Just a little trip to Marseille

At F&ES, I’m constantly impressed by the unbelievable opportunities available to students. Ample funding is available for summer internships, hosting speakers, attending conferences, and much more. I got the chance to sit down with Sam Teicher, a fifth-year Master of Environmental Management candidate to talk with him about his most recent FES adventure.

Kaylee Weil: Sam, I hear you just traveled to Marseille, France! Can you tell me why you went there?
Sam Teicher: Of course, I’d be happy to. I was attending IMPAC3, the Third International Marine Protected Areas Congress. The Congress is held every four years, and this year it was hosted by the French city of Marseille and the island of Corsica. It was previously held in Washington D.C. in 2009 and the Australian city of Geelong in 2005. The first five days were for sharing practical and technical knowledge between stakeholders, and took place in Marseille at the Palais du Pharo, an incredible public venue built by Napoleon III overlooking the Vieux Port of Marseille.

KW: What was the sequence of events while you were there?
ST: Over 1500 scientists, marine park managers, economists, politicians, students came from around the world to share knowledge and help create solutions for marine conservation and sustainable development. The final two days in Ajaccio, Corsica, allowed government representatives and major international institutions to develop policy initiatives to effectively protect at least 10% of our planet’s coastal and marine areas by 2020 (known as Aichi Target 11). Unfortunately, I was not in fact deemed a high-level stakeholder so I did not attend the meetings in Corsica.

KW: How did you hear about the conference?
ST: I learned about IMPAC3 through the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), a partnership of island nations and nations with islands promoting conservation and sustainable development. I am working with GLISPA as a Fellow through my course International Organizations & Conferences, taught by Professor Gordon Geballe. Its overall theme focuses on international environmental governance and negotiations. In addition to in-class lectures, there is a practical element, and the class was split up into teams at the start of the term to work with external stakeholders on a variety of international environmental issues. Eventually, each team helps the organization on the ground at a major international conference or event, which is how I ended up at IMPAC3 in Marseille with GLISPA. For example, one group is working with Protect Our Winters (POW) to utilize the 2014 Winter Olympics as a platform to raise awareness of how climate change impacts winter sports, while another is assisting Palau’s Ambassador Stuart Beck to help develop the Sustainable Development Goals for Oceans. (KW: One of FES’s bloggers, Mariah Gill, wrote about the Ocean Angels about a month ago).

KW: Who were the major players at the conference?
ST: The major organizers of the congress were the Agence des Aires Marines Protégées, the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), in addition to a dozen or so other partners. Since it sounded like you want to hear about a couple bigshots, I’ll go ahead and do a bit of notable attendee namedropping: His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco, Julia Marton-Lefevre, the Director General of the IUCN, Seychelles Ambassador for Climate Change and Small Island Developing States Ronny Jumeau, and of course “Her Deepness” Sylvia Earle, to name a few. But from what I witnessed, the major players were truly the attendees. IMPAC3 allowed people like Gildas Andriamalala to speak with institution presidents and share lessons and stories from his work with impoverished fishing communities in southwestern Madagascar to implement an annual two-month ban on octopus fishing, helping to restore octopus populations while putting more money in villagers’ pockets in the long run. Professors from the United States to the United Arab Emirates explained the value in ecosystem services and the potential of blue carbon sequestration to business executives. Hundreds of people in the Palace seemed to be wearing “Party for Pitcairn” shirts, a brilliant PR coup by the Pitcairn Islands to raise awareness about their efforts to create one of the largest marine protected areas in the world. It was simply amazing to see and hear all of these brilliant people come from around the world to learn from each other and create solutions for the challenges our blue planet faces.

Sam Pic 2

FES Students/GLISPA Fellows Sam Teicher, Leah Meth, and Zena Grecni with GLISPA Steering Committee member Ambassador Ronny Jumeau of the Seychelles

KW: What was your role as a representative of Yale F&ES?
ST: So although my business card has the whole MEM at F&ES spiel, I introduced myself as a GLISPA Fellow, because that’s who I was there for. GLISPA hosted a workshop and an evening event, “Championing Aichi Targets: Island Actions for our Global Oceans,” with Rare and the IUCN. They both focused on island Bright Spots, which are conservation and sustainable development projects and initiatives from islands that can help to achieve Aichi Target 11. Myself and classmates Leah Meth and Zena Grecni assisted GLISPA and its partners in any way needed. If the two Kate’s (Kate Brown from GLISPA and Kate Mannle from Rare) wanted us interviewing Bright Spots speakers, we pulled out the camera and started shooting. We drove GLISPA’s social media presence by live tweeting meaningful or impressive quotes and sharing photo highlights on Facebook from the week. And personally, I acted as the body man for Ambassador Jumeau, who chairs GLISPA’s steering committee, assisting him at events, organizing his schedule and helping him out however possible. Think Charlie Young from ‘The West Wing,’ but without Secret Service protection.

KW: What was your favorite part of the conference?
ST: The ability to meet and learn from all of these incredible people, as well as to help GLISPA champion the environmental leadership on display by islands around the world. And I’d be lying if I didn’t mention the gourmet spread at the conference meals — the French really know how to be good hosts!

KW: What was your least favorite part of the conference?
ST: So I picked up an interesting assessment technique called pros and deltas during GLISPA’s post event meeting. Rather than pros and cons, pros and deltas lets everyone involved share their perspective on what went right and what should have been done differently. One thing IMPAC4 (being hosted in Chile) should consider is how they schedule events. Although I understand the logic behind organizing each day by a certain theme (Tools for Effective Management & Enforcement, Governance, Partnerships & Industry Involvement, Regional Approaches, etc.), this created a serious dilemma of choosing which workshops to attend. Rather than being able to choose from a diverse array of topics, all of the ecosystem services talks, or coral rehabilitation seminars, and so forth conflicted with one another, and it was difficult to pick and choose. As my mom’s grandmother use to say, you can only dance at one wedding with the same tuchus!

KW: What would you suggest to future FESers attending conferences?
ST: Don’t be afraid to put on a smile and introduce yourself. It certainly was intimidating for the first day or two. I kept thinking to myself “Who am I compared to all of these people, and what can I possibly say to them?” But eventually, I realized that nearly everyone was happy to speak with me (unless they only spoke French, which I absolutely do not), and I ended up having some fantastic conversations with people ranging from community-based marine park managers to ambassadors to underwater cartographers. Be sure to talk to the staff helping out around the venue too – the hostesses at the registration turned out to have the best advice for fun things to do around Marseille during our free time. Definitely take up any invitations to go out with colleagues or new acquaintances. And in all seriousness, have a good time.

KW: Thanks so much for chatting with me about your amazing experience! It sounds like you had an incredible time and learned a great deal.