Podcast: Andrew Lewin | Speak Up For Blue
In this episode we’re speaking to Andrew Lewin, who’s the founder of Speak Up For Blue, a marine ecologist and an Ocean-preneur. He also runs three podcasts of his own so we’ve got a real veteran on today.
We talk about marine careers, what the different jobs in the marine environment are and how you can go about securing them. We talk about optimism in conservation too. Whether the future’s bright, what we need to do more of and what we need to do less of?
Finally we touch upon what is becoming a bit of a recurring theme in the podcast so far, which is entrepreneurism. People starting their own enterprises that really have wildlife conservation at their core that are looking to do really good in the world through business.
As always, if you want to find out more about Conservation Careers then go to www.conservation-careers.com for the best advice, support, training, jobs and lots more. All designed to get your clear about your career options, get ready and get hired more quickly.
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NICK: Ok so welcome to the Conservation Careers podcast, joining me today is Andrew Lewin. Andrew is founder of Speak Up For Blue, he’s a marine ecologist and an entrepreneur. Maybe we can just start by, would you mind just introducing yourself, how would you describe to someone who’s not heard about you and your role previously, Andrew?
ANDREW: Yeah for sure. My name is Andrew Lewin as you mentioned, I’m a marine ecologist, I’m the founder of a website called SpeakUpForBlue.com. I’m a host for Speak Up For Blue podcast, a podcast that discusses marine science and conservation from a variety of perspectives.
I interview other people in the industry, in the field to really just give the audience, who are made up of scientists and non-scientists, a perspective of what’s really going on in marine science and conservation, straight from the scientist’s mouth, or the conservationist’s mouth. So we deal a lot with a lot of projects that don’t usually get covered in the mainstream media, and we deal with a lot of animals that usually don’t get put on Shark Week.
They’re not really talked about but they’re really interesting. Provide a platform for scientists to get their stories out and for the audience to really get to know the scientists and get to know marine conservation and what really happens, and then provide them with a little bit of guidance on how to live for a better ocean, so select better products, really look at the type of products they’re buying, type of products they’re using, single use plastic reduction, all that kind of stuff. So it’s all-encompassing. And then we do… we’re actually building more of a platform now, in March we release two other podcasts, one is the Spanish version of Speak Up For Blue which is called ConCiencia Azul, which is hosted by Melissa Marquez, who is on Shark Week actually this past week, and we have another one called Marine Conservation Happy Hour, which is three of my other colleagues that I deal with, and we talk about marine conservation over drinks at Happy Hour so it’s a lot of fun.
NICK: You’re obviously really passionate about marine conservation, you’ve been working in it for a while and we’re going to talk about your career journey in a little while, too. Where did your passion for marine come from, why did you want to be a marine conservationist?
ANDREW: You know, I had to think back a while when somebody asked me that a while ago. And it really I think comes from watching documentaries. I grew up in Ontario, Canada, right by the Great Lakes but certainly not near an ocean. But I think just watching, you know, the Jacque Cousteaus and the BBC documentaries that we used to get when we were kids was just being curious, you know, why I didn’t grow up there, growing up you think, I’m gonna be studying dolphins and sharks and all that… whales and all that fun stuff. And I ended up studying more of a marine ecology type thing with a GIS focus, with a geographic information systems focus. So more spatial ecology than anything else. I did a lot of fieldwork, but now I sit in an office and I do communications. So that journey has changed quite a bit over the last 17 years.
NICK: Which is quite a, I wouldn’t say a standard journey, but I think a lot of us, the passion comes from building engagement through the media, the David Attenborough, you know and then it becomes more field-based and before you know it you’re sat behind a desk running a podcast or something like that, right?
ANDREW: Exactly. I mean, we can get into this, what really moulded my career was a lot of personal choices. And I think it’s really important that a lot of people don’t think they have that choice. Although it doesn’t make your journey easier through your career, but sometimes the personal choices are better for you personally and for your life than it is to adapt to that life. Although marine ecology and marine science and marine biology is my life, like I think about it all the time, it’s not the career path I always chose over personal choices but the passion always comes from something visual or now, people get inspired by, through podcasting, so something that you hear through voice, and it’s just a matter of trying to be everywhere so that we can inspire the next conservationists, whether it be marine, terrestrial or aquatic, the idea is to be everywhere.
NICK: So from university you went into spatial ecology for marine geographic information systems, right?
NICK: What were the choices you then made through your career, I mean which ways have you kind of wondered and winded to get to where you are?
