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The OIC Secretariat oversees the day-to-day operation and coordination of the Ocean Innovation Challenge activities. The Secretariat consists of six staff of diverse backgrounds, nationalities and skill sets, which the Secretariat brings to the table as it provides hands-on mentoring to foster innovators' steady growth & impact. 

Mary M. Matthews, Ph.D., born in Kenya and raised in the US, is the UNDP Ocean Advisor and Head of the Ocean Innovation Challenge (OIC). She is a social scientist with a focus on the political economy of natural resource management. She’s been a Chief Technical Advisor, stakeholder analyst, policy strategist, and institutional and socio-economic expert, with experience in Africa, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean for UNDP-GEF (Global Environmental Facility), UNEP, the EU, the World Bank, and bilateral donors. 

She has a unique flair for innovation and finding solutions to the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While Mary is avidly learning new languages on Duolingo, she is proficient in Russian. 

Her favorite marine creature is the octopus, and her superpower is empowering teams to be creative in problem-solving and bringing out the best in them.

Mary and her super dog Izzy are based in Istanbul, Turkey.

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Ahmed Elseoud is the OIC’s competent, reliable and strategic Management Mentor. Ahmed has over 30 years of experience in all aspects and phases of water resource and environmental management. Ahmed began his career as a civil engineer and delved further into water and environmental engineering, after completing his Master of Science (MSc) at Utah State University, USA and a professional Diploma in Environmental Engineering in Egypt. He is skilled in water management computer modelling, Geographic Information System (GIS), decision support systems and environmental quality monitoring and analysis. He managed the Egyptian national program for coastal water monitoring for almost a decade.

He was the Water Resources Planner in the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation for 15 years, then became First Deputy Secretary Head of the Central Department for Environmental Quality in the Egyptian Ministry of Environment. In 2014, Ahmed became the CEO of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) where he found himself not only leading the agency’s operation but also managing its 5,700 staff members for the next 4 years. 
Like a whale, Ahmed exudes a strong and towering exterior to which the OIC team and his peers can testify but is actually also a sensible and considerate manager and mentor and happens to be the gender mainstreaming expert in the team. 

Ahmed telecommutes from Cairo, Egypt.

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Khristine Custodio Gudczinski or “Tine” to friends and colleagues, is the OIC’s Communications and Promotion Specialist. Tine has over 20 years of experience in development and intercultural communications, social marketing, design and multimedia production, knowledge and information technology management, event organizing, and project management. She organized and served as a facilitator-speaker in several international workshops on information, communication technology (ICT), communication and social marketing in over 15 countries. This includes the first East Asian Seas (EAS) Youth Forum in Haikou City, the GEF International Waters Conference in Dubrovnik and Barbados, and the Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva. She managed the UNEP-implemented and SEA START Regional Centre-executed  $1 million-funded ICT component of GEF IW:LEARN for five years.

As a passionate scuba diver and underwater photography hobbyist, she is fascinated by sharks and puffer fish who, like her, are quite eccentric, curious, instinctive, and, when the situation calls for it, fierce. In her free time, Tine organizes or engages in meetups and volunteer activities. She led several coral reef restoration and mangrove planting activities in the Gulf of Thailand, co-founded Bangkok Rising in 2013 – an ongoing volunteer-based community for gender issues, and co-led a parish-based multipurpose cooperative and youth organization in Manila for more than 15 years.

Tine speaks, in addition to Filipino and English, German, Thai and elementary French and Spanish.

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Lana Manjgaladze, the team’s Project Management Officer, was born and is based in Tbilisi, Georgia and has spent a considerable part of her adult life living in Istanbul, Turkey. Lana has a combined Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from Istanbul Bilgi University and University of Portsmouth, and has over 18 years of work experience in global trade, international logistics, TV/media, as well as in NGOs, in Georgia and Turkey. Lana joined the UN family in 2017, as a Project Officer in a regional transboundary river project.

Lana speaks several languages fluently, including Georgian, English and Russian on native-speaker level, with advanced knowledge of Turkish and elementary German. While raising a son and being an inspirational muse for her film-director husband, she manages to bring 100% energy and commitment to the team with her expertise in operational, logistical, procurement and financial fields, contributing her analytical and organizational skills to the vision and goals of the OIC. She is based in Tbilisi, Georgia.

If asked which marine animal she identifies with, she will undoubtedly answer a dolphin.

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Almary Joyce Paigao, OIC’s Project Management Assistant, is a young development communication professional who has been previously involved in country-level and regional coordination and management of humanitarian and environmental programmes. She started her career as a communication staff where she helped organize international conferences and workshops in the East Asian Seas Region and produced several communication materials and knowledge products. She joined the UN family in 2020 where she supported the monitoring and management of eight humanitarian crisis response projects in the Philippines as a programme assistant. 

Born and raised in an island province of the Philippines, her love and dedication to the ocean brought her to the OIC Secretariat where she now provides support both in operational and communications work. 

Almary considers herself a wanderer who maintains her sense of learning and adventure just like sea turtles constantly exploring the ocean and the sea. She brings positivity and warmth to the team all the way from Quezon City, Philippines.