March 15, 2022

Women Making History: Paula Gonzalez Ciccia

By Kathy Wagner

In our continuing celebration of women making history during Women’s History Month, we feature an interview with Paula Gonzalez Ciccia, Director of Conservation, Education, Research; Fundación Temaikèn. Note that this interview was condensed and edited for clarity.

What excites you now about your work?
My whole life I’ve been working in biology, coordinating recovery programs for local endangered species. Now I’m more involved with strategy, developing partnerships and seeking funding, which is new to me. I’m excited about collaborating with more stakeholders, especially with IUCN on our Species Survival Center.

What are some of the pivotal moments that brought you to this point as a leader?
Early in my career, I had a wonderful role model in Dr. Jane Goodall. I met her, traveled with her, participated in a Global Summit, and now I am board president for the Jane Goodall Institute Argentina. Dr. Goodall led me to my career in conservation. Other great women influenced me as well. Pati Medici and her work in the Pantanal, and two wonderful women who founded Fundación Temaiken and have allowed me to grow in this institution. I’ve always sought an ecosystem approach, a more holistic model for conservation.

What advice did you receive?
Never give up. Be committed to your dreams and be patient. Think before you act. I learned patience from my government work and my world in the field—this has helped me be more effective in my current job. Women need to be in more public positions, within government, within the AZA community. We can always learn and grow.

Has your gender been a barrier to your success/advancement? Or maybe gave you an edge?
Years ago, when I first started my career, people thought you couldn’t have a career and a family, but I followed my dreams and was persistent. It seems like people are more accepting of this now. Also, it was hard to find this kind of job—men were always the leaders in this area.

How do you find a source of renewal and replenishment?
It’s difficult—I am a bit single-minded and find it hard to do anything not related to my job, biodiversity or animals, or gardening. I love my work and now share my love of nature and animals with my three-year-old son. I am also getting back into yoga and meditation again.

How would you tell others to “save the world”?
Start small and do something simple every day in everything you do. It’s all related to human behavior; we affect the world with everything we do, so even a small step can help. Connect with nature—don’t be apathetic!

Your final thoughts?
If you have a dream, find a way to achieve it. Learn from others. Stay positive. Support other women; we need to believe we can get the job done!

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