Luxembourg marine biologist and “Changing Seas”producer Veronique Koch on the importance of communicating about science and the state of our oceans.
Jess Bauldry: Coming from landlocked Luxembourg, how did your love of marine biology come about?
Veronique Koch: My love for marine biology grew out of the family vacations I took as a young girl to go snorkeling, and later scuba diving. I was amazed by what I saw underwater. There was a certain peaceful nature to the underwater world. Once I started scuba diving, I felt like the closest thing to an astronaut, exploring and being completely surrounded by a new world. I was completely hooked and wanted to learn more about life in the ocean and how to protect it.
You switched from being a marine biologist to a producer after interning at “Changing Seas” during season 1 (if the bio on their site is correct). Tell us about that?
Interning with “Changing Seas” on South Florida PBS was a life-changing experience for me. Alexa Elliott, the series producer (who also happens to be of German origin) became my mentor and taught me so much. I was able to use what I'd learned as a scientist, such as researching a topic and identifying topics worth making a show about, and repurpose them for television production. Science communication became my passion. I had found a way to keep learning about marine life and writing about it, but this time sharing my findings with a broader audience instead of with just the scientific community, as I'd been doing as a marine biologist. I had always been a fan of nature documentaries, so this was truly a dream come true.
Photo: Lina Castaneda. Veronique Koch, pictured, says interning with “Changing Seas” on South Florida PBS was a life-changing experience
Why do you feel it’s important to communicate about ocean life?
The oceans are in trouble. They're the lifeblood of our planet (they produce more than half of our oxygen and absorb most of our carbon dioxide), so this is a big problem. They are experiencing declining fish stocks, changing water chemistry and disappearing coral reefs. Since not everyone lives near the ocean, they may feel disconnected from it and not think about these issues. Communicating these ideas through television and other media helps spread the word and make people more conscious of their actions.
You’ve won a lot of prizes for your work, congratulations. But what is for you the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of producing science television is when someone tells me they saw one of my shows and that it changed the way they think. This is particularly powerful when I talk to young people and families who have seen Changing Seas. If the next generations are aware of environmental issues and want to do something to resolve them, I have hope.
What is next for you in your professional life?
I really want to cement my career as a science communicator. I have a number of projects in the works. I work freelance, so this gives me the opportunity to try many new things. I am producing a film about sea level rise in Miami, seen through the eyes of teenagers, working with students from underprivileged areas of Miami that I have been teaching in a science filmmaking course at the Frost Museum of Science. I am going to diversify a bit in terms of media, as I just got on board to produce a science podcast with a terrific team. I am also working on a few ideas for the next season of Changing Seas, which starts production in the summer. Life is very exciting right now. It's wonderful to be working in a job that I love.
Veronique Koch grew up in Canada and Luxembourg but left home to study marine biology first at the University of Stirling, Scotland for her BSc, and then at the University of Miami’s Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science for MSc. Her interest in marine science started with her love of scuba diving, having worked as a divemaster for both PADI and NOAA. She lives in El Portal, Florida with her husband, two boys, greyhound and cats.