Meet our Early Career Ocean Professionals: Martina Gaglioti (Challenge 10)

Martina Gaglioti is a marine biologist with a background in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and scientific diving. She has been an avid diver since she 9 years old and throughout her career has worked for several research institutes and universities as well as being a member of the European Marine Science Educators Association (EMSEA) Med working group, since 2021. She is cofounder of TRASH TALK IN ACTION a UN Ocean Decade Action contributing to Ocean Literacy going beyond the national boundaries; encouraging “learning by doing” and discovering the marine world through arts and gamification approach whilst promoting Ocean advocacy in an inclusive way.

 1. Hi Martina, can you tell us how are you working towards the Ocean Decade Challenge 10: Change humanity’s relationship with the Ocean?

I’m leading EU Blue School initiatives by working as an external expert for the Italian Ministry of Education and I’m supporting a local community in Kenya in the development of a grassroots developed Ocean Club. This is a part of my job, since I’m daily committed also to other high level panels (IUCN, SER, UNDC, IPBES) to contribute to the main challenges we are going to face in the next years of the Decade.  I try to do my best to be a reference also in other contexts sharing experiences and expertise with anyone, beyond Europe, who has respect for the path I took so far, with great passion and dedication.

2. Why do you think it is important to work towards this Challenge?

Since there is a lot of misunderstanding, we need to improve qualified knowledge of the Ocean and sea-related topics as well as improve our communication skills. We cannot protect what we don’t know in the end. Also, it is important to move away from an old fashioned scientific world too committed to citations and papers rush, rather than sharing all this knowledge with the wider audience. The actions need to be co-designed respecting the local traditions and the local ecological knowledge of people we have the honor (not the sole right!) to interact with.

3. What was the Ocean’s influence on you growing up, and what’s has changed for you since you’ve been working towards this Challenge?

I graduated as marine biologist and diving professional in 2015, junior diver (officially) since 2001, I joined the EMSEA community as marine educator in 2020! Honestly, at a first glance my pathway may appear messy since I didn’t have a highly academic sounding or too rewarding career maybe, but in the end I’m doing what I wished to do, in line with my values (since I was a kid). So I couldn’t wish for more, right now! The cloudy period seems to be so far away and I don’t want to look back more. With perseverance, commitment and the right people on your side every dream can come true. I’d like to say this to every young colleague approaching the “Blue world” right now!

4. What was the Ocean’s influence on you growing up, and what’s changed for you since you’ve been working towards this Challenge?

The Ocean has always played a central role in my life. It helped me to survive on cloudy days and it is the frame of the shiniest ones. I feel bad when I’m far from the sea, actually. I think many mental issues or depression sickness are due to the disconnection from nature and the sea also. I think as scientists we also have this duty toward the wider society, but we need to guide people toward a fair and rewarding relationship with the Ocean. We cannot just remember about it for the holiday break or during the summer season. It is too reductive to truly understand the greatness of the marine environment. For me the hardest thing is still defining everything I do as a job, but I should learn to do that especially after the latest high level recognitions I had! 

5. What is unique about your perspective/motivation (culturally, geographically, personal connection etc)?

I grew up doing every kind of activity related to the sea, my sea-related knowledge goes far beyond the academic recognitions I had and formally acquired skills. I think this is a subject which can be learned from direct experience, rather than studying only through reading publications (even if they are important to shape strong knowledge bases, of course!). I have been lucky enough to live and grew up in the first designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Italy, maybe it contributed a lot to enriching my life and guiding my professional choices and achievements in the end.

6. Tell us about some of your recent achievements/highlights/success or alternatively what are you struggling with, or what challenges/barriers are you facing?  

Recently I had the opportunity to join the UN Decade Conference in Barcelona, being awarded a travel grant and two of my latest projects have been positively recognized within the EU Blue School Network. I also represented the ECOP people asking for an amendment, basically accepted, within the Venice Declaration draft. Last but not the least I’m also glad that people engaged in the co-designed TRASH TALK IN ACTION initiative joined the Kenyan national node, which was born consequently to our grassroots partnership development. Establishing a partnership with a local guy we managed to engage more than a hundred kids from a marginalized community based in Kenya. Working for people from less developed countries is also another duty we need to accomplish to make the Ocean knowledge as fair and equitable as possible and i have to say it has been one of the most rewarding collaborations i had so far. I’m grateful to the UN Ocean Decade platform for making me do this experience, allowing me to get in contact with so many contexts I never thought reachable before.

 

Another great achievement for which I’m still truly excited is the Ocean Literacy World Conference held in Venice just a few days ago (7-8 June 2024). I represented the ECOP Programme in asking for an amendment, which was basically accepted, within the Venice Declaration draft. Back in 2021 I served as an individual consultant for IOC-UNESCO within the Ocean Literacy team at the very beginning of this Decade journey, and afterwards contributed to the UN Decade National Committee, so it was emotional to join the Conference and contribute to the inclusion of an explicit reference to ECOPs within the Venice Declaration.  I was also honored to be invited by other ECOPs on stage to read this integrative article: it has been such a rewarding achievement for me, confirming the appreciation of what I’m doing for the “blue world” even from other colleagues, which is not always a very obvious thing! Do you want to have an idea of how exciting it was? Have a glimpse here.

7. How can people support you and your work? 

With reference to TRASH TALK IN ACTION initiative you can get in touch with our team here: https://www.trashtalkinaction.org/ or follow us on our YouTube Channel.

In the near future I’d like to be properly funded also to accomplish a duty I promised to my “transboundary colleagues”…I cannot say more now, but fingers crossed for that! 🙂 

For any other “salty matter” I’m on LinkedIn and I’d be really pleased to be contacted there from people who really takes care of the Ocean and want to contribute in a meaningful way to this Global mission.

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