I was born/grew up in: Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, USA
I now live in: London, UK
I completed my training/education at: B.Sc. in Zoology, Masters degree in Library and Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Describe what you do at work.
I spend most of the day answering questions and trying to solve problems. This means that no two days are exactly alike, which I really enjoy. I use my STEM skills most when working on policy development. For example, I developed a new requirement that fisheries need to consider how they are impacting non-target species and investigate what other methods are out there for further minimising this impact. For example, in a fishery where seabirds might get hooked on a longline, fisheries would look at how many birds they interact with and whether this level is sustainable on a population level. Whether it is or is not, they then need to look at what sort of measures they could put in place to reduce this as much as possible. A common measure for this type of interaction is for the fishery to float streamer lines behind the vessel that flap in the wind and keep the birds away. This has resulted in huge reductions in seabird injuries and mortalities. I research the ways that the population level impacts are conducted and also what sort of new technologies are out there so that best practice can be incorporated into the standard.
My background in zoology helps with understanding behavioural aspects of how other species might interact with fishing gear. This, as well as math, helps me to work out how population-level impacts might be assessed. It is useful to understand gear technology and how fishing boats operate to work out what technical solutions might address the bycatch problems. My workplace is very collaborative and we all contribute different skills in different parts of the standard, so I am always learning something new. For example, I've recently learned how to conduct a stock assessment for fish species.
I speak a bit of French, which is useful when working for a global organisation. I wish I had taken some other languages as well.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect people’s lives?
I'm lucky that in my career I feel I can make a difference to the state of the world's oceans. Changes I make to the standard are brought into individual fishery assessments, where they are implemented 'on the water'. This is very satisfying on a personal level but I hope also inspires others to get involved in any way they can to improve the environment.
What motivates you in your career?
I get really excited about learning new things, working with people who are all trying to solve problems and work to make the world a better place. I get to use a wide variety of skills in this line of work - lots of engagement with people - from scientists to the general public - researching science, developing policy, creating new processes, distilling and presenting information...and all along with traveling the world.
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
I did a Bachelor of Science in Zoology at UW-Madison, and originally wanted to be a veterinarian. I took quite a few classes on animal behaviour and wildlife ecology and became really interested in those areas. I decided I didn't want to be a vet but wasn't quite sure what I did want to do. Because of that I took a lot of additional coursework in areas outside zoology, including math, chemistry, cultural anthropology (great for learning about our own species) and even creative writing.
When I finished, I worked at a bookstore and became interested in how people collect and use information, particularly as the internet was really taking off. So I decided to do a Masters degree in Library and Information Studies. It is not a traditional science route, or one that many take to go into work on marine ecology but I've found that this combination of science with a practical masters meant that I had a unique and useful skillset that has benefitted me in my career path.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I love to read, ride horses, go hiking and travel the world, meeting new and interesting people. I try to get to the sea as much as possible and love to go whale and seabird watching. I volunteer for the British Trust of Ornithology doing a waterbird count at a site near my house, a great way to keep a hand in data collection work and to just sit and enjoy my local nature.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
Think outside the box - what skills might set you apart? It is as important to see and experience things as it is to learn in a classroom, so take the time to try out any fields you're interested in. Many organisations take on interns and this can be a fantastic way to experience what a particular job is like and get a foot in the door!