Oakland, California United States of America
By Jeff Berckes (2013)
“What’s in a name?” Juliet asks in Shakespeare’s famous play about the Montagues and Capulets. No, this isn’t a tale about star-crossed lovers or the dangers of sleeping potions. This is a story about Jos Hill, 2013 Kinship Fellow and adventure junky.
Let’s start with “Jos.” During her work in the coral reefs of Indonesia, her colleagues started calling her “Extra Joss” after the local energy drink. “Yeah, I have lots of energy and drive,” Jos says with a laugh. Jos is also a slang term for good karma or good luck. Something that we all could use a little of in the field of conservation.
So, what about the other half of the name, Hill? You select the hill workout when you want a challenge on your elliptical machine. A hill looms on the hike or the run and denotes a certain accomplishment at the top. The “King of the hill” is slang for a person in command.
Well, how about the Queen of the Hill, with Extra Jos?
“It’s not really a choice, it’s not even a belief, it’s a fundamental truth that everything is connected and that we need to take care of the environment. I didn’t consider working on anything else.”
But why marine conservation? As a young girl, Jos had no interest in marine biology, but always wanted to have an adventure and work in conservation. The ocean had the perfect mix of importance, adventure, and something that is more powerful than herself, something Jos described as a “respectful fear.”
"At the start of my career, I was attracted to work on coral reefs because it was exhilarating, fascinating and important, required a physical adventure, and because the problems facing them are so complex and touch many issues from poverty to ecology. There is lots of creativity needed to find and then figure out how to implement solutions and I am in my element in these problem-solving environments. I also had claustrophobia, and I felt compelled to get over it so I could work in coral reef ecosystems.”
Wait, hold on. Jos had claustrophobia?
Indeed she did, but she took on those fears until she conquered them. She brought it up again when I asked about hobbies and she mentioned something about kite surfing. Knowing Jos, I didn’t think this was standing on the beach and flying a kite. No, this was skimming across the surface of the sea on a wind-aided surfboard. She started kite surfing after standing on the sidelines, jealous of how much fun it looked to be.
“The power of the kite is scary. I was watching people do it and wished I could do that and I thought, wait, that’s not me. I took lessons, it was tough, and I did it. It was a lesson to me that I can face fears and that if I want to do something I can go and do it.”
She added with a little laugh and what I imagine was a shoulder shrug; “And now I kite surf.”
In her current role at the Coral Reef Alliance, Jos oversees programs focused on mitigating stormwater pollution and ocean sewage. “Ocean sewage is an invisible but widespread problem that impacts human and environmental health. We need to change this situation quickly.”
A disciple of the great David Attenborough, Jos believes that the health of the world’s oceans are the most important and yet receive the least investment of our field. After looking for an outlet to try and get that message across to more than her sphere of friends and colleagues, Jos joined the Conservation Finance Alliance’s Marine and Coastal Finance Working Group. This new and currently small but mighty group is working towards building capacity among practitioners in the knowledge and use of conservation finance solution in a collaborative and deliberate structure that had Jos raving about the potential, at one point exclaiming “this is it!”
Her admirable drive can come at a cost. Jos admitted that as someone who leads with so much energy and passion, she can get frustrated when things aren’t moving quickly enough. It’s important for her to stop and take a look at the landscape and see if she needs to pull back or even put an idea on the backburner for the time being.
Further, Jos suffers from the common affliction in driven people – a work-life balance that can get out of whack, particularly when taking on too much. Sometimes her sprinter’s mentality can get her in trouble, especially if she finds herself in a marathon-type project. “If I’m clear about something I want to go after then I have a lot of energy to get after it but then I need to balance that out with pulling back for a while. It’s not a daily thing. I want it to be a daily thing. But the reality is that it’s impossible.”
Her advice to a young professional in the field included talking to people that do the work they are interested in and finding the skillset they wished they had developed. That skill might be a foothold in the field to get you started. Her final bit of advice is something I thought we could all benefit from:
“Really think about: what are the skills you need to be able to do the thing that you want to do, what are you good at doing and what do you love. Find your 'flow,' or as Sir Ken Robinson recommends, find your element. Get clear on that because that’s what is going to carry you.”
Jos Hill is interested in working on marine and coastal issues with Kinship Fellows. The Conservation Finance Alliance Marine and Coastal Finance Workshop Group is looking for new members and Jos would be thrilled to have additional Kinship Fellows in the group.
I asked Jos for a favorite recipe and she offered up her Carrot and Ginger Soup:
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds carrots (6-7 large carrots), peeled and sliced thin
2 cups chopped white or yellow onion
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 cups water
3 large strips of zest from an orange
Chopped chives, parsley, dill or fennel for garnish
At the start of my career, I was attracted to work on coral reefs because it was exhilarating, fascinating and important, required a physical adventure, and because the problems facing them are so complex and touch many issues from poverty to ecology. There is lots of creativity needed to find and then figure out how to implement solutions and I am in my element in these problem-solving environments.