As a proud supporter of the U.S. Department of State's Our Ocean campaign, we were excited to catch up with our Intern USA alum, Alba, about her continuing work in marine conservation. She previously interned at the Ocean Conservancy through InterExchange and is now pursuing a graduate degree in marine management. Alba is also currently running a GoFundMe campaign to help her attend the 69th Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Conference in the Cayman Islands and present her important work! Read on to find out more about her career since the Intern USA program.
Congratulations for being selected to present at the 69th Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Conference! In your original InterExchange alumni interview, you had recently finished an internship with the Ocean Conservancy in Washington D.C. How did that internship prepare you for where you are now in your education and career?
I consider working at Ocean Conservancy as the inflection point in my career. That opportunity allowed me to really improve my English skills, and also to see how the marine conservation world works. It was at the end of the internship that I was highly encouraged to pursue my career, which made me enter a Master's Program at Dalhousie University in Canada. During that internship, I learned so much. It was an opportunity that made me grow both professionally and also personally. Without the internship that I conducted at Ocean Conservancy, I have no doubt my life would be very different right now.
Tell us about the queen conch monitoring project of which you were a part. Why is the project important? Did you learn anything during this project that people would be surprised to know?
Queen conch is one of the most important fisheries in the Caribbean Sea. The species is very important both culturally and economically for the people who inhabit the Caribbean. Because of that, it is essential to ensure that queen conch populations are in a healthy state. The only way to ensure that is through monitoring activities of the fishery, the management measures, or the stocks. My research focused on the monitoring of the stocks. I learned a lot during my project in the Caribbean. People might be surprised to know that in places such as the Caribbean, it is often very difficult to enforce regulations that promote conservation. This is not because of lack of interest in these measures, but due to a lack of capacity and resources in the area.
Is there a particular skill that you developed during your internship through InterExchange that has been particularly helpful to your career? If so, tell us about it.
Definitely. The capacity to communicate in another language fluently (English in this case), has been crucial for my career. At the end of my internship through InterExchange, I was able to take the TOEFL exam and obtain a high grade. That exam allowed me to enter in Dalhousie University and continue pursuing my career.
Do you still keep in touch with any of your fellow J-1 interns or Ocean Conservancy colleagues? If so, how have they been helpful to your career?
Absolutely! I am still in touch with some of my colleagues at Ocean Conservancy. In addition, the person that was my boss at Ocean Conservancy has always been extremely helpful in supporting me to continue my career. It was such a pleasure to work with him, and he keeps helping me after all this time.
What are your plans after finishing your Master in Marine Management degree?
I would like to continue contributing to marine conservation and make a difference. There is a lot to do to protect our oceans and to ensure that we use marine resources in a sustainable way. I am particularly interested in the Caribbean environment, but I would also like to have the opportunity to work from Europe and be closer to my family.
What do you hope to achieve by presenting at the Conference?
Many experts in the conservation field will attend the 69th Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Conference. Presenting my work regarding queen conch abundance and management will give me the opportunity to express my concern for this species. In addition, it will allow me to receive feedback from them, so I can create better recommendations for the management of this species. I think it will be very important to raise awareness about the status of this species in my area of research among the scientific community and practitioners of the area. Finally, I aim to learn as much as I can from other experts' topics, to become a better future marine manager.