ANDREW: After my undergraduate, I wanted to go a graduate degree but I didn’t know what subject matter I wanted to do it in. And so I took a job in Louisiana after looking for a job for six months and like 400 resumes and stuff, and I got a job as a marine technician in the Gulf of Mexico. It was for 8 months but it was one of the best times of my life. You know, I was single, I was living literally on a boat in the ocean, I was based in Louisiana but I’d leave Louisiana in the morning or at night, wake up in like Panama City or Florida surrounded by blue water, it was just beautiful. A wonderful, wonderful time. So many sunsets. Dolphins riding… it was literally a dream come true. Once I was there I decided I wanted to do a masters degree.
I hooked up with an old professor of mine who was actually moving from University of Guelph in Ontario where I did my undergrad, and we went to Acadia, where he was the environmental chair, he’s got me into marine protected areas and I was really into marine protected areas at that point. So I did my thesis on size and number of marine protected areas based on specific assemblages of macroinvertebrates so lobster, crabs, shrimp and all that sort of wonderful stuff. But still, that’s where I got the GIS training, and Acadia University didn’t have a GIS programme but one of the community colleges actually had a really good one.
I was a bit of a guinea pig going there as a graduate degree because I went there for 8 months, didn’t go to Acadia but went to this school for 8 months, then went to Acadia for a year and finished up my masters. After that, they used my example as… to meld the programme together and that became a programme. And after that I was like, oh I want to do marine protective area stuff, I had the chance to do a PhD at Dalhousie which is still on the East Coast in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but then I told my wife that… well, my fiancé at the time, I said look, we’re gonna go two years in Halifax, I’ll do my masters then we’ll come back to Ontario.
She wanted to stay in Ontario, you know, I was this thing, a marine biologist, who knows where I’m gonna end up. But then, you know, you meet somebody, you fall in love and then things change. And so we came back here, I didn’t do the PhD, we came back here and I started working and consulting, still had the GIS, didn’t really work on it completely but I started introducing it to my bosses as a tool that would really work and would work well in terms of what we were trying to do. And it started to take off, and it started to use GIS more and more and I switched companies and I became a GIS analyst at the next consultancy that I worked at.
NICK: Can I just dive in on this actually, ‘cause we’re talking about GIS and I’m just wondering, there might be a few people online that don’t fully understand what we talk about, what we mean when we talk about geographic information system.
ANDREW: Of course.
NICK: What is GIS for the uninitiated?
ANDREW: So GIS is essentially a geographic database, so any data points that you collect in the field that has a latitude and longitude or a spatial position to it, can be input into a GIS. So it’s really a management system. And then from that management system, you have tools where you can use the spatial component as an analytical tool to determine spatial patterns of communities, or species. So for instance if you want to find out where right whales have been and you’ve been tagging them, or you’ve been doing aerial surveys of them and you actually have aerial survey positions of individual animals, as you go along, well then you can actually implement that in a geographic database and then use that tool to analyse their patterns. And you can use those patterns to determine, ok let’s put that layer on top of shipping lanes, and let’s see where they intersect.
Let’s just say for instance this past year we had, what was it, 18 deaths from entanglements or ship strikes of right whales in the Atlantic? So I use GIS to look at their patterns. Where do they go? Why were they entangled? They went to a new area, they actually went north into the Gulf of St Lawrence so how does that change spatially? What are the patterns? And they noticed that the shipping industry speed is faster in that area, it’s 20 knots instead of 10 knots.
So the government said, ok we see that 20 knots, let’s lower it to 10 to give right whales extra time to move over. I’m not saying they did that but they probably looked at it in those kind of spatial patterns. So that’s the advantage of using a tool like that. And it integrates with a lot of other software, ESRI seems to be the leader in this technology and there’s like conferences on it you can get online for certificates from them and then any government facility, most government facilities as well as non-profit, larger non-profit organisations, use this type of software to do any of their spatial analytics.
NICK: Right, and you were increasingly skilled in doing this and you were being paid as a professional digital mapper, if I can put it that way.
ANDREW: Absolutely. My professor literally told me, like you’re doing this because not only is it going to help you with your masters thesis, but it’s also gonna help you with employment later on. And I didn’t really know what he meant by that, because I was like, I want to be a biologist, I want to use GIS as a tool, but I didn’t want to become a GIS analyst.
