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Jody Plecas
My love of the ocean was involuntary. The smell of brine and the crash of surf seduced me at an early age. Swimming was a new and exciting way to move and this strange medium housed the most unusual bendy plants and mysterious creatures.


I was lucky enough to score a summer job at Scripps Institute of Oceanography (San Diego California) when I was 18 and had the most interesting job sorting deep water trawls from the South Pacific.

It was the lowest job you could have and I revelled in it. The stench of formalin was almost over-powering but seeing the weird life forms in those white specimen trays would stay in my mind forever. Although I travelled many job paths that incredible experience eventually lead me to assist in the development and promotion of marine education in Australia.

Migrating to Melbourne in 1973 I soon was astounded at how little information was available to the public in regard to their own part of the ocean. About 10 down the track the lack of information made me so frustrated that I began to research in earnest - what was out there? Surely there was more than just sharks and penguins! Why didn't people who live by the sea know about these things?

I like kids, love animals and am passionate about the sea. As my daughter entered school I was dreading going back to work. I decided I would only take a job if it was what I wanted to do. What did I want? I wanted a job that had all of those things.

I imagined that an aquarium would be a place that would fit the bill but Melbourne didn't have one, so I set about speaking to everyone I could about having a world class aquarium in Melbourne.

By the time it was finally built I had already persuaded an environment extension education organisation, the Gould League, to establish a marine education program and was actually being paid to go to the beach to deliver programs that I had helped develop. I was working to teach kids about what I loved most - the plants, animals and dynamics of the ocean. I had the job I wanted.

But I needed more than casual work and although the volunteered effort was immensely satisfying it was a great relief to secure a job as a grants administrator in the Dept of Natural Resources and Environment with Coast Action/Coastcare and Coasts and Clean Seas programs. I was chosen for this job on the basis of the administration work I had been doing for the Marine Education Society of Australasia (MESA) over several years.

MESA was a tremendous ship to sail. While working for with them I met marine enthusiasts and experts from all over Australia and, indeed, the world. As a matter of business I needed to speak to them about the most mundane administrative matters which often blossomed into fascinating discussions about adventures of the sea.

As a result overseas visitors would ask me for guidance about who and where to visit when they came to Australia. I recall fondly Dr Hugo Freudenthal and his wife, Anita, who came to dinner at our house. Hugo, it turned out, was the gentleman who described zoothanthellae in corals and by the way just happened to design the waste system for the USA space program - can you believe it? Anita too had been named Marine Educator of the year in the US. This was just one of the many amazing experiences I was privileged to have while working in MESA.

My job at Coast Action/Coastcare had taken me out of the water a bit and the next step took me further upstream. It had become obvious to me that a heck of a lot of problems come from the land to the sea - urban stormwater pollution. Urban stormwater drains are responsible for the excellent removal of water from streets and properties and yet the impervious surfaces do not have natural mechanisms to treat or filter the pollution that accompany that flushing function - toxicants, pathogens, sediments, and litter.

Can you guess that my next (and current) job in the Environment Protection Authority is with the Victorian Stormwater Action Program (VSAP). Again I found myself in grants but this time the program is on a more pervasive/persuasive level. VSAP was put into place for local government councils across the entire state to begin a cultural shift and to encourage them to develop urban stormwater management plans. These plans were designed to improve stormwater quality entering the receiving waters and eventually the sea. Yup! This is where I was needed most in order to help people learn how to help the ocean.

As a spin-off from my voluntary work with community and other activities on behalf of the environment and I published or contribute to a variety of publications, spoke several times on the radio and found myself as a subject included in about 3 video publications and occasionally on TV. I co-wrote a professional development unit on Art and Marine Education which I subsequently took to the schools in two very large demonstration projects. I've convened and spoken at marine education conferences. All of these things resulting from my love of the sea and kids.

I started with a dream of having every child in Melbourne having the opportunity to find out about the exciting world below the looking-glass surface of the Bay. That is pretty much a reality now. So my dream got bigger. I now dream of cultural shift in thinking of community and government that means adopting environmental responsibility as part our own identity - who we are and what we stand for. It's already in process and I look forward to the day I can say we've made it.

The pebble that has started is gaining momentum with more and more jobs already beginning to become available. My advice for people wanting a job is decide what you want and start telling people what it is. If you can't find the job you want just keep focused, make a wish list, talk to everyone you know (inquire don't demand), think laterally and after a lot of hard work the job is bound to find you.

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