Women in aquaculture: Kara Birkenmayer

Kara Birkenmayer grew up in Johannesburg, researched at Harvard and, following a shorter shift of perform practical experience in Panama, ended up in the Seychelles in which she is main a staff of inspiring females performing on the lifestyle of some very interesting and approaching aquaculture species.

Kara's current role includes gathering sargassum seaweed to feed the sea urchins
Kara’s present function contains accumulating sargassum seaweed to feed the sea urchins

Can you briefly explain your aquaculture occupation?

Right after graduating from university, I used six months functioning at the Smithsonian Tropical Investigate Institute in Bocas del Toro, Panama. I was investigating the outcomes of hypoxia on several marine invertebrates, and whilst it absolutely was not aquaculture, it released me to the technicalities of small-scale marine animal husbandry.

I am now primarily based in Seychelles, where by I guide the Seychelles Fishing Authority’s Aquaculture Study division and deal with the Sea Urchin Exploration Facility (SURF).

What species have you been doing work with?

I largely get the job done on invertebrate species together with the gatherer urchin (Tripneustes gratilla) and green mud crab (Scylla serrata). I am also performing with quite a few species of algae like sea lettuce (Ulva rigida) and sea grapes (Caulerpa racemosa).

What drew you to aquaculture in the to start with area?

I was particularly intrigued by the breadth of chances in the sector. If I want to study salmon genetics in a superior-tech lab in Norway I could head in that route, but if I want to harvest oysters from longlines in Kiribati, that is also an possibility. The alternatives in aquaculture are limitless for a functional scientist.

What does a standard day in your latest part consist of?

I commence the day with morning regimen at SURF having drinking water top quality measurements, fertilising the algae, and feeding the crabs and urchins. I normally have another functional activity planned for the relaxation of the early morning: I may well be snorkelling the flats to acquire meals for the urchins, getting ready crab feed, performing urchin dissections, or collecting benthic samples from the boat. In the afternoons, you can ordinarily obtain me crafting reviews or analysing facts in the place of work.

What get the job done-similar accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am really proud of leading a cohesive, really hard-performing, all-feminine investigation workforce. Leadership has been a difficult learning curve for me, but looking at my crew thrive has created the obstacle value it. Becoming a manager was not in my work description and I consider I would have by no means applied for a foremost job, but now that I have it, I am so happy I obtained the opportunity. I have realized so significantly and it has given me the self-assurance enhance that I necessary to expand as a professional.

What is your favourite component of doing the job in aquaculture?

In my current part, I enjoy that I can just take rapid action based on the effects of my investigate. If I operate an experiment and the outcomes show something, I can use the relevant modifications the pretty up coming working day. I do not have to hold out for publication or somebody else to act on my effects – I can just go for it. Despite the fact that I respect the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of know-how, I favor executing investigate with relevant benefits.

Kara Birkenmayer, second left, with the rest of the aquaculture team at SURF
Kara Birkenmayer, next remaining, with the rest of the aquaculture workforce at SURF

What worries have you encountered performing in the sector?

The public notion of aquaculture in Seychelles is not incredibly good. Fishing is a large component of the community culture and economic system, and lots of fishermen regard aquaculture as a menace to their livelihoods and heritage. A popular view is that aquaculture will contend with or swap the artisanal fishing sector, when the intention is somewhat to complement it by relieving pressure on dwindling fish shares. The area scepticism could likely be assuaged with greater public recognition of the stringent environmental criteria we adhere to, so a advertising and marketing campaign really should be applied as soon as achievable.

Much more broadly, I obtain a lot of misconceptions about aquaculture have permeated into the basic community. I get a great deal of judgment from folks who have based mostly their impression on the entirety of aquaculture on a handful of biased or exaggerated articles or blog posts.

Do you believe a little island condition these as the Seychelles can profit from aquaculture?

