Into The Industry: EarthEco
This week we sat down with Jaclyn Gerakios, who empowers the younger generation to tackle environmental challenges and create solutions for a more sustainable future, by continuing Jacques Cousteau's legacy (her biggest inspiration - she even has a cat named after him!). Read on to hear about Jaclyn's work with EarthEco, including their latest expedition: Plastic Seas.
Hey Jaclyn! Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am an avid ocean advocate and ocean lover. I live in Florida with my husband Peter and our 3 rescued dogs, 6 rescued cats and turtle. I grew up in Ohio and have been fascinated by the ocean for as long as I can remember. I am a SCUBA instructor and I love adventuring under the sea. I also volunteer my time with a local sea turtle patrol during nesting season as a supervisor, monitoring the beach for turtle nests and hatchlings.
I have a Bachelor’s degree from Ohio University in Marine Biology and a Master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University in Environmental Education. I am the past president of the Florida Marine Science Educators Association and was on the board of directors for many years. I have worked as an informal educator at marine science camps and on eco-tour boats. During my time as a classroom teacher, I taught grades 5-12 all science subjects, including marine biology and environmental science. Additionally I have held positions as as an aquarist, water quality technician and divemaster.
What makes you passionate about the ocean and environment?
My passion for the ocean stemmed from my childhood. The organisms that live in the sea are all fascinating to me and I feel there is so much more for us to learn and discover in the ocean. The ocean is the blue heart of our planet, as it impacts everyone, no matter where you live.
I’ve also always been passionate about the environment. I love being outside and immersed in nature. I believe it is good for the soul to take a minute away from technology to reconnect with the natural world. I also feel that we are at a point in our history where we need to make changes, specifically behavioural and policy changes, to help our planet become healthy and balanced again. All of these things combined make me a very passionate environmental educator and communicator.
What is your current job role and what responsibilities do you have?
I am the Expeditions Manager for EarthEcho, International. Our Expeditions program is an annual event that takes 25 amazing teachers (fellows) on a trip to examine an environmental problem somewhere in the world. We produce a series of videos hosted by Phillipe Cousteau. In conjunction with Director of Programs and Communications Director, I facilitate the annual launch of program components.
In order to plan an Expedition, I research and connect with partner organizations and individuals to be featured in Expedition content. I assist in the process of creating a storyline for each Expedition, schedule travel logistics, recruit and select each year’s participating cohort of educators. This includes preparing and vetting the application and distributing to EarthEcho’s existing network of educators and partners.
I assist in leading annual workshops for the educator cohort for the purpose of creating Expedition resources for middle and high school classrooms, including STEM lesson plans based around our topic, with potential solutions.
I represent EarthEcho as a trainer, presenter and moderator for EarthEcho-hosted events and webinars, as well as industry conferences. I also identify, write, and post regular content updates to EarthEcho’s website and social media sites.
How is EarthEcho using Jacques Cousteau’s legacy to inspire the next generation?
EarthEcho International is a nonprofit organization founded on the belief that youth have the power to change our planet. Established by siblings Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau in honor of their father Philippe Cousteau Sr., and grandfather legendary explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, our mission is to inspire young people worldwide to act now for a sustainable future. Philippe Sr.’s belief in “a world where every single child can breathe fresh air, drink clean water, and walk on green grass under a blue sky” serves as our vision to this day.
Our approach is simple; EarthEcho’s 21st century tools and interactive resources equip the young people of today with the skills to identify and solve environmental challenges, starting in their own communities. Specifically, with the Expeditions program, we continue the legacy of the Cousteau’s exploration of the environment. I work with our cohort of educators to help them empower their students around the world to start acting now for a more sustainable future.
Why is encouraging people into STEM important?
STEM (science, technology engineering and math) in my opinion, is the way of the future. We believe in encouraging students and teachers to use STEM activities in the classroom and beyond, as it allows students to look at problems from their point of view, and engineer their own solutions to problems that our planet is currently facing. STEM is a wonderful way of getting young people thinking about their future and how they can help make our planet a better place. Also, STEM is going to be the new work field for many young people. “ The future of the economy is in STEM,” says James Brown, the executive director of the STEM Education Coalition in Washington, D.C. “That’s where the jobs of tomorrow will be.”
Tell me a little about EarthEcho’s current expedition: PlasticSeas
Our 2018 Expedition: PlasticSeas is taking place in early October. We will be visiting Melbourne, Australia - our first international Expedition! Our Australian cohort of fellows will learn first-hand from scientists, engineers and experts in Australia by examining how communities are working to fight the war on ocean plastics. PlasticSeas will explore issues of plastic pollution as they relate to the impacts on marine organisms, habitats and humans. Expedition fellows will experience on-site production of video resources and participate in collaborative curriculum development of adventure-based STEM learning modules. These modules will introduce students across the world to the innovative engineering and technology solutions being implemented to help clean up ocean plastic pollution and how we can move away from using plastics. In 2019, PlasticSeas modules will be distributed digitally to middle schools across the world at no charge.
Tell me a little about STEMExplore
EarthEcho’s STEMEXplore program highlights relatable voices and exciting life experiences from professionals, to make careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) come alive with a series of interactive videos and virtual field trips, hosted at stemexplore.org.
Whose work has influenced and inspired you?
From a young age I was inspired by Jacques Cousteau, I even have a cat with his name! I remember watching the series with my family and being amazing by the life in the ocean, and how vast it is.
I was also very influenced by my science teachers throughout my academic years, particularly in middle and high school. I read Lady and the Sharks by Dr. Eugenie Clark as a young girl and that inspired me even more. I met Dr. Sylvia Earle the first time when she came to Ohio University to talk about Women in Science. She was so kind, and I am happy to say I have had the chance to meet her several times since then and have read all of her books. I have also been inspired by the work of my team at EarthEcho, Philippe and our team work tirelessly to make sure we are making an impact on youth and teachers around the world.
Last, but certainly not least, I am always inspired by young people. We have a Youth Leadership Council on EarthEcho and they inspire me always, they have such bright new ideas and passion, the work they do for EarthEcho and more gives me hope for our future.
The ocean has changed rapidly in the last couple of decades. Could you leave us with any words of wisdom about ocean conservation?
My biggest piece of advice to everyone about ocean conservation is that we all can make a difference. Picking up that one cigarette butt on the sidewalk, or plastic bag on the beach, may not seem like it is a big deal, but in the grand scheme of things it is. I also believe in sharing our passion with people who may not understand why ocean conservation is so important, if you can tie ocean conservation to things like weather, health, the economy, etc., people will start to listen and that’s where we can start to see behavioral changes. To quote Her Deepness, Dr. Sylvia Earle, “No water, no life, no blue, no green”.
What advice would you give to people who want to go into this career?
My advice to anyone who wants to enter the environmental or ocean field is to be passionate. Do not give up and try as many aspects of the field you can. I’ve had lots of jobs in lots of different facets of the field, including unpaid positions. The more you try, the more you can narrow down where your passion will be best directed to encourage positive change.