• • • Danna Moore, Director of Global Operations for Project AWARE, has dedicated her career to the ocean’s waters to keep it clean and those who inhabit it safe. We talked with her about her career beginnings, the future of Project AWARE and the exciting plans the organisation has coming up.

Hi Danna, you’ve had a really impressive career before you even joined Project AWARE. I’d love to know a bit more about that. What encouraged you to move from Oxfam to Future500 working more closely with organisations with environmental objectives?

I started out as a climate activist, mainly doing work on US federal policy. I would be out on the pavement asking people to sign petitions, for example about carbon pricing. Soon after, I joined an organisation called Future 500 and I was there for about seven years. The goal of the organisation is to foster conflict resolution between activists and corporations.

It was a really fascinating experience because I was kind of plucked out of the climate movement, then working with some of the biggest multi-national companies on the planet to broker compromise on deforestation, climate change, coal pollution, etc.

So, I peeled back the curtain and actually worked within companies. I moved from being outside the building to inside the building, which was a really amazing experience for me.

During that time, I got to understand the inner workings of how big companies approach their sustainability and also worked alongside other NGOs to drive systemic change.

I was Vice-President of the organisation and had an amazing mentor there, Bill Shireman, who really supported me and helped grow my career. Over time, I realized I really wanted to focus on oceans.

I grew up in San Diego and my father was an avid surfer, so, I had just always been an ocean adventurer. I was so excited to work on many different environmental issues, but found that I wanted to focus on one thing and the ocean has always pulled me back.

It was a tipping point when I went on a really amazing sailboat trip in the Great Bear Rainforest and my mindset transitioned -I thought ‘this is where I need to be, in an ocean environment and fighting for oceans.’ What’s funny is when I got picked up by Project AWARE, I wasn’t a diver, which is so fascinating and it was such an interesting process for me to learn.

Now that you’ve been with Project AWARE since 2017, what goals do you have for the organisation in terms of its outreach and impact?

There are some five-year goals that we have created with the Project AWARE Board and team. The first is to create the largest underwater citizen science database on the planet. That’s our number one goal and we already have the largest underwater marine debris database on the planet.

So, our aim is to actually expand and diversify other citizen science programs to create this underwater database that basically brings to the surface what’s beneath the waves. Divers are the underwater eyes and the more that they are keeping track of the scientific data underwater, the more we can drive policies on land towards change. So, it’s really linking the citizen science movement from a recreational diving perspective to policy change -that’s our biggest goal in the next 5 years.

Number two is leveraging the programs that we are currently working on. The marine debris work will now take all the data that our community has collected with Dive Against Debris to drive policy change through the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Specifically, ‘SDG 14: Life Below Water,’ so that will be a very big focus for our clean ocean work over the next few years.

Then with sharks and rays, we will continue our fight to protect mako sharks and other vulnerable marine species at CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species We will also be expanding our healthy ocean conservation programs into climate change and coral reef conservation.

Wow, that’s huge! I’m super excited to see where this goes.

Me too! We have an amazing team and community. Without them, none of this would be possible. They are the driving force.

I had just always been an ocean adventurer...

You’ve mentioned before working with local communities and giving power to the citizens in different countries, such as Partnerships Against Trash. Can you tell me a little more about what the plan is to engage with individuals and communities at a more grassroots level?

I think what we’ve done extremely well as an organisation is to build this community movement through Project AWARE.

The way in which a recreational diver goes through the process of taking action for conservation is unique and inspiring. For us, it’s about engaging the ocean adventurer in the conservation goal and showing how they take action in a very clear way.

For me, that is giving them more what we call ‘Fins on and Fins Off Actions.’ These actions empower our community to drive towards systemic change at the grassroots level.

Looking at the future, have you got any achievements you’d like to reach in the coming years?

From a citizen science perspective, I would really like to see our ‘Adopt a Dive Site’ program scale and take flight. We currently have 500 globally but I’d really like to see 5,000. To me, that means lots of points of light that can tell a story from a citizen science perspective all across the globe

I’d also like for all of our citizen science data to be published in a scientific, peer-reviewed journal (which is going to happen in 2019 for our marine debris work!). This is going to be such a game-changer in people understanding the larger scope of the problem from an underwater perspective.

But from a policy point of view, I’d want to see a win on Mako Sharks. I think that would be huge. I’d just really like to see it come to fruition because our community and team has worked so hard to educate and advocate for Makos.

For young women who may want to get involved in Ocean Conservation or anything else along those lines, what sort of advice would you give to them?

Ah, that’s such a good question…I think you should try a little bit of everything. I would say spend the first portion of your career trying out everything you can.

Try all different flavours of things, there are so many avenues within this industry and you have to determine what is going to make the biggest conservation impact while simultaneously fulfilling your own career goals and passions. I’ve found that the way people define conservation impacts is very different and I think you have to discover what that means to you. You can only do that by experiencing an array of approaches, ideals and communities within (and outside!) the NGO movement.

• • Wise words, Danna is a true leader and inspiration in the world of conservation. Her persistance and drive is extremely inspiring and we cannot wait to see all she is going to achieve for the better of our oceans.

August 29, 2019 — Janaya Wilkins