Interview with Jenn Loder

Position: Director Community Partnerships 

Organisation: Great Barrier Reef Foundation 

One-liner: Jenn Loder’s love of reefs drew her to Queensland where she’s working with the community on Reef protection programs.

Image by Gary Cranitch

Citizen science is an amazing platform to connect people to understand more about the natural world and spark conversations about how we can better look after it.

The Interview

What made you decide that what you do as a job now was something you wanted to specialise in?

Elsie, Western Cape College

All of my jobs have focused on working with people. But coordinating the Reef Citizen Science Alliance, which brought together thirteen citizen science organisations, was when I realised how passionate I was about connecting partners to tackle challenges as a collective.

Why are citizen science projects so important?

STEM Girl Power

Citizen science is an amazing platform to connect people to understand more about the natural world and spark conversations about how we can better look after it. Equipping people with the tools to collect information that can help fill knowledge gaps is a powerful way to empower people to help look after their environment and community.

How did you find out about the position that you are in, being originally from Washington DC?

Grace, Moranbah SHS

I was already working in conservation education, but it was actually a SCUBA diving trip to Palau that inspired me to move to Australia for further study (and diving)! From there, I started volunteering and then landed a job leading trained volunteers to collect and share Reef health information. It was in that role that I had an incredible chance to witness how powerful those experiences can be and how they can bring lots of different people together for a common cause.

What are the backgrounds of the partners you work with on your programs? Are they farmers or major industries?

STEM Girl Power

I have the privilege of working with a huge diversity of partners – Traditional Owners, tourism operators, community groups, government, businesses, scientists, Reef managers and other charities. I’m inspired every day by this range of people dedicated to championing change through their work.

How do you coach scientists to explain issues to the community so they will make a change?

STEM Girl Power

I think some of the best conversations are when we make space to hear different perspectives. That’s how we can understand other viewpoints, learn and find common ground. Communicating science and making it accessible is very important, but when we’re looking for ways to help people work together to tackle conservation challenges, then we need an exchange of ideas. We can then use science to help better understand the system and come up with solutions that work. That is once again where citizen science can come into play as a way to build shared understanding with observation and evidence.

What are some of the innovations you’ve seen from community science groups?

STEM Girl Power

We’ve got project partners who are empowering communities to use technology to collect and process information over larger scales more quickly, helping fill critical knowledge gaps. Our partners are also working to find new ways to target information needs and integrate citizen science with mainstream research programs, as well as trialling novel approaches to protect sea turtle nests. Sometimes the innovations aren’t about new technology, but simply about how people work together in new ways – such as partnerships to expand work or building opportunities for greater community leadership in programs.

You’ve been involved a Hope Spot in the USA, to protect special places scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean. Why is protecting marine areas so important?

STEM Girl Power

One of my favourite quotes from the amazing Dr. Sylvia Earle, who founded the Hope Spot program, explains this perfectly. She said, “People ask: Why should I care about the ocean? Because the ocean is the cornerstone of earth’s life support system, it shapes climate and weather. It holds most of life on earth. 97% of earth’s water is there. It’s the blue heart of the planet — we should take care of our heart. It’s what makes life possible for us.” The Hope Spot that I helped to nominate was Moreton Bay, right off the coast of Brisbane. The nomination was successful because not only does the Bay hold unique subtropical marine life and cultural values, but because it is an amazing example of the power of citizen science and community groups working together to collect and share information about the local habitats and wildlife to help protect them.

Are you driven to look after the reef and oceans for us (humans), or for the environmental ecosystem?

STEM Girl Power

People are part of the environment – we’re all connected. Looking after the environment helps care for people and we need to look after people to help protect the environment. Fortunately, some of the most exciting solutions around shaping a better future are opportunities that help both people and the environment.

If everyone in the world could do one thing to help protect the planet, what would it be?

Grace, Kirwan SHS, Townsville

Climate change is the biggest challenge that we’re facing as a global society. We need to reduce emissions and help people and the environment adapt to changes we are already seeing and will continue to see. Each of us has different lives, but many of us have the opportunity to take an action to reduce our carbon footprint and talk to our friends and communities about it. You don’t have to do everything, but make a pledge to take an action and stick with it. If you need some inspiration, check out sites like Project Drawdown for ideas.


Inspired by an Indo-Pacific reef experience in Palau, Jenn moved from Washington DC to Australia to pursue a career at the interface of science and community engagement for healthy reefs.   

After a decade in grassroots reef conservation and reef citizen science, she currently works with a range of partners to design and deliver community-driven Reef protection programs.   

Jenn has led field research teams, STEM youth education, a successful Mission Blue Hope Spot nomination, and community leadership programs, all powered by people dedicated to our oceans.   

While recognising the scale of the conservation challenge we face, her hope is fuelled by the dedication and innovation of community champions.   

She believes that a more resilient future in the face of climate change requires new ways of collaboration, leadership and inspiring action to care for people and the environment.   

In her downtime, Jenn enjoys silversmithing, scuba diving, and curating the indoor jungle of 100+ plants that live on her back porch.  

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