This week on ‘An Interview with WiseOceans’ we spoke with Marco Rodríguez from Blue Marlin Conservation
Name: Marco Rodríguez
Role: Program Director
Company: Blue Marlin Conservation
Top Tip: Be patient, don’t give up and keep learning new skills along your way!
Quick Fire Questions
1. What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
Since I can remember, I have always been fascinated by the ocean and spent countless hours watching documentaries on Animal Planet and National Geographic. Growing in a landlocked city in central Mexico, did not afford me many opportunities to pursue my passion, but still, I always felt I was born to love the ocean. Hence, choosing to study a bachelor in Biology and then a Master degree in Marine Biology and Ecology. It was during my master’s at JCU in Australia that I became fully aware of the several threats facing coral reefs and oceans in general, which inspired me to focus on coral ecology and restoration.
2. What steps did you take or are you currently taking to achieve your career goals?
We all know that the current job market is highly competitive, and employers receive an overwhelming amount of appliactions for every open position. What skills and/or experience do you have that will outshine the rest of the applicants? What makes you the ideal candidate?
I recognise that during my years of school, university and until today, I have done as much as possible to stand out from the rest. Always staying involved in marine sciences but as well in other atmospheres (including art, and sports); overall, preparing myself for that moment when I would need to step up.
In addition, setting a long-term goal has been a cornerstone of my career strategy. It provides me with a clear sense of direction and motivates me to remain focused and proactive in reaching my objective.
3. How did you obtain your current position?
During the pandemic, I lost my previous job. After several months of not finding another opportunity within my home country, I decided to reach as many NGOs and other organisations abroad in an attempt to find work. I probably sent over two hundred emails during those challenging times until I received the response I was waiting for. After waiting over a year and a half for the pandemic to ease, I received training in Thailand, and after making many sacrifices along the way, in the end, they offered me my current position.
4. Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I believe that most people who are familiar with my job would assume that spending infinite hours diving in the reef, surrounded by sea turtles and a myriad of colourful fish, would be the highlight of my position. However, while I certainly enjoy these experiences, they are not the sole reason why I love my job.
For me, the greatest aspect of my work is simply that I am doing what I am most passionate about. I don’t see it as a job at all; rather, it is the opportunity to pursue my lifelong passion. Being able to share this passion with new students each day, and being able to observe how they grow and raise awareness through education makes me feel very fortunate.
5. Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
Absolutely! Working with students is particularly rewarding, as I am able to witness their learning and growth first-hand, as well as observe the changes in their mindset. I see this as my greatest challenge and ultimate goal: to shift their perspective on the ocean and, most importantly, to convey the criticality of taking action to mitigate the various threats it faces.
Simultaneously, engaging in coral restoration work is deeply fulfilling. Though it may take a considerable amount of time to witness the results of your efforts and hard work, watching corals grow and thrive is an incredibly rewarding experience.
6. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
At some point, I wish someone had warned me about how difficult it would be to fully break into marine conservation/ marine biology. I think many of us grew up with the idea that it would be easy; Perhaps, the “scarcity” of marine biologists made it seem like there was a lot of work available, but that’s not necessarily the case. On the other hand, I wished someone had also told me how fulfilling a career in marine biology can be. It is definitely a job that brings a lot of satisfaction and purpose.
7. Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Definitely, speaking several languages has opened many doors along my path. During school my parents used to tell me this all the time, but I actually never imagined how important this skill would become! Speaking different languages expanded my options into an ocean of opportunities abroad.
8. What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
It took me a while to find the job I am in now, but I can honestly say that every sacrifice I made was worth it. It doesn’t even feel like work to me because I love what I do. So, be patient, don’t give up and keep learning new skills along your way. You never know when those skills will come in handy, and they may even help you land on your dream job in the end.
9. What is your favourite marine creature and why?
Although my primary focus is on creatures that live close coral reefs, my favourite animal is the whale. I feel a deep connection with these majestic and enigmatic creatures, who peacefully navigate entire oceans and sing with a haunting beauty. I just love everything about them.
10. What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
This is a very hard question as I have had several unforgettable moments. If I had to choose one, I believe it would be one of the dives I did in an outer reef of the GBR. Visibility was over 40 meters, and there were massive towers of corals in all colours and shapes, as well as countless fish, making it hard to focus on any one thing. I believe it was around sunset time because the sunbeams entering the water, made everything glow.
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