Why I chose the Marine Systems and Policies Masters

I am James Nikitine, 30 years old, French and British, originally from near Geneva, Switzerland. With a background in film, digital media, public relations and advocacy, I worked for 3 years in Geneva and Oxford for an environmental production company, Green.TV and for a non-governmental organization working on links between conflict and land degradation: Land, Lives, Peace. Before that, and after my BA at Exeter, I spent 3 years backpacking in the South Pacific, in Samoa, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand where I worked as a dive guide on the Great Barrier Reef. It was then that I realized I wanted to pursue in marine, so I also became a diving instructor last year. I enrolled in the MSc marine systems and policies at the University of Edinburgh and am almost there! Although I grew up in the Alps near Geneva, my relationship with the ‘blue’ is long running as I started diving when I was 8, diving in Corsica with my family.

Recently our ‘pod’ of 15 marine MSc students from 12 different countries spent two weeks on a traditional remote atoll in the Maldives, learning research field methods at the University of Milano-Bicocca’s maRHE marine lab, through underwater work, geomorphology of atoll islands and social research methods. This experience was highly valuable, as we learnt how to understand tropical island processes through an interdisciplinary prism, a methodology very much at the core of the MSc programme. To me this holistic mentality is extremely necessary, in order to understand how systems and policies work. Having spent time working internationally with UN, NGOs and business professionals, when speaking to them all came to the same conclusion: working in silos is inefficient, and we must work understanding holistically. This approach embedded in the Maldives trip is immensely necessary as one tackles issues such as waste management, natural resource management, or even when monitoring corals for bleaching. Being on a traditional island such as Magoodhoo for an immersive 9 days made this programme even more relevant to the problems our world faces. During the trip, I took the opportunity to interview our programme director, Dr. Meriwether Wilson, the head of Geosciences Prof. Sandy Tudhope, and social anthropologist Dr. Laura Jeffery while we were looking for whale sharks. You will shortly be able to watch the videos on the marine website.

The trip was made particularly interesting as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was asking for people to submit data for their citizen science bleaching monitoring project. As this year’s El Niño Southern Oscillation event is particularly strong, records were showing between 1-2C˚ sea surface temperature rise (SST) for the Indian Ocean, thus affecting coral’s ability to retain their symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae. When we arrived in Malé the capital, we made a visit to the IUCN office (photo of us in the office) where Gabriel Grimsditch and their fantastic team told us about their activities in coral resilience through their project REGENERATE. This was a great way to introduce our work in maRHE! You can find out more about their work here.

Finally, one of my fondest memories from being in the Maldives was when during a sunset sail, our entire group jumped off the top of the boat, known as Donhi, and were all laughing and having fun. It was a great experience and I would recommend it!

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Since October 2015, I have been a member of the IUCN World Commission for Protected Areas (WCPA) and also an active volunteer contributor to the IUCN WCPA Marine Young Professionals Task Force. In December, we created an infographic on the links between ocean and climate for display during ocean day at COP21, and we are now working on a blue solutions competition for the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii in September.More information

After completing this MSc with a dissertation on large-scale marine protected areas and Pitcairn, I wish to continue my efforts working in marine conservation, running projects, communicating and educating through advocacy. I believe it is crucially important to protect our ocean as it is the life support system on our planet. As population increases, the pressure on the ecosystems is huge. We simply cannot maintain healthy biodiversity levels if we pursue with our consumption model and pathological neglect for the environment. We need to make peace with nature and work together in order to reach true sustainability. My family, wife Sylvie and first baby boy due in a few weeks are what is most precious to me in life. I want him to grow up in a world where there will be coral reefs, forests, and rich biodiversity. That is why we cannot wait to act and must work towards conservation and resilience immediately.

Connect with James – @jamesnikitine Twitter and Instagram


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