1. Name

Elitza (Ellie) Germanov

2. Where is your hometown?

That is a harder question for me then most. Born in Sofia and moved to St. John's Newfoundland until 17. Since then it's been one place after the other. I guess where my mom lives is St. John's so that would be my home town, although Labuan Bajo (Indonesia) has been home for the last 5 years.

3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?

Lead Researcher Microplastics & Megafauna Project, Marine Megafauna Foundation/ PhD candidate, Murdoch University

4. What was the journey like to get where you are (career wise)? When was the mental shift to start the journey?

It was full of hairpin turns after a fairly straight arrow track of high school, university and grad school. Once completing this fairly long stint of academic training my foreign roots called me abroad and I caught the travel bug. Since then I have visited most of the countries in continental Europe, Australia, SE Asia, Honduras, South Africa and Mozambique and lived in Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. Along the way I rekindled my love for the sea and spent over 3000 hours underwater. It's there that I was able to re awaken my inquisitive nature and my will to problem solve. Meeting inspiring people along the way coupled with a supportive friend and family network have me the push to go for yet another change in career which, like the tale of Goldilocks and the three bears, finally feels "just right".

5. Biggest accomplishment since making the (physical/mental) move?

Providing evidence that has helped protect my favourite marine species, the manta ray, both nationally in Indonesia and globally with their inclusion CMS (Convention on Migratory Species). Working together with fellow conservationist and the general public we uncovered important long distance migration patterns for manta rays in Indonesia. This work helped to inform the government and other international conservation bodies to better manage and protect these species. 

6. What was biggest disappointment and plan to overcome it?

The lack of collaboration I sometimes encounter between different conservation groups which appear to be working towards solving the same problems and have the same conservation goals. In fact, science in general and its structure of publish or perish is quite disappointing and counterproductive to collaboration and creativity. I look to work with open, genuine people who have the best interest of the animals, environments they are looking to protect or the science in general. People who don't feel the need to have their egos stroked.

7. Advice for other women?

There is much to life than just having a family. If it's something you have always wanted then sure go for it. But make sure you have given yourself the opportunity to go and have an adventure and challenge yourself first! You will be a better parent for it I am sure.

8. Where in the world do you feel “tallest”?

I feel tallest among my fellow MMFers. We have a such a supportive community of passionate people from all walks of life and we are united by one mission: saving ocean giants from extinction. Some of us are scientists, students, others are photographers, media gurus or are good with budgets, but we all work together to help one another despite being spread out over three different continents or more at times. We inspire one another and together we stand on each others shoulders.

9. What is the future goal/challenge (career goals in 5-10 years)?

Establish myself as a researcher that achieves conservation goals specialising in vulnerable/ endangered marine species in the coral triangle region. In the process inspire people to lead more sustainable lives to reduce our impacts on the sea. 

10. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?

Although I come from a heavy scientific background with a MSc and BSc in microbiology, immunology and minor in biochemistry, my hairpin turn of a career path left me with a big gap in working in pure science (I worked in the SCUBA diving industry in SE Asia as a dive instructor for six years before returning for a marine science degree). Thus I often feel as if I need to catch-up with the pace science has moved in addition to acquire all the skills young graduate students are coming out with these days. I look to surround myself with knowledgeable people to hopefully sponge up some of their skills. I am not sir sure if that actually works as well as I think it might.

11. What inspires you?

People who are unafraid of challenges and breaking out of the "box".

12. Who is a “WOW Woman” in your life who inspires you (and why)?

Easily Dr. Andrea Marshall for being the powerhouse of hard work and dedication that she is. It's no wonder I joined her organisation and asked her to supervise my PhD. But equally Helen Mitchell, who left her high profile career in fashion and fame to become a conservation champion with no formal training in science. Her dedication to the causes she champions is the reason I am on my current career path.

13. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?

Marine Megafauna blog
Facebook: Microplastics & Megafauna
Marine Megafauna Foundation: SE Asia