ECOP Publications

Photo credit: The Ocean Agency / Ocean Image Bank

Taylor Goelz, Jonatha Giddens, Alfredo Giron, Harriet Harden-Davies, Evgeniia Kostianaia, Guillermo Ortuno Crespo, Erin Satterwaite, Edward Senkondo, and the membership of the former ECOP Internal Working Group reveal how the ECOP Programme began and its focus for the future in an article for ECO Magazine.

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Today, the world’s oceans are faced with threats at every turn – accelerating climate change, loss of marine biodiversity, and expanding resource extraction, including deep-sea mining, and more.  These all come at a time when humanity’s dependence on the ocean for food and job security is higher than ever before.

The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development – known as the UN Ocean Decade – began in 2021 and aims to ensure ocean sustainability into the future. This vision demands collaborative action across sectors, disciplines, nations, communities, and generations. Its success relies on the inclusion of a diverse array of voices that represent current and future ocean leaders. As emerging ocean leaders, early-career ocean professionals will play a key role in designing and executing the inclusive ocean knowledge needed to achieve success.

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Alfredo Giron-Nava didn’t spot many peers at the inaugural meeting of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development.

The postdoctoral researcher was one of only six junior scientists at the event, held in Copenhagen in May 2019. Four of them began discussions on how to boost the representation of junior scientists in the initiative, which sets global research priorities for ocean sciences.

After they persuaded organizers to give them a concluding talk slot, Giron-Nava, now a fisheries researcher at Stanford University in California, told the meeting, “It’s important to have early-career researchers who, at the end of the decade, will feel ownership and leadership of the objectives we are deciding here.”

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Alfredo Giron, PhD, is a Mexico City native, current UC Santa Barbara post-doc, UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) co-chair for the Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOP) working group, and overall fisheries enthusiast. ECO interviewed Giron to gain his perspective on the interface of ocean science and fisheries and how his work ties into the Decade’s overarching goals.

Accurate fisheries statistics and models are often hard to come by and fisheries management suffers as a result.  Giron’s approach to fisheries work boldly embodies the Decade’s motto “the Science we need for the ocean we want” and emphasizes the need for multi-disciplinary work.

Giron’s own PhD analyzed fisheries in the Gulf of California, where oversimplified models have long been used to calculate Mexican sardine statistics. Giron’s response to this?  ‘I think we can do better.  It’s a problem all over the world.  How do we move from relationships that we assume to be true to studying interactions in the real world and with real data?’
It’s a fair response.  But just how do we do this?

Read his full interview with ECO here.

Erin Satterthwaite and Alfredo Giron-Nava discuss their rationale behind forming the Informal Working Group of ECOPs, which has now evolved into the official, endorsed ECOP Programme.

Earlier this year, we had the amazing opportunity to attend the first planning meeting for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, an intergovernmental framework to align the visions of the global ocean community and develop shared goals on the path toward sustainability. During this meeting, we noticed that the room was filled with mostly senior and mid-career people. We found ourselves asking, how can we have hope that the Ocean Decade’s goals will be met if we don’t include and empower self-identified early career professionals?

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ECOP Programme co-founder Alfredo Giron-Nava talks about the legacy of Walter Munk and how being a proud recipient of the Walter Munk Scholar Award has enabled him the opportunity to voice his perspective as an ECOP, and request more inclusion in the implementation of the Decade of Ocean Science. 

Walter Munk, one of history’s greatest oceanographers, frequently mentioned his fear that young researchers are no longer pursuing high-risk, high-reward projects. Driven by competition for limited funding, strict career expectations, and apparent lack of encouragement, daring research projects led by younger researchers seemed to him to be on the fringe of extinction. But why was Walter particularly interested in these types of projects? What can we learn from his professional career that might inspire our generation to pursue such risky ideas?

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