While studying for my bachelor’s degree in oceanography, I was also trying to choose the right career path. Like most students, I had many doubts, but l remember thinking there was one thing I was certain about — I wanted to travel and experience as much as I could along the 8,500-kilometer-long Brazilian coast.

Now, here I am, a project specialist on AECOM’s socioeconomic team in Brazil, where I have reached beyond my expectations. My job involves traveling, visiting pristine landscapes and experiencing the traditional cultures of Brazil. While working at AECOM, I have visited five states, approximately 50 municipalities and more than 150 coastal communities.

My role on the socioeconomic team involves contributing design and planning work, as well as conducting research about fishery activities. This research is extremely important for the licensing and permitting process of the offshore oil-and-gas industry in Brazil. Our methods are mostly qualitative, and are based on the use of questionnaires and participatory tools such as mapping, diagrams and history lines, to name a few.

This has been one of my most challenging fieldwork experiences to date. Oil-and-gas offshore activities are still very underdeveloped in northern Brazil compared with other regions of the country. Regardless, most of the people in that area are dependent on fishery activities as their main source of income and food. Considering the high sensitivity and vulnerability of nature in northern Brazil, the government demanded a comprehensive and complex environmental impact assessment.

Characterizing the activity of artisanal fisheries was difficult because, in northern Brazil, the economic sector is very traditional and informal, and is dispersed among several coastal communities. However, we still were able to successfully complete the project.

Meeting with the local communities and learning about their livelihoods was a life-changing experience for me. This was not just pragmatic data collection. They invited our team to have meals with them, which was an incredible demonstration of generosity and kindness. We were overwhelmed with great stories and examples of relevant traditional and ecological knowledge.

Due to the large number of fishery assessments I have conducted since joining AECOM, I have grown professionally in many ways. I am also continuously learning from my colleagues on the socioeconomic team. Moreover, working at AECOM gives me the opportunity to grow as an individual, because I am able to explore my country and better understand and appreciate its nature, culture and people.