So he was like, no you’re gonna do this, you need this because it’s gonna help you later on. And it has, like it’s gotten me jobs where I am a GIS analyst position and there have been times, because GIS can be used not only in ecology but also business, I’ve actually worked for friends of mine who are in business – one of my friends had a new company that was a franchise and he wanted to divide the franchises based on postal codes or ZIP codes in the US. So he had me do like this business analytical tool, run this tool, to divide up those ZIP codes and postal codes based on population size so that they were evenly distributed.
So you can use it for anything, and that’s why I always tell people like, when you go through school, try and get these extra little things that yes, it’ll help you in your career, but also it will help you elsewhere. Like if you don’t have a job in marine science or in terrestrial conservation or whatever that might be, you can always fall back on the skillset because it’s used everywhere. So I always tell people, the extra skillset is always a good skillset.
NICK: There’s a good lesson in there, too. I mean lots of these skills are quite transferrable. When we look at the sector of the different jobs that are available within the conservation industry, and actually look at popularity and skills, the most popular area by far actually is marine conservation jobs. On our website Conservation Careers it’s marine conservation jobs that people come to look at more than other job types. So this is why it’s interesting talking to you today, as you’ve got a background in providing careers advice for conservationists too. Let’s kind of loop around and talk a little bit more about your career and then we move on to careers advice, if we can.
NICK: So you’re a relatively young GIS mapper, what were the key steps sort of briefly looking forwards to where you are now that you went through? What have you kind of learnt from that process that others might kind of gain benefit from?
ANDREW: Well I switched jobs in the consulting industry, the second job I worked there for three years and then I got laid off. It was 2008, a lot of our consulting was done with the oil & gas, the recession hit and our projects kind of went stagnant. They laid off some people, so I got laid off. And from that day on, the next day I was talking to my wife and we were saying, look I don’t want to be like this anymore, I don’t want to be vulnerable, I always want to have some sort of side gig that I can rely on even if it’s a part-time thing or literally a side thing where you get, you know, $1000 or $2000 a month that you can scale up into something big. I want to have something like that. So I took about 2-3 years to build something. And that’s where I built Speak Up For Blue. And that helped save me, to the point now where working on that as a side for the last 7 years, that has become now my passion and something that I realise that I am an entrepreneur.
As I call myself, an oceanpreneur. You know, I want to build a business that will help the ocean, and that’s what I am doing right now. And so I’ve been doing it for the last 7 years and I’ve been at the position now where I can finally do it on my own and full time, but I was working a job – like, even when I had a job with that, and if I ever have to go back to a job just to find money and stuff as you build a business, I can do that but I know I have this. So if I get laid off, if I get fired, if I have to quit or whatever the case might be, I know I have that ability to just be like, I can do this. Like, this is… this is not a problem. I don’t feel uncomfortable, I don’t feel vulnerable for that. And I always tell people when you go into marine science or any biological position, you should have something on the side. Especially when you’re young.
If you’re young and single, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take up consulting jobs, even a volunteer position with, you know, doing like a conference or something, like planning a conference. Cause then you build your network. These days with the internet and how many resumes an employer gets, they want to know who you are beforehand. So I always find that helps like, doing this podcast, for like a little over three years, opened me up to so many opportunities. And I did this for free when I first… I just did this as a hobby. Because I was like, I need to do this because this is something that I’m good at. Because I’m in my office by myself on this microphone, you know, as you are and you’re just like, is this really working, like do people like this?
I just went to a conference in Malaysia where people were like, I can’t believe I’m meeting you. Like I listen to your stuff all the time. I’m like, really? This is so bizarre, right? But people are listening to it and people like it because there’s no information like this. That conference that I went to, they sponsored me to announce the submissions of abstracts. You know, and it actually got me to be on the organising committee. And it got me almost a free ride to the conference, which was in Malaysia, which I’d never be able to afford to go to. And then I was able to interview more people that I didn’t have access to through the internet that are in south-east Asia. It’s just opened up so many opportunities but, like, I did it for three years and it wasn’t easy. But I did it for three years and I continue to do it and it continues to open up opportunities for me.
NICK: Yeah, and I think jobs are tough to get nowadays, particularly for kind of graduates coming out of university, you know, there’s a lot of competition for some of the roles, particularly marine roles we’ve just touched on that. You know, one option that people can explore is starting their own thing up, right? You’ve done that, we’ve done that too at this end as well.
NICK: What advice would you give someone who’s got this really cool idea, they’re passionate about something, they want to drive it forwards, you talk about doing it on the side like a side hustle, you know, are there any things that people should kind of bear in mind? I mean, what’s holding people back?
