Giovana Silva Lerda has signed a project contract with the Conservation International Brazil team to carry out some serious hands-on research. She landed this job due to the experience she gained during an internship at Horizon Dive Adventures, Inc. in Key Largo, Florida on a J-1 visa sponsored by the Swedish-American Chambers of Commerce-USA.
During her years as a communications major at Stockholm University, Giovana was granted a Minor Field Studies scholarship financed by SIDA. She spent two months in post-war Sierra Leone assessing an environmental awareness campaign around the Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary. By doing this she helped the Environmental Foundation for Africa measure life improvement indicators in rural communities around Tiwai. Her research was focused on optimizing environmental education and campaigns in developing societies. This is where her commitment to sustainable development began.
Going to the U.S.to undertake a Master Scuba Diving internship was thus not the first change of scenery she had experienced, nor the last. At Horizon Divers in Key Largo, Florida, Giovana got the chance to train in different aspects of running a DiveCenter, from business and sales to public affairs and management. The internship enabled her to gain extraordinary knowledge and experience within marine ecosystems and environmental education. She also got to do important voluntary work in coral reef restoration and exotic species control, to mitigate the impact of the invasive Asian lionfish in Atlantic waters.
After her internship, Giovana went to live with her grandparents in Brazil, where she began her job search, aiming to work with coral reef conservation. Due to her previous experiences, she didn’t have to look far. This summer, Conservation International Brazil told Giovana that they had “never met a communications person with the specific experience with marine ecosystems, coastal communities and voluntary work with reef conservation initiatives,” and she was offered a job as a communications consultant in the field she loves.
The project Giovana is working with includes some serious hands-on research on what the region around Abrolhos Marine National Park (northeastern Brazil) needs in terms of advocacy, information and communication. As part of the consultancy, she organized a workshop in collaboration with partner organizations, local fishermen and local politicians. Its objective was to create a dialogue and figure out a communications action plan to raise awareness of the Region of Abrolhos as an area of great importance, not only for the local communities, but also for the Brazilian society and government.
When Giovana describes her new job, it is evident that she was influenced by her time in Florida. “I wouldn’t have done this without SACC. Also a special thanks goes to Dan Dawson, Tom Witmer and the wonderful Horizon Divers crew. Hopefully, some day people in Brazil will be able to take tare of our reefs the way the people I met in Florida take care of theirs” she says. We at the SACC-USA Trainee Program wish Giovana the best of luck with her exciting project!