The Women of WildAid Marine: Silvia Bor

March 11, 2021; Introduction & Interview by Mary Pantenburg, WildAid Marine Intern

Throughout March, in honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, WildAid Marine will continue to highlight the inspiring women on our team, celebrate their achievements, and share advice on pursuing a career in conservation.

Silvia Bor, Marine Program Officer
When talking to Silvia about her work with WildAid Marine, it may be easier to ask what she doesn’t do. Like so many others at the organization, Silvia wears a lot of hats. From fundraising and grant writing to providing on-the-ground support in other countries, Silvia has traveled all over the world with WildAid Marine. As a fluent Spanish speaker, she is deeply involved in WildAid Marine’s work in Ecuador where she has had the opportunity to provide training to park rangers, work as Taiwanese actor Eddie Peng’s tour guide while filming a series for Amazon Prime, attend the opening ceremony for a WildAid-funded biosecurity lab, and more. To anyone interested in a similar career path, Silvia advises that conservation must be their passion as nonprofit work is mission-driven. She states, “This is a dream job, but you have to make sure it’s your dream.”

For women starting out in their careers, Silvia acknowledges that imposter syndrome can be a real hurdle; it can be hard to feel as though we deserve the opportunities in front of us. Prior to joining WildAid Marine, Silvia had limited experience in fundraising and nonprofit work but that did not stop her from accepting a job offer. Silvia challenged herself in a new role while asking questions and accepting feedback. She explained that she still experiences periods of doubt, but believes it is essential to recognize that everyone has these feelings from time to time. The best way to deal with imposter syndrome is to be over-prepared for everything, ask as many questions as you need, and never be afraid to reach out to your employer or colleagues for help.

Silvia traveling in Ecuador with Taiwanese actor, Eddie Peng.

What do you do for WildAid Marine?
I work with the WildAid Marine team to reduce illegal fishing and marine wildlife poaching in some of the world’s most biodiverse and critical marine habitats. As we expand our program to reach 250 sites, my work includes project planning and implementation, improving our monitoring and evaluation tools, fundraising and grant writing, and leading some of our strategic initiatives.  A major part of my work lies in helping our team scale our work to reach as many places as possible and maximize our impact while ensuring that each of our sites receives the same level of engagement expected of WildAid Marine. Likewise, my work in fundraising ensures that our team and partners have the funds needed to carry out this difficult work. That means sharing stories from the field and the broader impacts of this work to help our donors understand why our work is so important to the long-term protection of our oceans.

What first got you interested in oceans? Was it a documentary? A book? A friend?
I’ve loved the ocean since I was a little girl, but what really inspired me to work in conservation was a trip to Costa Rica when I was in college. I spent a few weeks volunteering at a sea turtle hatchery on a beautiful, secluded beach. I was able to work in all aspects, including building a second hatchery, conducting night patrols for nests, relocating nests to the hatchery to protect them from poachers and predators, and releasing sea turtle hatchlings to the sea. The experience was life-changing and a major reason for seeking out work in this field.

How did your career in conservation start?
After college, I worked in marketing for a few years but kept thinking of my interest in marine conservation, so I decided to go back to school to get my Master’s degree. I found the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ (MIIS) International Environmental Policy program and it sounded like exactly what I wanted to do. While at MIIS, I took a class my first semester and the first assignment was to write about our dream career. It included lots of research and informational interviews. That assignment led to an interview with Marcel Bigue, WildAid’s Marine Program Director at the time and a MIIS alum. That interview led to a summer fellowship with WildAid in San Francisco and when I got accepted to a work-study program with MIIS, I continued my work with them in San Francisco and the Galapagos for the next year. After graduating, WildAid did not have any positions available, so I worked for another wildlife organization in their development department and a few years later found my way back to WildAid in a full-time role with the Marine Program.

What is one thing about your job or the work you do that might surprise people?
While I have had the opportunity to travel to many places, including Ecuador, Palau, Cuba, and Hawaii through my work, most people think I spend most of my time traveling or working on a beach. However, the travel and fieldwork, at least for my role, consists of just a few weeks per year. Most of my day-to-day work is actually writing or researching, and coordinating with the team or our partners. That being said, everything we do contributes to the mission and so despite not getting to patrol beaches every day, I feel that I can make a much larger impact on marine conservation by using my knowledge and skills here.

Silvia working with a conservation drone in Ecuador.

What gives you hope for the future of our oceans?
The number of people that love the oceans and want to protect them is very inspiring to me. There is no silver bullet for this work and there are so many organizations that are approaching various problems, so together I think we can succeed.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self to start researching different jobs in marine conservation and seek out an internship or volunteer at a marine conservation nonprofit while getting my Bachelor’s degree. I think it would have saved me a lot of time and helped me hone my skills a little more.

Silvia traveling in Ecuador with WildAid Marine.

What is the best advice for young women trying to go into conservation?
My best advice for young women is to work on their writing skills and to diversify their skillset. Most nonprofits require their employees to conduct many different tasks and so having a few support skills, such as fluency in another language, fundraising skills, software or web development, graphic design, marketing or PR experience, event planning, etc. will go a long way towards making you stand out. Also, seek out volunteer opportunities and internships/ fellowships, as well as informational interviews. These are crucial to finding a full-time job in conservation and making those connections with your dream organization can help you in getting a future role.