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Ocean Minds presents Julian Gervolino

Profession: Research Assistant

Organisation: Sea Turtle Conservancy

Julian's courage and commitment to learn from the culture and from the people who surround him inspires me. He always has a smile on his face and is a pleasure to be around.

1. How did we meet?

We met on a research expedition with Operation Wallacea in Utila, Honduras. I came as a research assistant and you were completing your divemaster training.

2. What is one memorable ocean moment from our time together?

I had completed my PADI open water training and I was also working on finishing my advanced open water training, so I was still a complete novice in the water. It was on my first night dive that we shared our first “ocean moment” as I believe you were the one leading the dive. Seeing all the different kinds of marine life that came out at night, not to mention all of us waving our hands like maniacs to catch the bioluminescence in the water, was a moment that I’ll never forget.

3. What encouraged you to purse a career in marine biology/conservation?

I have always had a vague plan to go into conservation since I was in school, but it always seemed like a dream, which came and went while I was studying in university. It was only when I took a position as a research assistant with a sea turtle conservation project in Malaysia that I really affirmed this resolve and passion to work towards protecting marine ecosystems and the rich diversity of life that inhabits them. After seeing the beauty of life underwater and grasping the importance of the oceans for the planet, I couldn’t turn away from a career in marine conservation.

4. How did you land your current job?

Although I am not currently working, I have spent the past year working in sea turtle conservation and research in Malaysia and Costa Rica. Fortunately for me, I managed to enter Costa Rica before the restrictions from COVID-19, so I was able to stay on and work as a research assistant for numerous organisations. I found these positions through recommendations from other researchers that I worked with.

5. What is it about your role that makes you feel like you are truly making a difference?

My time in Costa Rica involved a lot of field work and maintaining a physical presence on the beach to protect nesting turtles and collect scientific data from them. This data was crucial for monitoring population trends and assessing the impact of human activity and environmental changes on the species. Aside from the research aspect of the work, patrolling the beach every night protected the turtles from poachers who would usually harvest the eggs and sometimes the turtle itself. We were also actively involved in community outreach and environmental education, which is crucial for changing the local attitudes towards the conservation of sea turtles. I really felt like we were truly making a difference by contributing to the long-term and short-term conservation of these incredible animals.

6. What advice would you give to aspiring ocean warriors?

Don’t be afraid to follow your passion. Do something that gives your purpose and gets you out of bed in the morning, and if it’s not for you, at least you can say that you tried. Marine conservation is no doubt a challenging field to build a career on, but the work you do is so incredibly important not just for the biodiversity of life in the ocean, but also for the lives of people who rely on it.

7. What has been your most unforgettable experience in the ocean and why?

No question my most unforgettable experience in the ocean was diving in Sipadan in Malaysian Borneo. The reefs surrounding island was full to the brim of marine life. I saw massive schools of jack fish and barracuda, sea turtles resting close to the reef at ‘cleaning stations’ and even a lone whale shark. This was such a surreal experience because I caught a glimpse of what most coral reefs looked like 50-100 years ago before the impacts of humans had caused the decline of these ecosystems. It was a reminder of what our oceans could look like if they were properly protected.

8. Who has inspired you to achieve your goals?

For me the faces of conservation such as David Attenborough, Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earle have always been huge inspirations for me to pursue a career in conservation. The work that they’ve done and the things that they’ve achieved set a high benchmark that motivates me to strive for similar goals in the world of conservation. It’s not only the world renowned conservationist that inspire me, but also friends and mentors who are working hard to achieve their own goals in conservation.

9. What do you hope to achieve in the future?

Simply to make a difference. I want to work towards changing people and policies in a way that creates a positive impact on our planet.

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