I attended an Ocean Conservation Panel on marine plastic pollution last week. It was really interesting with incredible speakers, and made me reflect on my history with the issue of ocean plastics and where we should go from here.
While marine plastics pollution is an issue that is only becoming more prevalent in the media every day now, I don’t remember a time before it was on my radar. This can be credited to my mum, who during twice-daily dog walks on the beach would notice how much litter washed up on the shore and be incensed by it. Like most people, my education and understanding has only increased recently, with documentaries like A Plastic Ocean really capturing the public consciousness, and videos of straws being pulled from turtles’ noses going viral.
Last night I went to an “Ocean Conservation Panel” at the Steppes Travel Beyond Festival in London, all about marine plastics pollution. I got to see one of my absolute all-time idols speak, and find some new ones, as well as get some inspiration to change my behaviour and annoy my friends to change theirs!
In 2016 I joined the Limpopo Dwarf Mongoose Project as a Research Assistant. This is a long term behavioural study. Mongoosers (an informal title) work 6 days a week collecting data and carrying out experiments. The work is with habituated mongoose groups so you can really observe them closely. Dwarf mongooses are cooperatively breeding social mammals with loads of interesting behaviours and complex group structures.
For the sake of ease I have formatted this in the same way as previous reviews of volunteer experiences, but it was more like a job (without the payment aspect, I suppose).
Sophie is an MSci Zoology graduate who is soon off to work as a project manager in South Africa on the Dwarf Mongoose Project (where she was my wonderful roommate when we were research assistants!) – I’ll leave the rest for her to explain in her own words.
In June 2015 I joined the Ionian Dolphin Project (IDP) run by the Tethys Research Institute for a week. This is a long-term research project on the bottlenose dolphins in the Ambravikos Gulf and other dolphins and marine mammals in the waters around Kalamos.
Maybe it’s just that I move in relevant circles, both out in the real world and online, but it feels like recently there has been a lot of publicity about how difficult it is to build a career in conservation. I think publicity is good, but it can obviously be demoralising to realise how many people, more educated, experienced, and qualified than you (me) are still finding it impossible to build a career.
Six years later, I might finally have the distance, age and experience to reflect on the turtle conservation project I joined for a month when I was 16. It’s safe to say I learned a lot, and equally safe to say not much of it was about turtles. It had the excellent effect of persuading me to study Zoology, but aside from that I think I would call it valuable for all the wrong reasons.
Disclaimer: A quick glance at the website suggests some major changes to this programme in the past 6 years, and my experience may not be at all reflective of the experiences of volunteers there today.
I’m a compulsive job hunter, finding it weird that I’ve actually sorted out the next small portion of my life. For the time being, the job hunting has to stop, because I’m not available any more! How bizarre. But for anyone still seeking, these are the resources I bookmark and follow and check with alarming regularity.