BSc (Hons) Marine and Freshwater Conservation
Class of 2019
Hi, I’m Amy and this is my story.
From a young age, I was fortunate enough to travel the world with my family. We were never far from a tropical beach or a gorgeous ocean view. I always felt at ease in, on and around water and from my first meeting with a dolphin at the age of three, I knew I wanted to be ‘a dolphin lady’. I later learnt it was actually pronounced ‘marine biologist’. The following 15 years consisted of navigating GCSE’s and A-Levels in order to get that all-important spot on a marine biology course at university.
Upon discovering the Marine and Freshwater Conservation course at the University of Cumbria, I visited the Ambleside campus to explore the facilities and speak to one of the academics. I spoke with an academic who is a marine mammal specialist, who explained the outline of the course, the field trips and answered my questions (mostly about killer whales).
I started the course in September 2016. The first year focussed on honing our scientific writing skills as well as fieldwork and lab skills. During this time, it was recommended I take up an intern with the Montenegro Dolphin Project (DMAD), which I joined in the summer of 2017.
I undertook a three-month placement here where I met many colleagues and friends I would later work with. During my time at DMAD, I learnt the importance of networking and became confident in marine mammal identification and surveying techniques.
I returned to university for the second year full of enthusiasm and dissertation ideas. Second-year focussed on honing our analytical skills in both quantitative and qualitative data. We also went on some inspiring field trips to the Freshwater Biological Association, Seahouses and The Gambia.
We practised individual research skills and began designing our own fieldwork studies. I volunteered at The Cumbria Wildlife Trust joining grey seal surveys. Here, I learnt a drier approach to marine mammal surveys and practised my wildlife photography skills.
I learnt many things whilst studying at Cumbria, both personally and academically. I learnt about the breadth and diversity of the field, from climate change and water resource management to biodiversity and evolution. I also learnt many transferrable skills, including both oral and poster presentations, lab skills and core scientific writing skills.
I now work as the Project Manager of The Cambodian Marine Mammal Conservation Project. Before starting my course, I had no real direction or professional focus. I just knew that I wanted to spend my life finding dolphins and learning more about them. And now I do and honestly, it's the best job in the world!
I get paid to find dolphins and write about them. I don't think my pre-university brain would have believed that was an actual job - and turns out... it is.
University has changed my life and shaped my career. University taught me the breadth and depth of careers available in the sphere of conservation, as well as giving me a plethora of skills which gave me the confidence to pursue my dream job.
I hope to continue researching the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin and draw as much attention to their conservation efforts and needs as possible. At present, the NGO I work for (Marine Conservation Cambodia) does a great job of this and provides a platform for young conservationists to have an important and real-world impact on the marine environment.
I'm a bit too focussed on the now to think about the future, but I'm sure it would be very much of the same - finding dolphins and writing about them!