Internship at WWF in Brussels

Ana Rodriguez

Heriot-Watt University


During the last three months I had the exciting opportunity to do an internship at the policy department of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Brussels, working on oceans and fisheries policy. This opportunity was made possible thanks to the Challenger Society travel award. Having just finished writing a first draft of my PhD thesis a week before starting the internship, I was keen for a new challenge, and excited to get immersed into the daily work of a large and influential nature conservation organisation.

Upon arrival, I was impressed by the amount of plants in each office, with portraits of majestic animals gazing from the walls and rooms filled with natural sun light. I also noticed that all products in the building were fair-trade and responsibly sourced. During lunch, I learned more about the work done in each department, from policy (my own), to youth programs, communication, fundraising and international programmes.

My daily work at WWF was very varied, with activities related to the three major ongoing ocean projects of my department: (1) marine protected areas and marine spatial planning in the North Sea, (2) sustainable fisheries in Belgium, and (3) deep sea mining in the Pacific Ocean. I participated in several meetings and workshops, but also spent much time reading about European policy. For instance, I participated in stakeholder engagement events on marine spatial planning, an NGO-organised workshop on deep-sea mining, a symposium on sea-level rise in the Flemish-Dutch delta and a training course on legal tools for environmental advocacy. Moreover, I worked on developing a framework to improve the sustainability on Belgian fisheries, based on successful strategies of other countries and on collaboration with fishermen to achieve win-win situations. This framework will serve as a draft guide to the policy’s department future work on sustainable fisheries in Belgium.   

I also worked on a topic that this is close to my heart, because it is what I have been working on during my PhD: European oyster restoration. Several countries are currently engaged in restoring the European oyster, and Belgium is probably going to start soon too. I therefore participated in several meetings with industry representatives and scientists interested in restoring oyster, and wrote a document summarising the most relevant information for engaging in oyster bed restoration.

Overall, I have learned much during my internship, particularly on policy aspects of marine conservation, and on how to inform the decision-making process to reach policy targets. I have also increased my professional network, as I have met many new people from NGOs, industry and the scientific community. I am very grateful to the Challenger Society for enabling this experience.

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