Certainly. The Seychelles is massively reliant on tourism and fisheries. Diversifying the economy in a sustainable way is very important to make sure food protection.

The Seychelles Fishing Authority’s Sea Urchin Research Facility (SURF)
The Seychelles Fishing Authority’s Sea Urchin Investigate Facility (SURF)

Have you encountered (or read of) any gender-similar problems in the sector?

Some of my colleagues have spoken of sexism at earlier aquaculture work, but I have never knowledgeable gender-associated problems unique to the market. I believe that gender-dependent discrimination right here in Seychelles is a products of the lifestyle alternatively than the marketplace I uncover myself in. In truth, for the reason that aquaculture is so new listed here, it does not have the aged-fashioned, male-dominated culture that older industries may well have.

Has the Covid-19 predicament had any affect on your do the job?

Up right until about a thirty day period in the past, when group transmission started out below in the Seychelles, lifestyle went on like ordinary, with the exception of a little lockdown in March last year. The only detail I was not equipped to do is travelling, but currently being in a paradise with negligible impression of Covid, I think about myself very blessed. At the instant, factors are distinct and we are in lockdown. At operate, we only retain the cultures and do not start out new experiments, which is discouraging for me mainly because I like to work at comprehensive pace. I am utilizing the [lockdown] steps extremely strictly, hoping the condition will boost soon.

Are there any individuals or organisations in aquaculture that you have located specifically inspirational?

Devis Monthy, our assistant supervisor of operations, inspires me day by day. He manages his team with as considerably kindness and humour as authority, and his passion is a genuine driving drive for our challenge.

What tips would you give to gals who are looking at signing up for the aquaculture sector?

Be geared up to work exceptionally really hard and get your palms dirty. I am very blessed to be in a job that enables me to go snorkelling frequently, but not all factors of the work are as glamorous: there is an quantity of tank scrubbing that is inevitable in this line of perform.

If you could address one problem in aquaculture what would it be?

I would develop a sustainable and affordable plant-centered alternate to fishmeal. Eating farmed fish is not a terrific alternative to having wild-caught fish if the farmed fish are remaining fed with wild-caught fish in any case.

Which species you have worked with do you imagine is the most promising for aquaculture?

I am notably excited about sea grapes. I believe that algae is a very promising supply of food items, and it is currently extremely under-utilised. Even though we have experienced confined results cultivating them in Seychelles so far, algal crops usually call for couple methods to manage and can be rather strong versus environmental alterations, so they have the prospective to be a harmless and obtainable entry-level crop.

What would you like the future step in your career to be?

A incredibly relevant dilemma! My contract here in Seychelles expires at the end of March, so I am actually on the lookout for new chances at the second. Despite the fact that part of me would appreciate to deepen my knowledge of species I am previously familiar with, I am also tempted to foray into the environment of finfish. In the lengthy phrase, I would adore to unite my background in genetics with my enthusiasm for marine biology.

Kyra Hoevenaars

Aquaculture specialist

Kyra is an aquaculture advisor who specialises in hatchery administration and operations. She is also an experienced project supervisor with expertise in economical management, checking and evaluation, and potential setting up.

Jonah van Beijnen

Jonah is a passionate biologist with a aim on sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. 10 decades ago, he co-founded Fins and Leaves in the Philippines and formulated one of the country’s to start with grouper hatcheries. In 2016, he moved to Spain exactly where he expanded his fascination in the sustainable closed cycle aquaculture of tuna. As a result of his firm VB Consultancy, he carries on to supply consultancy expert services to aid tasks, non-public businesses, and governments in strengthening the sustainability of their fisheries and aquaculture operations. New jobs he has labored on involve the draft report on ESG risks in aquaculture for FAIRR, the progress of training pointers on Fantastic Aquaculture Methods (GAqP) for the ASEAN area, the progress of a nationwide conventional for sustainable aquaculture in Myanmar and the generation of a blueprint for the sustainable generation of seafood for northern Saudi Arabia.

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