My apartment in Italy is home to an Antarctic researcher plush toy my parents gave to me when I began my PhD at the University of Padua studying the population structure of the keystone species the Antarctic Silverfish. Attached to the toy is a note I found in one of my childhood drawers which reads: Name: Jilda Alicia Caccavo, Age: 9, Job: Future Marine Biologist.
I am proud to say that 20 years later, I am fulfilling that dream, employing multidisciplinary techniques including genetics, otolith chemistry and trophic analyses to understand the health of Antarctic fish populations in order to gauge what impacts climate change and anthropogenic disturbances will have on them.
Becoming involved in the Antarctic sphere during my PhD and having worked on the APECS council for the past year in multiple capacities, I’m eager to work with the APECS Executive Committee to support like-minded, passionate, Polar scientists in their initiatives and pursuits.
Becoming involved in APECS has been one of the most pleasant and serendipitous events of my graduate career, and has become a strong, independent tether further roping me towards a career path in the Polar sciences. Unsure really of what APECS was, I registered for it to attend the career workshop it was sponsoring last year in Kuala Lumpur before the SCAR OSC 2016. I attended the workshop not so much due to any independent enthusiasm I harbored for it, but because I felt ‘it would be a good thing to do’. I was pleasantly surprised by both the workshop, and the people I met who were part of APECS, and intrigued by this plea to apply for the council. As I tend to do with most things, I dived in full on. Join the council – sure! Represent APECS Italy – sure! Join three project groups – sure! Become an NC coordinator – sure! Still not completely clear on what APECS really was or did, or what my role on the council would be, I figured: this is what it’s about – pitch in when needed, and take it from there. And to an extent, over my past year involved in all these capacities, this is what APECS has been about: help helping others. Whether it be in project groups, working with NCs, taking on tasks for which assistance was requested via the ExCom list, and all of these activities, in their own way, trickle down to helping fellow ECRs in the Polar sciences like myself. Being involved in that, and seeing so many people on the council, and especially the ExCom, devote themselves to this selfless and supportive cause, have inspired me to become more active in all my roles, and have this ‘help to help’ mantra diffuse into all aspects of my work and research.
But that’s all the theory – here’s the practice. Of all the roles and activities I’ve been involved with over the past year, I feel I’ve been most effective as a coordinator, manager and ‘effector’. That is, I’ve found myself to be most adept at responding to and facilitating communication between parties (in my role as NC coordinator, in APECS Italy, and to an extent via my work in project groups), participating in projects in specific ways when needed (evaluating applications, creating and editing partnership agreements), and making sure various parties performed their eventual role (in following up with NCs about Antarctica Day, partnership agreements, and 1-on-1 meetings, as well as in being the lead on the NACI project group). I’ve found that I’ve been less effective as a brainstormer or idea leader, both while working within project groups and APECS Italy. I think this is in part because I’ve been new to APECS and have been learning what sort of ideas actually do stir the pot, but I also think it’s important to self-reflect on one’s strengths and weaknesses. While this is a weakness that can be improved upon, my counterpoint strength in coordination/management/”gettin’ ‘er done” are exactly in line with what would make a great ExCom member, while I work on the ‘originality’ bit in my continued growth in APECS.
Having been NC coordinator this year and on the ExCom mailing list, I’m familiar with the work load and communication requirements of its members, and feel this is something I’d be able to take on enthusiastically and within the bounds of my work constraints. And to be fair, given that I’ve been NC coordinator, and represented APECS Italy, and participated in three projects groups, and taken the lead on one project group, it’s not that I haven’t had a near ExCom-like workload in my first year on the council.
Finally, as I’ve provided all of the theoretical and practical reasons as to why I’d like to be on ExCom, I’d just like to highlight how I hope to contribute. APECS has grown substantially in the past year (not least from the order of magnitude jump in council membership). But with that growth has come the need to grow as a management body, and use the strengths and enthusiasm of our members and council in the most effective ways possible. Projects like creating an APECS orientation webinar to familiarize council members with what APECS does and what their role in it will entail, as well as continuing to create partnerships with other Polar organizations, manage NCs, and support/call for project groups and participation, all require coordinated, effective leadership from a band of bright, friendly and “bang-on” ExCom members. I look forward to helping contribute to the APECS orientation series as it comes to fruition, assist next year’s NC coordinators in fulfilling and fleshing out further their roles, as well as managing project groups so that their participants both understand how and are able to carry out their initiatives to the best of their abilities. Of course, being on the mailing list does not an ExCom member make, and while I’ve learned a lot this year on the council, I still have a lot more to learn, but I look forward to continuing to do that, and continuing to ‘help to help’ in APECS, soon hopefully in an ExCom capacity.
Not expecting any