Q: That's a lot of letters. Who is GVSJ / GVRSJ?
A: A handful! Dr. Gualtiero Victor Rudi Spiro Jaeger is the man behind the photographs. Currently based in Miami, he is an ocean scientist by training, a photographer on the side, and a sustainability management consultant by day. He is also writing this Q&A in 3rd person and about to switch to answering in 1st person - hang in there.
Are you the kind of Dr. who is useful on a flight?
Only if your mid-flight emergency is a burning desire to know more about the currents swirling far below. I assume that occurs all the time, but still waiting on that intercom call.
How did you become a photographer?
Started as a kid on summer vacation clicking away on a disposable camera. With a self-made pinhole camera I graduated to my dad's darkroom (and ever since have loved the distinctive smell of its chemicals). A set of Ansel Adams books at home and art class at school taught me the fundamentals. I worked as an assistant for Marcio Scavone, a renowned photographer in Sao Paulo, and most recently learned the basics of shooting below the surface from Keith Ellenbogen, an acclaimed underwater photographer.
What captures your eye / what are you trying to capture?
Architecture and structures, the environment and the space we live in: from vast landscapes that provide perspective on our endearing human size and fleeting sojourn within them, to the microcosm of coral reefs that contain the busy lives of its diverse inhabitants. And the overlooked labour that creates these structures and occurs within them, from construction workers on industrial sites to sailors in monumental modern ports.
And how did you become an ocean scientist?
By first studying physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and then physical oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. For my PhD I researched the interactions between ocean and climate in the Indian Ocean, specifically the Bay of Bengal. Learn more about my days at sea chasing monsoon storms under research.
Did you do anything else during that time?
What is a PhD if not a time to explore? While on dry land in between research cruises I joined the MIT Water Club, directing its 2016 MIT Water Summit “Utilities of the Future”, and leading the club as Co-President in 2017-18. It was a team that shared a curiosity and passion for water issues far beyond the specific problems each student researched, connecting people and ideas across disciplines.
So what did you do after getting a PhD?
Spent a year in Washington DC as a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There my work focused on novel policy approaches to support fishery communities affected by natural and man-made disasters, and to encourage greater international and public-private cooperation on weather observations and data sharing.
And how did a management consulting firm reel you in?
With (1) the promise of developing my business, strategy, and leadership experience to compliment my scientific background; and (2) the opportunity to work "on the ground" on the urgent transformations we need throughout our society. And yes, I have read (and highly recommend) Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. And I'm convinced that halting the climate crisis, preventing biodiversity loss, and creating a thriving world for all inhabitants requires a profound shift not only in thinking, but also in the distribution of power across society.
At the end of the ride, I want to have both helped preserve and contributed to the beauty found on this improbable pale blue dot.