This week, Jo Foden will say "Adío Athens" as she embarks on a new journey as Head of Science Department at ICES Secretariat.
Foden joins ICES with a wealth of experience in international affairs and an interdisciplinary approach. Most recently, she has worked with the United Nations Environment Programme where she has served in the Athens office of the Mediterranean Action Plan-Barcelona Convention Secretariat since 2021, as Head of Unit and the Programme Management Officer for the Mediterranean Quality Status Report (QSR), coordinating QSR delivery and EU-funded projects supporting Contracting Parties to deliver the ecosystem approach.
Foden has a scientific background in monitoring and assessment of the marine environment, with an MSc in Oceanography and a PhD in the cumulative impact of human pressures on seabed ecology.
After working as a marine policy scientist at Cefas for more than 10 years, monitoring and assessing marine water quality and eutrophication, Foden was seconded to the UK government’s environment ministry to work in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive team, helping coordinate and deliver the UK’s obligations.
This led to a position as Deputy Secretary in the OSPAR Commission Regional Seas Convention in 2014, with responsibility for the Hazardous Substances and Eutrophication Committee, as well as being OSPAR’s contact point with ICES.
We asked the incoming Head of Science Department a few questions before she takes over.
ICES has been a feature of my career since I first learned of the organization - studying for my MSc in Oceanography at Southampton, UK. When I worked at Cefas, many of my colleagues were active participants in ICES steering groups, expert groups, and workshops.
My own opportunity to engage with ICES came when I was an OSPAR Deputy Secretary, supporting OSPAR’s Working Group on Monitoring and on Trends and Effects of Substances in the Marine Environment (MIME) which met at ICES Headquarters every November - this is how I got to know many of my new colleagues in the Data Centre. I was also responsible for commissioning ICES advice for OSPAR, so I've also collaborated with the Advisory team, as well as joining many of the annual meetings between ICES and Requesters of ICES Advice (MIRIA).
ICES is a unique organization and it’s long been an ambition to work here because of the outstanding science conducted by the network of thousands of scientists and the production of independent peer-reviewed advice.
I hope my science background and experience in the science–policy interface will be useful to ICES. For example, I’ve experienced the practical challenges of conducting marine scientific research at sea; I’ve prepared assessments for policy commitments; and I have supported and coordinated teams of scientists and decision-makers within intergovernmental organizations.
I’m interested in interdisciplinary approaches to marine research and in translating and communicating research outcomes to advice for decision-makers.
I consider the impacts of climate change, particularly the effects of sea ice loss in the Arctic and other sensitive marine ecosystems, to be important areas for scientific research, as well as new emerging chemicals, pathogens, and the spread of non-indigenous species.
In this time of disinformation and the ready dismissal of facts, excellence in scientific research and its accurate interpretation as the evidence base for decision-makers has become more crucial than ever. ICES reputation precedes it and I'm proud to be joining the Secretariat that serves this process.
I’m looking forward to working with ICES Secretariat colleagues across the Science, Data, and Advisory departments and with the phenomenal network of scientists. This is an important moment for reviewing the implementation of the 2019–2024 Science Plan and preparing the next one.
My husband and I have been living in Athens, Greece, for the past two years and I’m certainly going to miss the country and its people but Denmark is ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world, so we’re very much looking forward to moving. I can’t wait to get a bicycle again to explore this cycle-friendly nation.
Jo Foden takes over as Head of Science Department at ICES Secretariat on 1 June 2023, based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Jo Foden, newly appointed as Head of Science at ICES Secretariat.