Whales and Dolphins: Ocean Action is Climate Action: Ed's Alumni Story
Ed Goodall graduated from UEA in 2010 with a BSc in Environmental Sciences and has since established a career in conservation.
He has previously worked in wildlife and environmental roles for many organisations including The Woodland Trust, and he’s now a Project Manager at Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
Ed recently came back from COP26 (The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference) in Glasgow and he tells us about his experience at the conference, along with insights from his career and time at UEA.
I have met with some truly inspirational people who are making things happen regardless of [government] policies and regulations
How did you first become interested in conservation issues?
It’s difficult to put a precise time on it but what I do remember is that I never really considered wanting to do anything else. I have always loved being outside and amongst nature and from a very young age. My grandparents had a small farm in the country and I spent my time staring in their pond, feeding the chickens or at their local beach looking in rockpools and hunting for fossils. I grew up and became gradually more aware of the threats nature faces and just tried to learn as much about what was happening and what needed to be done as I could!
And why did you decide to study Environmental Sciences?
I originally wanted to study Wildlife Conservation but opted for Environmental Sciences to get a broad and holistic understanding of environmental issues, theory and solutions. Looking back, I’m really glad I did as it gave me a wide range of knowledge on things I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. What was great though was being able to tailor my course with more units from BIO, meaning I did have a bias towards wildlife conservation in the end.
What are your favourite memories from living or studying in Norwich?
Where to start?! The first year ENV field trip to Slapton and Dr Carlos Peres falling into a stream is a definite standout! Being a member of the bar staff team was brilliant and I have some genuine lifelong friends from my time in Norwich. It will always occupy a special place in my mind.
Did you always imagine you would start working in the conservation sector? Was this industry easy to get into?
It was certainly my aim. It took time for me to find the type of work I really wanted to be doing though. Having relevant experience was the thing that helped me demonstrate to employers that I was serious about working in the sector. I had an office job for a couple of years after graduating but volunteered in my spare time and actually took a pay cut to work less days so I could focus on building up experience. I then worked in a sustainability and education role for a couple more years before landing a job in conservation but it was worth the time and effort.
You now work for Dolphin and Whale Conservation, as a project Manager. What is the main focus of your role?
I lead the climate focussed aspect of WDCs work. In recent years, science has shown that the great whales play a significant role in carbon sequestration. They accumulate huge amounts of carbon on their bodies which is sequestered into the deep ocean when they die. While they are alive, they feed at depth and return to the surface to breathe…. and also defecate – releasing huge amounts of limiting nutrients which are taken up by phytoplankton, which absorb CO2. The main focus of my role is to bring this relatively new scientific concept to the fore and increase the urgency with which whale populations are restored, following centuries of whaling. With my colleagues, I am working to build a research programme with leading cetacean scientists to fill the gaps in the current science, increase awareness of the importance of whales in maintaining a healthy ocean and planet, develop conservation initiatives, whilst also working with economists to develop new sustainable finance mechanisms to fund conservation programmes.
You were previously with the Woodland Trust. From land to sea. What common challenges do you face and what have you had to learn working on Dolphin and Whale projects?
There are many common challenges throughout conservation. One of the most common is the resistance to change those in control. I get it: humans love routine and what we feel comfortable with. What I have been inspired by though, particularly on land, are younger generations coming through, inheriting land or responsibilities, and thinking in a different way. Probably the biggest challenge though is the fact that conservation is so project focussed. There are hardly any long-term conservation finance initiatives available which means conservation work becomes time. We are starting to see things change and governments and the private sector beginning to realise that without a functioning natural world, things will get really bad, really quite soon, so it is in their interests to think in a different way.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I honestly have no idea – I think the biggest thing are certainly yet to come! I suppose if I had to say, perhaps a level of perseverance to get here.
You recently attended COP26. Tell us why Dolphin and Whale conservation is so essential to the fight against climate change.
I said previously about their role as ecosystem engineers, mixing nutrients and sequestering carbon is really important in ensuring the ocean functions optimally. Oceans full of life have provided a stable period in the history of the Earth that has allowed humanity to flourish, and without this we will die out as a species. The ocean covers 71% of the planet and ocean action is climate action. We cannot afford to ignore the nature-based solutions it provides any longer. The ocean is still quite an abstract and alien place to many. Whales and dolphins are species that gain attention and, as fellow mammals, we can identify with them. If we ensure they recover and thrive that will go a long way to helping humanity climb out of this crisis we find ourselves in.
Are you encouraged by what you experienced at COP? Do you think this will be a turning point for humanity?
We are seeing a lot of coastal countries waking up to the blue carbon solutions they have and making some encouraging commitments. The proof is always in the pudding though and we won’t truly know if this COP has been a success until we start to see results. That means emissions levelling out and falling rapidly, biodiversity no longer decreasing, huge swathes of the planet under strictly protected status and much of the rest under sustainable, conservation-led management. What I do have though is hope. I have met with some truly inspirational people who are making things happen regardless of policies and regulations. We are seeing more and more people waking up to the urgent need to restore our world and have dramatically less impact.
What’s next for you and how can people get involved if they want to help protect our marine habitats?
I’ll continue to get stuck in with the exciting work we are building at WDC. Being on the forefront of game changing science of the conservation of the largest species that have ever lived on Earth isn’t a bad thing to wake up for every morning! I would encourage everyone to build on their awareness of how their everyday actions impact our environment. Everything you do or buy has an impact – so you have an opportunity to do something positive every time you get your card or cash out. Alongside this of course, you can support our work at WDC, volunteer on our Shorewatch project in Scotland or join our Scottish Dolphin Centre as a residential intern!
Finally, what would be your advice to students and fellow graduates looking to get started in a career in conservation?
Just do as much as you can. Read the latest news and research in your field, keep up to date with environmental issues, take opportunities when they come up to have new and different experiences and just talk to anyone and everyone about your passion – you never know who you might be talking to!
You can find more Climate stories on our Climate of Change website.