Staff Spotlight: Débora Newlands Souza

Volunteer Coordinator


Débora Newlands is a biologist from the south of Brazil. She has been volunteering and working with NGOs related to sea turtle conservation since 2013 and for the last four years been the volunteer coordinator for Project Biodiversity.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I believe my favorite travel memory is from a few years ago when I was a research assistant on an expedition in the Brazilian Amazon. I had never been to the Amazon forest so it was a dream come true for me. To be in the most biodiversity-rich place on the entire planet, surrounded by this majestic forest was truly magical. I got to see beautiful frogs, birds, tapirs, all different types of flora, and even river dolphins (which are really pink!)!

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Since working for Project Biodiversity I became more responsible and learned to trust myself for different tasks. I also became more independent and at the same time, learned it is OK to ask for help when help is needed. I believe that working in a different continent also allowed me to develop new skills I didn’t necessarily learn with my background in biology.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

This 2021, while the world was still in the middle of a pandemic, we were fortunate enough to welcome a good number of volunteers from all around the globe, as the situation regarding the pandemic in Cabo Verde was better than in Europe, for example. We had a volunteer from Portugal who was supposed to join us for just three weeks but she fell in love with the island, the people, and of course the turtles, and ended up staying for one month and a half! She got along with everyone in the team, and really connected with the NGOs mission and goals.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would choose the sea turtle nesting season volunteering program because it is truly incredible to be able to see an animal that has beaten the odds of survival and has traveled thousands of kilometers nesting in front of you. It is really beautiful to see this natural phenomenon under a star-covered night sky, on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

The fact that we are a rather small NGO but with people from different countries across three continents, and adds so much diversity to our team. We all have different backgrounds so we can combine our expertise to tackle the challenges we face every day. I was especially proud of our team in 2020 when I wasn’t even on-site, but we had a record season (for that time) of nesting loggerheads and we still manage to protect and patrol nesting beaches across the island with the help of amazing local volunteers (since the borders were closed due to the pandemic) who connected to our mission and dedicated their time in helping us.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I believe having team members aligned with the same mission and goals is key to having a successful organization. When the whole team has the same overall goals, it is easier to have everyone working in the same direction, even if people come from different backgrounds and/or countries. This way, the team can easily connect and help each other in times of adversity and also push each other in the right direction.