MSc Marine Systems and Policies graduate James Nikitine set up a company that makes environmental films and consults on marine conservation and communications.
MSc Marine Systems and Policies
|Year of Graduation||2016|
Your time at the University
While I was working in Geneva and Oxford in the environmental and sustainability journalism and communications industry, I was becoming increasingly obsessed with my time in the South Pacific where I worked in 2009-2012 as a divemaster and environmental advocate with Greenpeace. This meant my path was becoming more "blue" than "green" and so I realised in 2015 it was time for me to "go back to school" and pursue an interdisciplinary programme in marine science, ecology and policy.
The MSc Marine Systems and Policies at Edinburgh University was a natural pick, as my background as a keen scuba diver, ocean advocate and marine science enthusiast aligned with the programme content really well. My experience began immediately and at a fast pace, because as I brought along other professional activities, I was not submerged by academic life.
Indeed, since 2015 I have been a volunteer with the IUCN-WCPA Marine Task Force (that I subsequently joined right before the programme began) and during the first semester at University, I was invited to COP21 (2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference) to participate in the “Ocean for Climate” events that meant ocean issues were being more included in climate negotiations.
Later that year, I was also invited to the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i where I worked producing a short film for the World Commission on Protected Areas (“Stewards of the Planet”).
All these experiences combined with an exciting mid-year field trip in the Maldives and excellent policy lectures looking at the International Law of the Marine Environment or marine protected area (MPA) management practices meant my year was fuller than ever but certainly not boring!
Altogether we were 15 students, from all origins and backgrounds, Russia, China, the UK, Spain, Denmark, Holland, the USA…and the teaching was also really good and holistic. The work was challenging as I had not been in an academic context for over 8 years, and my first degree was a Bachelor of Arts in Film! The difference could not be more striking, particularly with the scientific reading, geographic information system (GIS) and remote sensing modules.
My year was also exciting in the fact that my son Maui was born during my dissertation writing, something that not many people have! Overall things went really well, and everyone was friendly. My experience on this programme in such an amazing city was one to remember forever.
Your experiences since leaving the University
Edinburgh has an incredible marine science legacy and background and currently it is in the process of reclaiming its position as a significant one in the “marine world”. I felt incredibly privileged to walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, John Muir, and also more recently Sylvia A Earle (who was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2017), in being part of a very old and important institution (1583).
And Scotland is also an incredible country; its natural features are absolutely stunning and without hesitation, I’d go back to live and work there. The people are genuine, affectionate and I really like their culture and personalities. Our experience as a group was amazing, as the programme welcomed us for a team bonding surf session in Dunbar and ended with a few nights retreat on the Island of Muck in the Inner Hebrides. With the 12-day Maldives expedition on a traditional remote island, doing coral reef bleaching transects, social science interviews with Muslim women and geomorphology studies of atolls, our experience as a group was just too good to be true.
I think the programme is very successful in the fact that it manages to join together the science, the policy, and the human aspects very well, altogether in very enjoyable "holistic" experience, thanks to the programme organizers and lecturers. The proximity with the lecturers and professors was inherent to our well-being on the programme, and everyone felt very relaxed from the start as everything is easy for those who work hard and have clear objectives and goals. I was among those therefore I thrived in this environment and setting. Our group had weekly gatherings in our favourite nearby pub, the Brass Monkey, and we always had each other’s backs. I am still in touch with some of them, all pursuing great careers in marine science, ecology and policy or conservation oriented.
Since leaving, I have set up a company, Manaia Productions, making environmental films for small and large organisations (Prince of Albert II de Monaco Foundation, IUCN, WWF, The Pew Charitable Trusts). I also consult as a marine conservation or communications professional.
I am not closing the door for new ventures and I am only getting started. Communicating is one aspect of my work, but there are plenty more avenues to explore. We don’t have much time to save the planet from ourselves, and therefore to save ourselves!
My word of advice to current students would be to have a clear objective prior to starting the programme, and to be the main driver of their career. Sometimes the conservation world can seem very difficult to get into, and rightly so because it is difficult, particularly with funding and competition.
I would tend to advise to be creative, as new economic models for conservation are popping up, and new solutions are there. For my part, I am not closing the door for new ventures and I am only getting started. Communicating is one aspect of my work, but there are plenty more avenues to explore. We don’t have much time to save the planet from ourselves, and therefore to save ourselves!
James Nikitine - Marine Conservation and Communications (external link)
Manaia Productions (external link)