What does your typical day involve?
At the Shark Trust there really isn’t a typical day – that’s why our work is so interesting. Remaining flexible is of the main challenges when you work as part of a small team with a wide remit. We aim to conserve sharks through science, education, influence and action which means at any time we could be working on policy issues; establishing awareness programmes; working directly with different interest groups or fielding media enquiries.
Unfortunately, one of the things that my day doesn’t include is field work. Working for a conservation organisation often means that you work on behalf of, rather than with, your chosen subject.
What made you decide to work on or around the coast?
I never thought about doing anything else! I always found the sea fascinating. As a child I was lucky enough to spend a lot of my time sitting on the seabed, holding onto rocks, watching fish swim by. My fascination just increased from then on.
I also feel that working in the marine sector is a constant challenge – we have to work with what we think we know, but also realise that there is so much to learn about what’s going on in the sea.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Sharks are essential to the health of marine ecosystems. So I think the best thing about my job is having a real opportunity to influence practical changes that benefit not only sharks but our marine environment as a whole.
However, positive changes are also mirrored with frustration. Policy progress is often an extremely slow process, scientific advice is often ignored and vulnerable species continue to be targeted or have their habitat destroyed. But these frustrations simply fuel our determination to work towards positive change.
What qualifications and experience do you need?
A degree in a biological science is a good starting point and many people have specialised through a postgraduate qualification such as a Masters or a PhD. Experience is invaluable and volunteering is an excellent way to learn more about the sector and expand you skills and contacts.
Beyond your formal qualifications I think it is useful to have a range of transferable skills or experiences, especially if you are working for a small organisation. Whether you have skills in photography, graphics or media studies, anything extra makes you that bit more useful to an organisation.
Can you give advice to others who might be thinking about following a similar career?
Remain positive. Every year there are hundreds of graduates from the marine sector all chasing a limited number of jobs. I think it’s really important to remain optimistic and enthusiastic about securing a job - this sector is competitive, but if you remain focused and determined you should succeed.
Volunteer! Marine organisations often have excellent opportunities to gain experience and make contacts. The experience not only makes you more attractive to potential employers, but may also put you in a good position to apply for a job if one comes up in the company you are volunteering with.
Keep up to date. Read around your subject and understand its application to the real world. Seek a greater understanding of the opportunities and threats that face the marine environment and the tools that are available to address them. Consider attending a conference which deals with your interest area, not only will the presentations bring you up to date but you will also have an opportunity to network with potential employers.
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This article was originally published in February 2008