by Ashleigh Kitchiner, STEM Ambassador and Senior Marine Mammal Consultant
I am a marine biologist, to be more specific I’m a whale nut! Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are my thing, and I can’t get enough of them. One aspect about these majestic creatures is that we only get to see ca. 10% of their lives, as they surface to breath. They are air breathers like us, so we do get chance to see them; however, this is not often enough. To fill in the gaps in knowledge we utilise varying scientific and computing methods to tell us more about their lives.
My job role is Senior Marine Mammal Consultant for a consultancy, what this means is that I help to assess the impacts of any marine developments such as new harbours, wind farms and tidal turbines on marine mammals (seals, sea lions, fur seals, whales, dolphins, porpoises, polar bears, and otters). Once assessed I can determine the size of the impact and must make any protections where needed to reduce these effects. I thoroughly enjoy my job as no two days are the same and with ever-growing knowledge in the scientific community, there is always new things to know.
I’ve always had an affinity with the natural world, but I have not always known exactly what I wanted to do. Guess what? That’s okay! I figured out my way into my dream job, of which I only figured out that it was what I wanted to do in the last year or so. It is fine to feel like you are fumbling from volunteering opportunity to internship to job. All the experience you gain will be useful, nothing is ever wasted, and you will more than likely use information or skills learnt in that summer part-time job.
I went back to university when I was 24 and felt very left behind at the time but I am so glad I did, and it was the best thing I ever did. Never feel like its too late, you’ll figure it out! I enrolled in a broad degree as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to specialise in, this enabled me to specify through modules and finally in a postgraduate. I also appreciate that degrees may not be for everyone. I know a few people that are some of the most intelligent and widely skilled people I have met, and they did not enrol in a degree but did engage in internships and varying roles all over the world. There are many ways to get into STEM, and every story is different.