Interview with Jodi Salmond

osition: General Manager 

Organisation: Reef Check Australia 

One-liner: Jodi uses her McGyver-like STEM skills to raise environmental awareness and keep a “check on the reef.”

Behaviour change has to start small. If it’s too hard, it won’t stick. It’s important to lead by example and recognise that it’s all about taking one small step at a time.

The Interview

At what age did you decide that what you do as a job now was something you wanted to specialise in?

Elsie, Western Cape College

I was 10 years old when I decided to be a marine biologist. I loved the ocean, animals and science, so I chose my subjects to allow me to get into university. I do a lot more working with people than animals now, but I make sure I get to spend time in the water doing research every week. I think its important to spend time in nature, so we remember WHY we do what we do. For me, diving on reefs allows me to do my job, work with people, and continue to work in science. So my job now is not exactly what I set out to do, but as I learn more, and I became clearer on my purpose, I found work that fits with my goals. I think its important to understand that we all evolve over time – in everything from our goals, to what’s important to us and how we want to lead in the world – which is great! It’s how we all grow.

How do you encourage people to change their behaviour? What works?

STEM Girl Power

Behaviour change has to start small. If it’s too hard, it won’t stick. It’s important to lead by example and recognise that it’s all about taking one small step at a time. A great place to start is to think about what is one thing you can change right now with big impacts? Influencing through positive messaging works much better than negative, so remember to congratulate people on doing a good job, and then challenge them to ‘level up’ to the next change.

What training do you have to hold to be able to train divers in global reef health monitoring protocols?

Grace, Moranbah SHS

To train people to be Reef Check Australia reef health surveyors, I need to be a Reef Check Instructor. I am also a Dive Master, which means I can lead people whilst underwater. To teach above the water, I need to know how to communicate effectively, and teach people how to identify over 50 different categories of animals, substrates and impacts. It’s important to have experience in identifying these things. It also helps to have experience in communicating underwater -because you can’t talk, you have to find other ways of communicating. You notice how important problem solving is underwater – we have limited options and time to solve problems and fix any issues before having to end the dive and go back to the surface. This is why I think MacGyvering is so important – it’s about using creative solutions when you encounter a problem, and finding creative uses for what is immediately available to you.

What is the key to preserving the earth, its environments, and its inhabitants?

Grace, Kirwan SHS, Townsville

Personally, I believe the key to helping protect the planet is to ensure everyone feels connected to the world around them. If we share connections with the planet, we develop a want and a need to look after it. Think about some of the causes you feel really passionate about. How did you first find out about it, and how did it make you feel? It’s also important to remember that everyone has different experiences, thoughts and feelings, so compassion and empathy is key. We need to do our best to understand each other, so we can work together to protect our local environments.

How did you find out about the position that you are in? What has been your career path up to now?

Grace, Moranbah SHS

I found out about my first role within Reef Check Australia on a job search site. I started off by volunteering where I gained lots of new skills, then ended up by slowly moving from one job to another within the company, to reach where I am now. I also started volunteering whenever I could! Every break at university, I’d volunteer for marine scientists. I learnt so much and gained plenty of new connections this way. I always worked hard so that I’d be invited back, and get new volunteer opportunities. I have always been authentic in my approach. There’s no use pretending to be something you are not. People will find out quickly, so it’s better to be yourself in the first place. Employers respect that and you will be told about new opportunities as they arise.

What’s your usual day or week like? This doesn’t sound like an office job!

STEM Girl Power

Each day and week is very different, depending on the tasks at hand! Usually, I dive one day a week, monitoring reefs for signs of reef health. We have lots of reefs we monitor each year, so it keeps us busy! In between collecting the data, we also need to analyse it and report on it for the wider community. We also run lots of events, community lectures, beach clean ups and environmental stalls. When all those fun activities are finished, there is still plenty of paperwork to be done. Luckily my job is very varied. I get to meet lots of people and do a variety of things, so my job is never boring!

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

Grace, Kirwan SHS, Townsville

Respect it! Show compassion for the world around us, each other, and ourselves. If we all genuinely care about the world around us and how we interact with it, we would HAVE to make more sustainable choices!

A great place to start understanding the impact daily choices make on the world around us is to calculate your individual carbon footprint, and then look at how changes we can make can impact that carbon footprint (positively or negatively?)

Knowing our impact is a great first step. When we know more, we can do more to change it.

How do you make long-term plans and programs as a not-for-profit to make sure environmental activities keep going?

STEM Girl Power

It can certainly be difficult, but we tackle it from a lot of different angles. First of all, we have a group of amazing volunteers that work together to ensure our vital work continues. We plan each six months for the following six months, and we apply for a lot of grants to assist with our research. Our data is used by local natural resource management bodies and councils along the Queensland coastline in local report cards. It’s providing an important source of information because not many people (if any) are collecting information on this. We also have people who donate to ensure our important work continues. There are lots of people that care for our reefs and oceans, which means lots of people help us ensure we are able to do what we need to do.

How do you get students and other people involved in environmental management and activities?

STEM Girl Power

Reef Check Australia is well known within the marine industry, however, to get more people involved we do things like guest lectures at schools and universities to share what we do. We offer Reef Ambassador courses for anyone interested in citizen science where they learn about what we do, about coral reefs, and how they can help activate their local communities. We also offer something called REEFSearch, which is an in-water identification tool that looks at substrates (what’s making up the reef), the animals that live on the reef, and impacts affecting the reef as well. That requires no training and is open to everyone. We also work with a variety of schools, universities and community groups to organise events, so that more people can get involved. If you want to find out more about any of these things, there is some great information on our website or you can get in touch by emailing


Jodi is a marine researcher specialising in citizen science, conservation biology and behaviour change, based on the Sunshine Coast.   

Underwater, she trains divers in global reef health monitoring protocols; above it, she engages and inspires through hands-on research, education and personal development to encourage everyone to become the best versions of themselves and to look after the planet.   

Jodi is an adventure junkie, an acrobat (and fire walker) and a lover of life. She enjoys unique, immersive travel; her journeys leading to an adventurous outlook and MacGyver-like innovativeness. She leads by example, getting amongst the action to make things happen.  

Jodi studied a Bachelor of Science focused in Marine Biology from James Cook University. She is an experienced environmental and education officer with a history of working in the non-profit organisation management industry.  

She combines her skills in sustainable development, biodiversity, environmental awareness, and natural resource management with a strong focus on community and social services to encourage everyone to contribute to environmental change.

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