ANDREW: I think that it’s just, just do it. You know like, just get it done. Like, just follow it. You know, execute. Because a lot of people, and I mean you’ve probably heard, like you’re an entrepreneur just like I am, right? You know, you’re running an organisation but we are entrepreneurs. Ideas pop in our heads all the time. And there’s a difference between people who have ideas and people who execute on those ideas. And don’t be afraid to fail, right? Cause you will fail. It’s guaranteed you will fail, right? And that’s ok. That’s how you learn.
It sucks when you fail but you learn from that and you say, hey look, this is great. I loved doing the process, what did I learn from this process and then how can I do it better next time? You know, and then you evolve. If you didn’t do the first thing that failed, you never could have come up with the second or third or fourth that actually worked out, right? So I feel a lot of people are just afraid to go out and execute on those ideas. A lot of people have some crazy ideas. For instance, there’s a guy I met who started Conservation X Labs. Conservation X Labs is literally an organisation that is there to create solution, technical solutions, for conservation projects.
People thought, that’s ridiculous, like you’re gonna get engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs at these conferences to do like a Make for the Planet thing or a Hackathon, to come up with these sort of, you know, solutions in four days? You’re gonna solve the world’s fishing problems in four days? You’re damn right he is! Right? And that organisation is doing that. You know, and I think that’s what’s important. And the more outlandish the idea seems to be, sometimes those actually work out really well. The biggest thing is execute and then network, tell people what you’re doing. Go to conferences. Build a channel online or offline where you can… you have people coming, new people coming in and understanding what you’re doing.
You know, so for me, I did it with the podcast. I built a channel up where now I do it every day, where every day people listen to my voice. People listen to what I’m doing. And then from that, opportunities arise. I think it’s just, it’s just one of those things where, people get to, like it’s so easy to build a channel on like any kind of social media. YouTube, you know, live streaming now, on Twitch, on YouTube, on Facebook, on Instagram, podcasting, it’s a huge way of engaging with somebody, of getting somebody to know because the more they know you, the more they trust you.
So whatever you bring out, whether you’re selling a course, whether you’re selling a service, or you’re offering something, you know, you’re telling people about what you’re doing and you’re asking for funds through Crowdfunding, people will start to trust you and start to root for you. That’s the important part. Once you get people rooting for you, once you get those fans who are like, I can’t believe I’m meeting you, then you know you have something there, you have this dedicated following where people want you to succeed and they’re going to help you to succeed as much as possible. And just through the culture that you build through that channel.
NICK: Yeah and I think the advice, absolutely, the advice to just get going is really good advice as well. A lot of people procrastinate, you know, and worry that I can’t start this thing until I’ve thought about everything and it’s perfect. And chances are you’re spending a lot of time and it will fail, actually, as you say, a lot of things do fail. Better to start with the seed of an idea, test it, get it going and let that idea evolve as you, as you develop and learn, right? And just get going.
ANDREW: Absolutely. Just with today’s technology it’s easier to do that. And your idea will evolve into possibly something completely different but that process of going through and executing that idea will help you evolve that process. Cause if you just think about, oh I want to start a consulting service on GIS, and you keep telling people you’re going to start but you never do, well eventually you’re not going to go anywhere because all of a sudden you’re like, I’m not succeeding, what’s going on? Because you haven’t told anybody about it. It’s just an idea in your head.
But if you actually build a channel and show them some of the work that you’ve done, right, or talk about GIS in that context, then people are gonna start to recognise you and people are gonna be like, oh we should go to Nick or we should go to Andrew or we should go to Samantha or we should go to, you know, to anybody who’s talking about GIS because they know, it sounds like they know what they’re doing. Or they’re at a conference and they’re like, oh I remember I spoke to Andrew about podcasting.
He’s the guy with the podcast in the marine conservation field, let’s talk to him about doing his own or our own podcast. And the fact that you execute helps too, because like oh that’s a doer, we want that person because we’ve been thinking about doing a podcast for a long time, but we know Andrew knows how to do it in literally a half an hour. Then they just know that this person executes, let’s get them in.
NICK: I was just gonna touch on that myself actually, I feel that there is a community of people out there like you and I who are more than willing to help other people. If you’ve got an idea and you just want to bounce an idea off someone or ask a question, whatever it might be, more often than not the answer’s gonna be, yeah sure, I’ll give you a bit of help so that’s really good.
