Network of Women in Marine Science

Inspiring Women in Ocean Science Feature: Lya Docteur

My name is Lya Docteur and I currently hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance and I am eagerly working towards my master’s degree in the same field.

I began my career as a professional primarily focused on the world of finance, until I was appointed as the Head of Finance for the then newly created entity; the Seychelles Parks and Gardens Authority (SPGA), whereby my foremost task was to ensure the financial sustainability of the organization. Two years down the line, and today SPGA is proudly flourishing and financially stable. We are now involved in more projects than ever undertaken, and the Authority compensates staff in a worthy manner, resulting in greater productivity and efficiency.

When I initially began working at the Botanical Garden, I was amazed and in awe of the extent to which nature contributes towards both the economic and social well-being of a country. Being rooted in finance, the economic growth of the country is a subject which is very fascinating and important. Thus, I am thrilled and also proud to be able to contribute and play my part in its development.

Currently a project which I have at heart is the Seychelles Green Footprint Project – an innovative approach which is geared towards inviting long-haul travellers, to address and offset their carbon footprint. The project helps build climate change resilience through the planting of native and endemic tree species in degraded forests. As someone who travels quite often, getting this project off the ground is one of my main goals for this year.  Together with a team of creative women consisting of a Research Scientist, our Communications Officer and myself, we are working on a concept which will appeal to the whole country and inspire change.

The Coral Festival is another big event which will take place in April 2024 in Seychelles and will be organized and hosted by SPGA. The festival will focus on raising awareness on the impacts of climate change on coral reefs and showcase the national mitigation efforts initiated. To further educate and sensitize the population, the Festival aims to bring together various conservation organizations, as well as private entities and academic institutions and will come to a close with a mass coral out-planting activity within an SPGA managed MPA.

The creation of SPGA, saw the integration of both terrestrial and marine protected areas of Seychelles entrusted to the Authority, and this ultimately called for effective financial sustainability, a task which was indeed a challenge! Furthermore, as a young girl who grew up on a farm surrounded by nature, I personally believed that a driving factor of our small island economy would always be through our natural resources i.e. fisheries, agriculture and conservation.

As a marine/ocean professional, what three critical lessons have you learned? Share your insights and experience with others who aspire to become experts in this field.

A tourist snorkelling in one of SPGA’s marine parks. © SPGA

1)     Having been involved in the marine conservation field locally and regionally, I would definitely say that I have grasped and understood a lot about the economic and social benefits that the ocean contributes. The extensive job opportunities that are present within this industry remain vast. Furthermore, the amount of knowledge gained about marine biodiversity and ecosystems is unimaginable. Gaining an understanding on how the ocean and its wellbeing has a direct impact on us, and how we live our lives is really something fascinating! I have come to appreciate the value and the economic benefits of the marine ecosystems and how we can these resources to support our lives, while living in harmony with them and not to disrupt their habitat or peace.

2)     Understanding the link between nature and humans- I believe that this link is greatly significant, but we are yet to fully realize this relationship can be beneficial to both species. Once this is fully understood, the destruction of these habitats and creatures will drastically cease and we will respect nature, as it should be.

3)     The reality of climate change is here and it is happening fast. We will all feel its impact if we do not react fast. We must all work together and put aside our differences. Despite having heard early warnings and crucial discussions on climate change, many people including me tended to ignore its looming presence. By actively being in this industry you learn a lot and you try to do your best to contribute towards raising awareness and mitigating its impact.

In celebration of International Women’s Day theme “Inspire Inclusion”, what progress do you envision for women in the Western Indian Ocean region?

As a young professional, I would definitely like to see more young women in the Western Indian Ocean, pursuing a career in conservation, be it an administrative or technical post as the importance is to contribute towards a better tomorrow. As women we must continue to strive to be advocates of marine conservation for future generations.

It is often said that women possess a more compassionate approach to situations as compared to men and I believe that such characteristic accords us an invaluable advantage in decision making, in addition to our maternal instincts which allows for fairness to be applied in all aspects of life.