This week we’re chatting to Cynthia, Country Director for GVI in Costa Rica.  Cynthia has a real passion for conservation and the marine world.  She is a great example of how hard work and perseverance pay off, having worked her way up from scholar to Country Director within the same organisation.  Her advice includes getting your hands dirty and experiencing everything.

Name: Cynthia Arochi Zendejas

Job Title: Country Director

Organisation: (GVI) Costa Rica

  • What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?

I have always loved the water, marine conservation was where I wanted to work. When I was young I thought I wouldn’t mind not getting paid as long as I could work with marine mammals. There’s something about the oceans that makes me feel in peace and at the same time amazes me so much

  • What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?

I have also always liked volunteer work, even if you are not paid you get so much life and professional experience, as well as longtime friends and network connections. Since I was studying I always participated in volunteer groups. Then I did a Masters on International Environmental Science, and got a scholarship to participate in the GVI Mexico marine conservation programme. However, due to a health problem I couldn’t participate (in the water) so instead I did community development on a coastal town so I was still in touch with the marine world. I then got a job in the (GVI) office, still in a coastal town, enjoying the beautiful Playa del Carmen and Tulum beach. I worked my way up until I was the Programme Coordinator for the Mexico programmes which involved two marine conservation projects, and was lucky enough to get in contact with many stakeholders, and marine conservation enthusiasts. I was also involved leading the marine turtle conservation program for Under 18s in Greece, which was an amazing experience. Nowadays, I am the Costa Rica Country Director, managing a community development and a wildlife conservation project, which funnily enough both are on the coast, I continue in touch with different stakeholders, enthusiast conservationists and I do what I wanted to manage different sustainable development projects in Latin America.

  • How did you land your current job/position? 

While finishing my Masters I was looking for a job, thanks to a friend and destiny I heard about GVI and applied for a job. I didn’t get it but I got offered a scholarship to participate as a volunteer instead so I took it without a blink!

  • Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?  

That is hard to say, I would say when I go to the field and participate in surveys directly and I am in touch with nature and the animals, and when I talk to the volunteers and staff, share my knowledge and see their enthusiasm.

  • Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’? 

Definitely, when we work with the coastal communities and I see them improving their conditions, talking about involving more community members in preserving their environment, and the beautiful beach they live in. Also, when our coastal data collection helps the local National Park Authorities to make decisions and when they appreciate the effort done. After me doing a presentation and hearing people using the sustainable development terms, marine conservation, etc that I taught them. And of course when I get to see the baby turtles making it to the ocean that is amazing!!

  • What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?  

Humm, that it will be definitely worth it to make the effort, and to get up when you fall that this will make you stronger.

  • Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?

Game organizer! As I have used some of those leading Under 18s groups.

Empathy has been helpful in order to understand the communities, staff and volunteers better

  • What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?  

To always persist and follow your dream, to get your hands dirty and experience everything. The more you put in, the more you give, the more you get.

  • What is your favourite marine creature and why?  

The beluga, because it is as intelligent, playful and charismatic as the dolphin but less popular.

  • What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?  

Wow, that’s difficult. I would say the first time I dove. I thought this is it, what I always dreamt about, the colors, the fish, the silence,  it was amazing !


Thank you for sharing your story so far Cynthia.  It sounds like you’ve had some amazing experiences and you are using your knowledge to help others to improve and conserve their environment.

You too could get involved in GVI in Costa Rica or at their other locations around the globe. Find out more about GVI Marine Research Expeditions

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