NICK: I want to broaden out, well I want to stay focused on the marine conservation area, we’ve talked a little bit about GIS, we talked about oceanpreneurship, entrepreneurship, starting your own social enterprise, whatever that might be. If someone’s really passionate, their passion is about the marine environment, they’ve just watched, you know, Blue Planet II or whatever it might be and they’d love to work in this area and to help to protect the oceans, could you – this is, how long is a piece of string – could you kind of paint a picture of the different types of roles that are out there? I think sometimes we’re a little bit blinkered in thinking, dive instructor or whatever that might be, you know. What are the different people that are out there that are helping the marine environment, the different roles available?
ANDREW: Well, the marine conservation field is quite broad. If you look at it from a marine science perspective, it’s pretty much, for all the fields there’s pretty much a set route to take. If you want to do science, you would probably do a graduate degree of some sort, whether it be a masters or a PhD or both, and then you’d either… you can go into a variety of different things. You can go into academia, so you can become a professor or a researcher at an institute and continue to do research that could be applicable to conservation, or just more for the pure science of it, we’re talking about a conservation stand-point so you know, you do research that will test certain theories or look at trends of animals or communities or habitats and see what’s happening.
You can go into the non-profit sector where you’re applying sort of the science theories and information that you’ve learnt and the skills that you’ve built to an actual, like to a project or to a number of different projects and so you can go into that science route. And then of course there’s private consulting and everything like that. That’s less conservation, you’re dealing with regulatory agencies, your clients usually end up being industries, oil & gas or mining or it could be anything. Anything that has, that has an effluent or something that goes out to the environment where a regulatory agency is involved, you become that liaison between the two, between the industry and the regulatory government.
So you’re dealing a lot with industry and it’s still conservation, it’s just more of a very applied sector in that. But you can still be a scientist and a PhD and deal with all that, you know, marine mammal noise is huge, we have a lot of PhDs working with marine mammal noise in the oil & gas industry or the mining or the shipping industry and they do a lot of work with marine mammals, marine noise and seeing what levels affect and use a science background to prove whether it does or does not affect in certain areas, that sort of thing. For conservation it can go anywhere. You know, I have spoken to people who have business backgrounds, who started non-profit organisation that does beach clean-ups and then they start franchising those beach clean-ups to worldwide, just cause they inspire people, they’re very good at inspiring people to take action.
You have people like, you see ads 4Oceans, you know who are going around cleaning up beaches for every bracelet they sell. You know, so they’re entrepreneurs or they’re business people that are taking up the cause and trying to do their best to inspire other people or get other people involved in the community today, that type of conservation. You have advocacy, you know, where you have people that are part of like animal welfare, PETA, the Humane Society, there’s so many, Whale and Dolphin Conservation in the UK, right? So you have all those, of course I’m thinking more marine-focused cause that’s where my mindset is right now but there are lots. WWF, you know, advocacy, policy, those are there that usually have like some kind of background in biology or policy of some sort, because you have to learn to deal with policy and governments and what not, but you can really just come out of nowhere and just be very passionate about that subject matter and then just learn a lot from there. There are dive operators who are very great conservationists.
They teach people on a local scale about their dive operation and every time they take divers out, they teach people about marine conservation and why they say, no touch and all this type of stuff. So it’s very varied. I could go on forever with different types of careers. Then there’s also the marine protected area networks who do all their work through workshops. They barely see an ocean. They’re trying to gather scientists to find out what the information that they need to do to make this particular marine protected area the best marine protected area they could, then they get these policy makers together, then you bring them all together and you have to control the fighting between the two of them, where the biggest thing ends up being, we want to attract the best people so we have to have the best food to attract the best people at these workshops. And you’re behind closed doors hashing this out and bringing stakeholders together. Then all of a sudden, you know, 10 years later, a wonderful network of marine protected areas comes up and now you’re into the management and the enforcement part and you’ve got enforcement agencies.
I’ve got a friend who graduated with marine biology degree who works for Environment Canada in enforcement cause he likes to be outdoors. You know, you’ve got people who do only field work, like tech ops we have for a government that literally dive for a living or they will… (dive not die, dive for a living), or they will do sampling on land or aquatics or oceans or whatever. So there are just so many that you can be a part of, and it really depends on what goal you have in your career. What do you want to accomplish? Some people are like, I just want to be outdoors all the time, or I want to be on the ocean all the time. You can be a marine technician on a boat and you can be at ocean all the time. That’s what you prefer, that’s what you can do. If you want to deal with marine mammals, you go into a marine mammal sort of fields. You wanna deal with sharks, follow that shark passion. You can go into that. You can deal with a lot of different things with sharks or marine mammals from policy to advocacy to science research to fieldwork only um, and there’s just so many so it really depends on what your goal is.
