In the latest instalment in our series of staff Q&As, we ask Trevor Jones, Geospatial Analyst; Manager, Blue Carbon Science, some searching questions about science, conservation and superpowers…
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
What is your background?
I received BA in Geography and Studio Art and a MA in Geographic Information Science from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. While at Clark I first became involved in mapping forests, which (thankfully) required a considerable amount of time outside. From Massachusetts I went to Vancouver, British Columbia, where I received a PhD in Forest Resource Management from the University of British Columbia. This work involved mapping (and again spending lots of time in) the forests of the British Columbian Gulf Isles.
Why do you do what you do? (what/who inspires you – do you have any heroes?)
I work for Blue Ventures because of the people. This includes (in no particular order) foreign and Malagasy colleagues, community members and the many students, interns and volunteers I’ve had the great pleasure and fortune of working, socializing and associating with. The genuine passion and mind boggling dedication exhibited by those involved with BV and the potential benefit that collectively these projects can bring to coastal communities is more than enough to get me out of bed. Being outside in Madagascar was also quite fantastic.
What is the best/worst thing about working in conservation?
The best thing about working in conservation is getting to go to and hopefully make positive contributions within communities positioned in some of the most unique and compelling mosaics of terrestrial, inter-tidal and marine ecosystems you’ll encounter anywhere in the world. The worst thing about working in conservation is being submerged near chest deep in mangrove mud in 40 degree (Celsius) heat, having your latest attempt at footwear fail, knowing much of your body is covered with some kind of a skin fungus, and mustering up all of your energy to maintain a clear head and accomplish the goals of the day. But then again, a worse thing may actually be having left that mangrove mud…
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Again, the people ! Whether working with and learning from, or being warmly received and welcomed in homes, or eating, dancing and generally being merry until the wee hours of the morning, or hopefully a healthy mix and balance of all. With both foreign and Malagasy colleagues, community members and the many students, interns and volunteers I’ve had the great pleasure and fortune of working, socializing and associating with (and still do!).
Describe your normal working day…
Back to having left the mangrove mud… Since leaving Madagascar in July 2013, my normal working day is not as hot, exhausting or incredible as it may once have been. These days my normal working day involves standing (yes, I’ve giving up sitting) in front of a computer at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, and to the best of my abilities contributing to many aspects of geospatial and blue carbon science. This involves (but is not limited to) using satellite imagery to map past and current distributions of mangroves and surrounding ecosystems in our study sites, scanning the literature and coordinating with experts to confirm the details of analysis methodologies (e.g., for soil carbon estimates), reviewing the goals of and working with students on their projects, helping plan out and budget for field missions, and of course maintaining close and regular contact with my colleagues in Madagascar, the UK, Belize and elsewhere. That said, there are still abnormal working days, which involve receiving training in places like Google headquarters during their annual Geo for Good mapping Summit, and even those that get me back in that mud, such as upcoming participation in the Northern Emirates Carbon Survey in the United Arab Emirates in November.
What is your favourite species or group of species and why?
Before I knew barely anything about the forests of Madagascar, I was, for years, immersed in studying and spending time in the coastal temperate rainforests of British Columbia, Canada. During this time, a long-term love and appreciation for the stature (height and diameter) and both ecological roles and many cultural uses of the Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) took root – pun intended.
What would your science superpower be?
To not require footwear in the mangrove ecosystems. There is nothing superhuman about this, but it would be extremely useful. I’ve taken stock of how many different types of footwear I’ve lost to the mangroves. In my experience, the second best thing to experienced and calloused feet are canvas Converse All Stars…
What do you like to do in your free time?
Go, and then remain outside.
What is one of the strangest things that has happened to you while working in conservation?
One would have to be during a stay in a remote coastal settlement near Port St Louis in North-western Madagascar; one of our hosts was said to have the ability to read the contents of notes using only his mind. Upon request, we were asked to write down anything we wanted, whatever came to mind on a piece of paper. This was being done while the man in question was easily 50m away, yet still in sight. After writing literally whatever came to our minds on little bits of paper, the man returned, took the papers from us while maintaining eye contact…and ate them one by one. While doing so, he proceeded to tell us what each one said, without making a single mistake. Bear in mind there was no electricity and electronics of any kind for that matter were nowhere to be seen. This is actually one of the strangest things that has happened to me in general. Thanks for helping me bring this memory back to the surface!