Class of 2023
BSc (Hons) Marine and Freshwater Conservation
Lewis made his passion for aquatic creatures his career by pursuing a degree at the University of Cumbria
I was really struggling to find a degree which contained aspects of marine biology and conservation in the programme and the University of Cumbria had a Marine and Freshwater Conservation degree, with a placement year in industry. As well as the degree sounding fantastic, there was the opportunity to study, work and live in the Lake District!
I remember going on a visit with my dad, separate to the open days as we were unable to attend it. Being walked around Ambleside campus by really enthusiastic and welcoming students, and my course leader to be, Gill Notman, spent at least an hour with us talking about the course, making sure I knew what was running due to changing programmes and always asking me what I wanted to get out of my degree. I felt like an individual rather than a potential statistic or number. There were some aspects of my degree where I got 1:1 tuition in terms of personal tutor support and dissertation supervision. I certainly feel I would not have received the level of 1:1 support I got at UOC compared to other universities.
During my final year of university, my undergraduate thesis was probably one of the most difficult obstacles that I have overcome. Numerous programmes and my laptop started not working properly, so my data analysis section had to be adapted to analysis by hand and eye, rather than using a programme!
I think when I arrived at Cumbria I realised it was all going to come together, the modules we had and the staff teaching them I thought were fantastic. When I truly felt I was following the right path everything was coming together was when I was able to go on my academic placement year with the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, in Greece! I was on placement from September 2021 to July 2022 and subsequently completed an undergraduate dissertation on short beaked common dolphins as a result!
I graduated in July 2023 and over the 4 years I studied the at University of Cumbria, I really did enjoy it! I was based in Ambleside, so the amazing views, scenery and nature on our doorstep was utilised in the programme. This really enhanced the fieldwork aspects of the modules across all years of my degree. During the first year of my degree, the Covid-19 pandemic began, in the second semester about halfway through. The switch to online learning was relatively quick and not as disruptive as expected and the tutors I had were able to teach us what we needed to learn similar to being in a classroom environment.
During my time at the University of Cumbria I learnt and developed numerous skills. These included various aspects of fieldwork, labwork and research. I have utilised skills across my placements and am continuing to develop them on my educational journey. Currently with the Bimini Shark Lab, I am working on scientific style assignments, will be completing data entry as well as giving tours to visitors and assisting in various other projects. I had the opportunity during this internship to complete 3 weeks of field research with a variety of amazing shark species, including the great hammerhead, which I have wanted to work with for nearly 20 years!
Life beyond studies has been great so far! Less than a month after graduation, I was offered an internship with the Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation (Bimini Shark Lab) in the Bahamas, which lasts until mid-December 2023. Over Christmas I will be meeting with friends and family as well as working when I can. I am planning to continue my PADI scuba diving training to become a divemaster or PADI instructor. I have also completed a PADI Reef Renewal Course, which has helped me develop fieldwork skills and conservation knowledge.
I think that if anyone is looking to complete the same course, or slightly similar courses across the conservation programmes:
If Lewis's story has inspired you, find out more aboout our BSc (Hons) Marine and Freshwater Conservation programmes.