For me, I wanted to leave a legacy. I wanted to do something different than what everybody else did so I said, at the end of my career I want to look back and say, I built this that helped other people. That’s my goal. It took me a while to figure it out, but that was my goal.
NICK: That’s great and that’s such a useful picture just to show the diversity. I think there is a place for everyone in there and it’s really about understanding the landscape of careers, if I can call it that, and how you personally fit in there, I guess. You know, what you’re really good at, what you’re really passionate about, you know, and then you talked about like what’s your career purpose, you know, where within that do you want to kind of land dup. Now you’ve provided careers advice to marine conservationists in the past. What would you say to someone who really wants to work in marine conservation, like what are the key things to kind of bear in mind, or steps people need to take, or mistakes to avoid? Because it is a competitive area, you know, what do they need to bear in mind?
ANDREW: It’s a very competitive area, it’s not easy to get a job in any kind of natural science field these days. It’s not easy. There are a lot more people who are getting degrees and funding is lowered. You have to think of it as a competition, and you have to be competitive. So what you need to look at is the area that you want to follow, you need to look at what will give you that competitive edge when you get out of, say, college or university. Not a lot of people who graduate will have a lot of experience, so for all those who are listening who are in university, the best thing you can do while you’re in university, if you can afford it, is get a job or volunteer during the year with a lab so that you can get experience with that lab. So that when you come out of your bachelors, you have a little bit more experience than everybody else. Because the first thing they look for is work experience. Everybody’s on the same level, because they all have a degree. And that’s usually the first tick. But what employers really want to see is yeah, you have to have the knowledge, but you have to have the personality to fit in with the team, and you have to have the experience of being in a work environment.
That’s what they want to make sure they can bring you in and have the least amount of micromanagement, they want a self-starter, you always hear that, motivated. That’s the difference. And if you show that through your undergrad, no matter how hard it is, that you volunteer at different places, and you get experience with an Aqualab, you get experience with different types of instrumentation, like field instrumentation, you get experience with different laboratory equipment, or different methods, then people are like, oh wow, like you did an undergraduate degree and you did this? Like, that’s amazing.
Or, you started a podcast while you did your undergrad? That’s amazing! Let’s add you to our communications department. You want that extra little thing that will put you above everybody else. The more experience you have, the better. Volunteer while you’re in undergrad, I say that now because after you do undergrad you’re in the real world. When you’re in graduate school, you kind of delay the real world a little bit, you know what I mean? When you graduate you’re in the real world, you have to survive on your own.
A lot of us have student debt, so you have to pay that off at some point cause the interest is gonna start to kick in, you gotta get a job, you want to ideally get a job in your field, but that’s not always the case because you don’t always have the experience so then there comes into oh well we have these volunteer opportunities, these pay-for-volunteer kind of thing, well a lot of people can’t afford that, so you’ve got to figure out the experience and the best thing to do is get experience while you’re in university because you have that buffer.
When you’re out of university, if you’re listening to this and you’ve already graduated, like shoot, I didn’t do that, get involved with conferences. Get involved in organising conferences, it gives you that work experience, it’s not full time but also you get to interact with the head honchos of these societies and they get to notice you. Like we had one guy, I was the chair of the sponsorship committee, and we had two people on that sponsorship committee who got brought in, I would say, 90% of the funding. People recognise that. We had people who worked for Oceana, we had people who worked for the UK government, we had people like in pretty high places that have power to hire. They recognise that. Extra-curricular activities.
They recognise that. A friend of mine who got hired at Oceana was on my podcast for a long time, he would come on once a week and we would do a podcast together and he would probably spend about, you know, 6 hours a week prepping and then doing an hour of the recording. He did that for a year, he did that on top of his job, which is a lot of work cause I was doing the same thing, a lot of work. But it got recognised when he went for that job at Oceana, they said hey, this stuff’s actually pretty cool that he’s done that. That shows that he’s dedicated and he’s really passionate about doing something cause he did it for free. And that helped get him hired.
