1681-1724.
5. Koldewey, H., Curnick, D., Harding, S., Harrison, L., Gollock, M. (2010). Potential benefits to fisheries and biodiversity of the Chagos Archipelago/British Indian Ocean Territory as a no-take marine reserve. Marine Pollution Bulletin 60 (11): 1906-1916.
Current position Head of Global Programmes, Zoological Society of London
2010 - 2011 Programme Manager, International Marine and Freshwater Conservation Programmes, Zoological Society of London
2003 – 2009 Senior Curator, Aquarium, Zoological Society of London
1995 – 2003 Curator of Lower Vertebrates, Zoological Society of London
1994 – 1995 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute of Zoology, London
1993 – 1994 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Stockholm
1989 – 1993 PhD University College Wales, Swansea
1986 – 1989 BSc Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth (1st Class Honours)
Project Seahorse – www.projectseahorse.org; www.iseahorse.org
Net-Works – www.net-works.com
Chagos Conservation Trust – www.chagos-trust.org
EDGE of Existence - www.edgeofexistence.org
Project Ocean - www.selfridges.com/content/project-ocean
Marine Reserves Coalition – www.marinereservescoalition.org
Great British Oceans – www.greatbritishoceans.org