Meet Generation Restoration: Gizem Akdoğan

Posted: 9th June 2023

We are in the midst of an environmental crisis, and the next ten years are crucial to avert climate change and to halt the irreversible loss of habitats and species. Restoration provides an opportunity to repair the damage caused so since 2018, the Endangered Landscapes Programme has supported the delivery of land and seascape restoration projects across Europe. These are led and driven on the ground by dedicated and inspirational teams including young people who are key to restore our landscapes and seascapes for generations to come. Over the coming months we will be running a series of articles focused on #GenerationRestoration and the youth that are driving change on the ground.

This week, we talked to 29 year old Gizem Akdoğan, Programme Officer for Akdeniz Koruma Derneği (AKD), working on the Gökova Bay to Cape Gelidonya project. Her position involves analysis and reporting of programmatic outputs, supporting the finance department, and delivering programme activities. Gizem’s current focus is on AKD’s edible invasives project, which involves organising awareness-raising activities with stakeholders in coastal towns and the public in Turkey’s cities and working to create better conditions for women in fisheries.

How did you become interested in restoration?

While undertaking a master’s degree in urban policy planning and local governments, I took a course on environmental politics and policy. This course gave me insight into global environmental problems such as biodiversity loss, the climate crisis, and how international organisations, national and local governments, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can work at different scales to find solutions. While personally taking action to live a zero-waste and climate-friendly life, I also participated as a volunteer in NGOs working with youth to combat the climate crisis. I worked on a project which analysed the role of local governments in Turkey in combating the climate crisis on cultural heritage sites. Following this experience, I decided that I wanted to work professionally in this field, and my path crossed with Akdeniz Koruma Derneği (AKD).

What inspires you and how do you stay optimistic about the future of biodiversity and climate?

I believe there is still a chance to save the ocean and there are lots of things to do! Witnessing the increasing awareness and proactiveness towards combating climate crisis among my friends and close circle, and the measured impact of AKD’s conservation work in coastal Southwestern Turkey gives me hope for the future. The younger generation is aware of the critical situation in which our planet stands. They raise their voices and demand action.

We at AKD work hard to keep our oceans healthy and restore biodiversity. The increase in the fish biomass and the visual evidence that reveal the positive change in the marine habitat show the results of our efforts. These results motivate not only me but also my colleagues.

Aerial view of Dalyan wetland and Iztuzu beach, Fethiye Turkey.

Photo: Zafer Kizilkaya.

How is your project working and engaging with young people?

We have a project with the Marmaris Directorate of the Ministry of Education to communicate ecological heritage to primary school children. As part of this, we work with children and organise activities about local biodiversity and conservation. For example, last year we organised a clean-up activity with a local school in Akyaka. More than 60 primary and secondary school students participated and collected 74 kilograms of litter from the shores of Azmak. The children were interested in marine life, and we informed them about how certain types of waste harm the environment. At the end of the event, they were happy to be a part of the clean-up.

In addition, we at AKD are working on creating a training programme to include our programmes’ results and global and national environmental policies to reach young people at the high school level.

Do you think young people feel connected to the natural world?

During Covid-19, the lockdowns that were put in place in Turkey made young people realise the importance of the nature they live within. Although this changes from space to space due to the priorities of nations and societies, I have observed that young people feel connected to nature in our project areas. Increasingly, more young people want to take part in nature conservation. Last summer, AKD received many internship applications from high school and university students. Some of them were already studying degrees relating to conservation at university level, and others were interested in studying conservation with dreams of becoming conservation officers and managers in the future.

To find out more about the Gökova Bay to Cape Gelidonya project, visit their project page

View all News