NICK: Yeah and a lot of people talk about their passion but this is about demonstrating it and building experience around that and that’s really good advice. And the networking aspect I find really interesting, I should probably be holding my hands up but I was looking and doing a bit of reading about you just before the podcast and it led me straight to LinkedIn, we’re both on LinkedIn, we have 145 connections in common apparently you and I. And I think that says a lot about the conservation world, it’s a small world, people know each other, we are genuinely connected. We talk about networking and it’s, you know, one of those buzz words that sometimes it’s a bit scary, I need to go out and meet people and talk to people, you know that really is the way to get out there and conferences are a really nice way to integrate, and give yourself a role. That’s really nice advice. Yeah, get involved in the organisation of it. So you’re not just there as a delegate, which can be a bit awkward, you’ve got to go and chat to people, strangers, yeah, you know, give yourself a role and you kind of, you really start to integrate and build up from that, so great, great advice, thank you.
ANDREW: Oh absolutely and you know what’s interesting too about that is a lot of people, who identify as introverts, who just are really shy, they don’t like crowds so being at a conference can be really intimidating. But one thing that I’ve noticed about conferences these days is when I go to a conference, cause some people come up to me and it’s like, I know you, where do I know you from and the first thing is, oh I know you from Twitter, what’s your Twitter handle? And they’ll say the Twitter and a lot of times at a conference now they’ll have your Twitter handle.
We’ve had conversations for years on Twitter that we don’t know… so when you meet somebody in person it’s like, oh yeah, remember that conversation or you know, this argument that happened where we helped each other out and that kind of thing? That helps break the ice. So like if you do the work like whether it be on LinkedIn or on Twitter or on Facebook or on Instagram or any of the platforms, you support people, you interact with people on there, that’s like warming up, right? That’s like breaking the ice so that when you do actually end up meeting each other in person, you can just be like, oh ok, like this is great, like David Shiffman, aka Why Sharks Matter, huge guy on social media in the marine conservation world, shark world, when he gets to a conference he’ll put out on a Tweet, anybody here on Twitter at this conference, I’m going to this place for drinks, come meet me and we’ll hang out.
And everybody’s invited. Nobody’s excluded. And we do that a lot just because let’s meet people, let’s talk and that’s the whole point of conferences and I think it helps with a lot of people who are introverted to warm up, you know. Obviously I’m not an introvert but you know, it helps, I feel that it’s just that extra ice breaker.
NICK: Yeah. And I think a lot of people flip flop between introvert and extrovert and I put myself in that bracket to be honest so yeah, great advice again. I want to finish with some kind of fairly big questions, and I think we’ll probably have you back on the show cause I could talk forever and I’ve really enjoyed the discussion.
ANDREW: Me too, yeah.
NICK: If you could change one thing that would make a huge impact on the planet and you can make that marine or not, totally up to you, I make you conservation tsar for a day, what would you do?
ANDREW: Oh! One thing, one thing, my God!
NICK: Fiendish, sorry.
ANDREW: I’m flip flopping between two things. And I’m gonna tell you them because I know I’m breaking the rules here but I’m gonna tell you.
NICK: You can have two.
ANDREW: The one is put people in power who are about balancing economy and environment. Right? So no funding for any politician who wants to be in charge of a country or in charge of a province or state or municipality. Take the money out cause I find what happens is, when somebody funds your campaign, it’s like an IOU when you get back in. It doesn’t matter whether you’re conservative, liberal, green, social, it doesn’t matter. Whoever funds you to get in, especially if it’s like an interest group, they want payback when you get in, that’s sort of what I’ve noticed in the politics that I’ve seen. Right, you look at conservatives, a lot of times oil & gas, gun rights, this and that, it goes from not only environment but social as well, it’s almost like they have control because they got you there. So if you take the money out, they can’t come to you and be like, you owe us. You know, you have to do this, right? So take the money out of politics, get politicians in there who really want to help people and not just help their buddies. And this is not just a Trump thing, this is a worldwide kind of thing, right. And the second thing is almost demand that any kind of product that’s manufactured cannot be detrimental to the environment, right? So plastic’s out, come up with something else. Go back to glass.
NICK: Combustion engineer, right?
ANDREW: Exactly. Think about plastics in general, it’s made from petroleum. If you go back to the root of all of our products, you go to a grocery store, or a market, you’re just like this is ridiculous. All our products are plastic and we wonder why there’s so much plastic in the ocean or plastic on the earth like, this is getting ridiculous, it’s getting out of hand and even now people are like, we’re gonna make sure it’s out of recycled plastic. Ok that’s great that you’re recycling the plastic but the plastic’s going back into the ocean slowly through washing machines and it’s like, go back to cotton. Why can’t we go back to 100% cotton or 100% organic hemp? Go back to those products that actually make our environment better. Or that are sustainable for our environment. So having like manufacturers have more of an outlook on how can we reduce our impact on the environment to the smallest amount where we can’t reduce any more? That’s what I would like to see from manufacturers. I mean phones, everything, like everything. You know, just looking at it from that perspective. That’s what I would like to see. I would actually like to see more than taking money out of politicians.
