Meet the team: Q&A with Julie Budkowski

Julie has a background as an educator and problem solver, and she has spent her career empowering change through the development and growth of innovative programs. Her expertise is in operations, project management, program and partnership development, education and knowledge translation. She received her Masters in Education from Griffith University and has worked in private, public and not for profit sectors.

Julie has been working on projects and with programs empowering young people to identify a cause they are passionate about, and work to making a positive change. After spending a year living aboard a tall ship, sailing the Atlantic ocean with a group of students, she developed a personal passion for ocean conservation herself. Weare excited to have her on board as our new operations director.


Q: How did you find your way into marine issues?

Growing up in the interior of a continent I didn't have much exposure to the oceans until I studied my masters in Australia. Spending time on and around the water, I grew more and more fascinated with the marine life and in turn the state of our oceans as a whole. Where I was really impacted by marine issues, was while spending 9 months at sea as an educator on Class Afloat living on a tall ship.  I learnt a lot about marine life and the health of our oceans during this journey from our marine biologist. There is something magical about sailing alongside a school of tuna for 3 days, or seeing the vibrant color of a pair of Mahi keeping pace with the ship. At the same time, mind boggling to see a plastic bucket float by, when you are in the middle of the South Atlantic, hundreds of miles from land.

Q: Interest in seafood sustainability and traceability has grown in recent years. Why do you think that is?

In general, I believe people are becoming more aware of where their food has come from, and the impacts on the environment. This trend started years ago with beef, poultry and organics, and the interest in sustainable seafood is growing substantially. Additionally, as a society we are becoming more aware of global issues and our ability to take action on these. From a growing trend in service learning in schools to increased popularity in eco-tourism. In general, I believe society on a whole is becoming more aware of our impact and therefore more passionate about the power an individual has to affect change.

I also believe that a general awareness regarding the potential global impact of the dwindling fish populations on food security and ocean health in general is becoming a topic of conversation. A more immediate need for the billions of people that rely heavily on seafood as a primary food source, and a general understanding of the role food security plays in sustainable development. While it is difficult to know exactly how many fish there are in the sea, people are experiencing effects of the declining fish populations and therefore the realities of overfishing and the impact on mankind is increasing in urgency.

Q: What were you doing before you joined Future of Fish?

Prior to Future of Fish, I had recently completed a contract launching a new child and youth mental health and substance use program at BC Children's Hospital. Before taking on that exciting challenge, I worked for the WE Movement, supporting educators in implementing experiential service learning in schools across North America and the UK. My experiences at WE provided me with the opportunity to be inspired through the stories of amazing young people who are taking action complex global issues trying to make a positive change in society. It's easy as an adult to get caught up in the negative news cycle and lose hope for the state of the planet. Seeing the impacts and momentum coming from young change makers on a daily basis showed me that the world is in excellent hands and that the next generation of voters and adults are caring, compassionate and socially conscious. These young people have inspired me and I am looking forward to being a part of the change through working at Future of Fish.

Q: How do see your previous experience coming into play at Future of Fish?

Beyond my general program management background, I think the most relevant learnings from my previous work is to take a "why not" approach. This is something young people are able to do easily, come up with new and innovative solutions. Take a look at a problem and say "why not" try a different way of doing things, "why not" make it better. We need to apply education concepts and look at knowledge translation to affect change in people's behaviors. The issues we are facing are created by humans, and it's going to need a change in the way we operate in order to solve them.

Q: What most attracted you to working with Future of Fish?

Future of Fish's mission and the ability to contribute to an organization that is looking to make a change that will positively impact the livelihood and wellbeing of so many people around the globe. While there are many organizations who are doing amazing work in the field, I was attracted to the diversity in the team at Future of Fish, and the focus on combining innovation and business solutions to solve complex global issues.

Q: What are you most looking forward to doing in the next year?

As we launch programs in Chile and Peru next month, I am looking forward to seeing how the Future of Fish platform works in action, supporting increased traceability and opportunity within the supply chain. While I am looking forward to seeing the larger system change, it's hearing the individual impact stories that excites me most. Seeing how our work can make a positive change for the livelihood of the fishermen and vendors, or the results on the awareness of end consumer.

On a personal note, I am looking forward to experiencing the culinary industry in Lima, and tasting some amazingly fresh seafood.