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Reaching out into the world: Marine Institute International

Craig Knickle spent 32 days in Thailand conducting tuna fisheries research in the Indian Ocean.

International involvement is one of the foundations upon which the Marine Institute has been built. From its beginning in the late 1980s, MI International has built expertise in the international development area. Though the focus has been broadened to include international contracts, initiatives in the developed world, and a global graduate placement program, the mission remains the same – to provide a unit dedicated to the design, development and management of international projects.

This year is one of MI International’s biggest to date for the Global Graduate Placement Program (GGPP). With 22 recent graduates currently placed overseas, preparations and recruitment are underway to send 11 more in late spring/early summer. The program started six years ago with three graduates placed with the State Polytechnic College of Palawan in the Philippines. Since then, 72 graduates have taken part in the program.

The GGPP provides post-secondary Canadian graduates with global experience, assisting them in making the transition from school to work. The goal of the internships is to assist partners in developing countries address specific aquatic and coastal environmental management challenges. At the same time, the program helps students move from school to their careers.

The second objective reflects the Marine Institute’s current strategy to build concrete mechanisms for internationalizing the institute and selected programs. Internships are designed around the theme of sustainable coastal/aquatic environment management. Recruitment and selection of participants will focus on graduates from MI’s fisheries resource management: aquaculture; coastal zone management; and marine environmental technology programs. High calibre external candidates are also considered provided they meet all eligibility requirements.

While overseas, interns are hosted by an overseas partner organization in areas such as coastal zone management, aquaculture, community extension or marketing. Host organizations include non-governmental agencies such as the WorldFish Centre and SEAFDEC (South East Asia Fisheries Development Center in Thailand) as well as grass roots social change organizations such as Tambuyog Development Center (Philippines). Currently, there are interns located in Cameroon, Malawi, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philippines, Norway and England.

What connects all interns is the desire to learn and grow personally and professionally. Not only do they apply their training in a global context, they bring home new found skills and insight. And while many interns get to have fun along the way, they also broaden their understanding of coastal and aquatic problems and solutions, experience exotic environments and tastes and, of course, make new friends.

In the current placement program, three- and six-month placements were available. MI International and the Government of Canada are piloting the three-month internship program in this round. Funded through the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) Canada Fund for Africa, the internships deal with improving food security by working with rural farmers, trainers, and educational institutions to enhance capacity at the local and regional level.

The six-month placements are funded through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and CIDA through the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. The program covers expenses associated with living abroad, including a monthly stipend. To accommodate the ongoing growth in this program, MI International has dedicated office space and resources - including knowledgeable staff - to ensure interns can prepare for their overseas experience with confidence.

Recently, a MI graduate and past participant of the GGPP was named 2001-2002 recipient of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research - Canada Linkage Fund. Brokered by CIDA, the grant includes a three-year, $150,000 (US) award that will support her continued efforts to analyse declining fish populations in Malawi.

With the number of overseas opportunities increasing, interns can expect a wide range of possible experiences. In the future, interns will help identify gender issues and the status of HIV/AIDS in some of countries with strong potential in the aquaculture industry. Others will conduct fisheries research and marine ecosystem fieldwork.

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