NICK: Let’s make it happen eh? Final question. The marine environment is one which is really struggling right now, as many areas of the natural world is. You know, we hear horror stories all the time, plastic’s obviously been a big one, we’ve just discussed that, there are other issues, over-fishing, coral bleaching, you name it. How positive are you feeling about the future right now?
ANDREW: I am optimistic. There are a lot of things to be pessimistic about but I am very optimistic. There are a lot of people out there working their butts off to ensure that we have sustainable oceans. We have a sustainable environment. And they’re working, we just need to support them a little bit more. We need to recognise them and we need to support them more. We need to believe them when they come out and say, this is what the science says. I think we’re getting there, we just need more awareness and just believe our scientists.
Just have faith in the scientific process, have faith in the conservation process. It’s not perfect but it’s there for a reason. I do think we’re gonna come out of this, I think this next generation coming up is a different generation, whether it be millennials or I don’t even know what’s after millennials, so the next generation after that but, you know, I’m an X-er, there are a lot of people who are recognising that we can live with the balance in the environment and economy and we can, we can survive off the prosperity of both and where they benefit each other. And I think we’re seeing that, I think right now the people in power in a lot of places are that old sort of thinking, you know, where it’s only natural resources that are gonna get us somewhere, not renewable resources so I remain optimistic.
Cautiously optimistic but I remain optimistic and that’s why I do this podcast. Cause if I didn’t it would just be all negative. If you listen to the podcast it’s not negative. I talk about some fun stories. The ocean is a fantastic place, it is so cool! We just discovered a hybrid dolphin, where two different species just reproduced and had this hybrid dolphin. Like, that’s a pretty cool thing. There’s so many great things happening, there’s so many great projects that are happening, there are people who are managing marine protected areas locally and doing it well and they don’t need government and big NGO sort of implementation or sort of meddling, they can do it on their own and there’s actually working.
There are marine protected areas that are actually really working well and fisheries in those areas are coming back. You know, we still have a lot of things to deal with in terms of fisheries, in terms of plastics but we’re getting there slowly and I think more and more people are getting the sense that we need to change the way we live and it’s not gonna be a big deal if we do.
NICK: Fingers crossed and I think on that positive note, on that optimistic note you know, and I share your optimism too, we wouldn’t be in this if we weren’t optimistic, right? We often know what the solutions are, it’s just about mobilising the troops and the effort behind it, yeah. But again, it’s been so much fun talking to you Andrew, thanks so much for sharing your valuable time with us. If people wanted to find out more about you and Speak Up For Blue, where should people go?
ANDREW: You can go to our website, SpeakUpForBlue.com or if you have a mobile device and you listen to podcasts, we’re everywhere where your podcasts are, so Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast now, really anywhere you can find good podcasts, we’re on those platforms so you can check us out there, Speak Up For Blue posts seven days a week so I’m always having new shows. Marine Conservation Happy Hour once a week, ConCiencia Azul once a week as well, they’re great shows, we have a lot of fun. I’m thinking of doing some live episodes at conferences and other places, aquariums and what not, there’s gonna be a lot of stuff coming up so keep an eye out for Speak Up For Blue and any Twitter, Instagram, I’m @SpeakUpForBlue so you can always follow us there, so we’re all over the internet.
NICK: Great, and we encourage people to do so. Well thanks again and continue helping people to live for a better ocean Andrew, you take care.
ANDREW: Thank you very much Nick, I appreciate it.
NICK: Ok well I hope you enjoyed that, everyone. If you did then please subscribe and give us a super quick rating and review on iTunes. If you want to find out more about Andrew and his work then visit SpeakUpForBlue.com and subscribe to one of his podcasts. As always if you want to find out more about Conservation Careers then go to Conservation-Careers.com for the best advice, support, training, jobs and loads more, all designed to get you clear about your career options, get you ready and get you hired more quickly. And if you enjoy the interviews, we’ve spoken to over 400 professional conservationists, collated their best advice into a free e-book which you can download from the bottom of any page on our website. Finally, if you’ve got any questions or suggestions for the podcast please tweet them to @ConserveCareers, we’d love to hear from you. Ok, till next time guys, this is Nick signing out. Bye now.