Environmental Sustainability Changemaker, Sustainable Caribbean
Sailing past a superpod of more than 500 wild cetaceans was Nikola Simpson’s ‘aha’ moment, when she knew she wanted to dedicate her work to the sea. On a personal level, Nikola has always been deeply connected to the water surrounding her. She grew up on the island of Barbados, and had many early interactions on the water with her grandparents, who fished, dove, and told her stories about the sea. In university, she studied Marine Biology and then Coastal and Environmental Resource Management. She now works and volunteers on a variety of sustainability projects, including fisheries management, plastic pollution and the Blue Economy.
Nikola understands ocean challenges from many different perspectives. She’s concerned about activities that threaten the health of the ocean, such as overfishing and land-based sources of pollution. But she also recognizes the role of social issues in addressing these challenges, like not having enough funding for sustainability work, a lack of communication between the government and people working on the water, and a lack of understanding on the part of individuals to behave in more sustainable ways. She asks, “if people don’t know about it, why would they protect it?”
This is one reason Nikola is so passionate about education, outreach, and mentorship. She tries to be a mentor for other girls who want to join her work in fisheries and coral reefs. Like in many other places, fishing is a male-dominated industry in Barbados. Sometimes people don’t understand why a young white woman is doing fisheries-related work, and Nikola is constantly defying misconceptions about what it means to be a woman working in her field. Despite facing pushback, her passion drives her forward. At times this can feel overwhelming, but Nikola is witnessing a powerful shift in how people think about the ocean and its health. She concludes: “The army of environmentally conscious, committed people is growing. There are more and more people I’m meeting that are doing similar things, and that inspires me.”