"Biodiversity is my life"

05 May 2010 | News story

For IUCN’s Josephine Langley, biodiversity is the ‘leitmotif’ of her life. Her work and passion are inseparably linked, and both aim to achieve the same goal: make a difference and contribute to nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

Josephine’s interest in biodiversity – with a focus on marine biodiversity – has led her to some of the most biologically diverse places on the planet, and this, always for a good reason.

“From a very young age, I loved watching crabs scuttle along the beach and snorkel through tropical fish on coral reefs but I was also saddened by plastic and oil that would wash up on the beach. In my work I am trying to find solutions to problems by learning about the latest scientific findings and successes in the field to change government policy and people’s behavior”.

During her numerous projects, Josephine has worked to ensure sustainable fishery practices, expand networks of marine reserves and monitor marine habitats in various parts of the world. At the same time, she has always sought to highlight the link between biodiversity and human well-being and to achieve a balance between conserving biodiversity and improving the lives of local communities who strongly depend on it for their survival.

In Madagascar, Barbados, Australia and Malaysia, she trained local communities to observe and monitor fish, coral reefs and seagrass habitats. While providing detailed knowledge about the diversity of marine life, Josephine’s work has helped to expand the network of marine reserves and to promote sustainable fishing practices.

By highlighting the need for increased funding in the Philippines, she helped ensure that the marine rangers received additional support to guard against poaching in the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park. For the Viruga World Heritage Site, she helped connect IUCN Members, such as the International Rangers Association and the Thin Green Line, with rangers and site managers to help them receive much needed financial support.

“My work is quite unusual and so it offers some unusual memories. Hearing a whale song while counting and identifying invertebrates and algae at the depth of 15 metres is certainly among the most unforgettable moments I’ve experienced.

My work also poses many interesting challenges. One of them was realizing the gulf between science and people’s daily lives and priorities when talking to the elders of a community in a village in south-west Madagascar, who had a very different perspective on fishing and coral reefs. However, working together with local scientists and fishermen, we managed to bridge the gulf and find several approaches to help increase local income and aid conservation including establishing locally-managed marine protected areas and conducting an eco-tourist guide training”.

Josephine joined IUCN in 2007 to monitor natural World Heritage sites. Since then, her role has changed and she is now responsible for coordinating and optimizing IUCN’s contribution to biodiversity conservation. She will be part of the IUCN delegation at the upcoming meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nairobi, where experts will ensure that decisions on the future of biodiversity conservation are based on science.

“This meeting will bring together many governments with an aim of saving the remains of biodiversity. I would like to see that the voices of the conservation organizations be heard and taken into account. Governments need not only sign on to the Convention on Biological Diversity but they also need to take their promises and turn them into real actions on the ground.”

Josephine has dual British and Mauritian nationality and is a permanent resident of Hong Kong. Her extensive travel and work in the most remote places make her a true citizen of the world and a devoted ambassador for biodiversity.