Dr. Lisamarie Carrubba, NOAA Fisheries, shares a brief reflection on lessons learned as CLCC Acting Coordinator from July 20th to August 18th, 2016.
One of the first things I decided to do as the CLCC Acting Coordinator was to meet with Dr. Ariel Lugo, the Director of the U.S. Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry, the agency that handles the operations of the Cooperative through an interagency agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. When he came into my loaner office (thanks Brent!), he expressed surprise that I had a caged bird rather than a fish with me as a NOAA Fisheries scientist. I explained that I rescued a baby bird with a broken wing and parasitic fly larvae and raised it until it could be released back into the wild. It traveled with me daily to the office, having to be hand-fed throughout the day. The bird probably felt more at home than me.
It’s true I was a bit of a fish out of water sitting in an office in a botanical garden instead of a place near the beach, but I adapted. I quickly established a name for myself here at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry being the person with the bird. Being here at IITF (and having a special squawking calling card), made it possible for me to work on strengthening relationships after recent changes in the structure of the CLCC and a reworking of the interagency agreement between the USFWS and IITF. It also helped to identify, through many drop-in visits and hallway conversations, areas where we needed to lay out clear procedures for getting things done under the agreement – like budget tracking, contracts, grants, and other areas essential for the CLCC, or any partnership program, to operate efficiently (with IITF’s help).
This 30-day detail I’ve placed a strategic emphasis on inter personal relationships. Too often in today’s information age we choose email and internet-based tools to communicate. It seems like the efficient option and a time saver. However, I’m sure in the wider international conservation community we all have personal anecdotes of ways an email has done damage when a simple in-person conversation would have mended, not divided. This is one of many important partnership success factors for cooperative conservation.
So the next time you decide to send a curt email, walk down the hall instead or follow up the email with a telephone call to the person and start the conversation by asking about family, sports, or something else of interest to the person you called. There is no substitute for personal relationships and face-to-face conversations. These are what will move our Cooperative forward.