Uniting Creativity with Ocean Conservation
Have you ever wanted to pursue your creativity and conservation at the same time? Would you love to combine diverse passions in one meaningful career?
Juliana Corrales is a Creative Consultant (Design and Communications) who grew up in Costa Rica before launching her international career. Today she helps marine NGOs like The Ocean Acidification (OA) Alliance and The Reef-World Foundation create effective communication to protect our oceans.
Her experience in conservation contributed for her to be chosen as the first Costarican to be part of eXXpedition‘s all-female navigation investigating plastics in the oceans. She was part of the seventh leg of their Round the World Voyage, navigating from Galapagos to Easter Island.
Find out what it’s really like working in creative communications and discover how Juliana unites her passions and uses her superpowers to “create a more symbiotic relationship between humans and the ocean.”
Why do you work in conservation?
I am very passionate about the interaction between humans and the ocean. I think this passion has stemmed from my own relationship with the ocean as it has played a major role in my life, influencing many aspects of what I do and who I am.
I was lucky to grow up in very close contact with the ocean and was able to witness the changes it was going through. The impact that humans had on the marine environment were becoming too obvious to ignore. I couldn’t just stand there and watch.
I decided to use what I had, my skills as a creative and designer, for the protection of the marine environment. Using art, design, and targeted communications, I’ve directed my work to serve as a bridge between ocean literacy and active ocean protection.
My experience has given me the tools to provide new ways of communicating complex scientific concepts to non-specialist audiences, bringing people closer to the ocean by giving them a deeper connection to and understanding of it. People will protect what they can relate to, not just what they understand.
What do you think are the biggest conservation challenges and opportunities?
I can point out several challenges that I’ve noticed are affecting conservation movements in general:
- Lack of responsibility; conservation of natural resources is widely considered to be a problem of conservationists.
- Education; the average curriculum is lacking in environmental content and it’s missing out on the very important element of interconnectedness. We grow up with the idea that we are separate entities from nature, that nature is there to serve us, rather than understanding that we are all part of a very complex system of living and non-living processes that interact and affect each other.
- Current lifestyles are physically and emotionally separating people from natural ecosystems. Making it very difficult for them to build relationships, and therefore, less likely to take more sustainable day to day decisions.
What are the main activities in your current role?
I currently work as a Creative Consultant in Design and Communications, uniting creativity with ocean conservation. I help marine conservation NGOs elevate their branding and communications in a way that it truly represents the value and scale of their work.
Specifically, by using a behavioural design approach to create effective communication interventions for the sustainable use of our oceans. It can cover the creation of their brand, developing new materials, improving old and creating new innovative ways of communicating with their respective audiences to achieve their missions and objectives.
I divide my work on these three main aspects:
- Design + Creativity: branding, editorial, print and web design, posters, infographics, artistic interventions, etc.
- Communications + Media: communication strategy + guidelines, social media strategy, science communication, campaign development.
- Design + Behaviour Change: implementing a human-centred approach to the work they do, design with their audience in mind to have a positive social and environmental impact.
What’s the best part of your job?
The aspect that I enjoy the most is to be able to focus my skills and professional development into something that I’m so passionate about. Communications, design and creativity didn’t use to be considered as essentials when it came to conservation organisations and movements. This meant that even though amazing work was being done on the ground, NGOs weren’t able to properly portray that work to funders, potential staff or partners.
There’s an amazing added value to your work when it is done for a bigger purpose; you’re not only giving those organizations a voice, but also to all the communities, ecosystems, or livelihoods they work for. I enjoy having creative freedom and to be able to use my skills to help others protect our oceans and together achieve something bigger and better for all of us.
Another aspect that I truly enjoy is that by working in conservation, you are inherently becoming more in touch with nature. I’ve developed a wider and more in depth understanding of the marine environment, learning from my colleagues and from the varied situations I have encountered. I feel more in tune with it and even more aware of our relationship.
What’s the worst part of your job?
As with all jobs, not everything is ideal! My conservation experience has been mostly with small NGOs, which aren’t particularly well known for their high-paying jobs, especially if you’re changing your career. It’s kind of starting over, in a way. So, make a plan and make it work for you. Budgets can be limited, so your projects can be limited to that.
It will be tough, but it will also help you be more creative and think outside the box in terms of how to get things done. Even though you may be exposed to the marine environment more frequently and you might be paid for that, there are still lots of hours in front of the computer.
What are your career highlights so far?
Ever since I graduated from Graphic Design and Visual Communications, back in 2010, I saw the potential between the skills we were learning and how we could bring about a change in the world surrounding us.
I was questioned along the way, mainly that there was no obvious link between my past professional experience and what I saw myself doing in the future. But for me it was clear and I’m glad I kept on pushing and evolving as a professional.
I’ve been able to unite many of my passions as part of my work; from diving, sailing, painting and designing. Creating materials and interventions that will change people’s understanding and interaction with the ocean. I’m very proud to be where I am, using my ‘superpowers’ to influence people’s behaviours to create a more symbiotic relationship between humans and the oceans.
What key steps have you taken in your conservation career?
I don’t think there is one recipe for success; I think we are all building our paths through life as we go.
In my case, after working as a consultant in Graphic Design for a few years, I convinced myself that the next step to achieve my lifelong dream of bringing people closer to the ocean was to continue my studies. I graduated with a Masters in Environment, Development and Peace, with a focus on Natural Resource Management from the UN Mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica.
As part of my Masters programme, I had to do an internship to graduate and after a lot of online research, I found The Reef-World Foundation. I had the opportunity to start this new chapter of my career as a creative in the field of marine conservation as part of their team. Since then I’ve been able to work uniting creativity with ocean conservation on a daily basis.
What careers advice would you give someone wishing to follow in your footsteps?
For me, trying not to make my career the central aspect of my life has been very important; instead I strive to be happy and be close to the things that make me happy.
Of course, our jobs make up a big part of our lives, and so it made sense to focus those energies into something that would make me feel fulfilled. Working for something that gives our lives a purpose is completely worth it; it will help you get through those trying days at the office or those moments where maybe your budget falls short.
Following my instincts has helped me find my way through happiness and finding a good life/work balance. I truly recommend following that inner voice that’s telling us what is the right next step to take.
In my case it took me to many experiences that pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to grow into a better professional and person. I have gained a new found perspective of our place on this planet, our relationship with the oceans and have found my particular role in marine conservation.
Want to hear more career stories from professional conservationists from underrepresented countries? Check out our latest Celebrating Diversity in Conservation articles.
Main image credit: Paula Espejo / eXXpedition.