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Forging your own path in marine mammology

When people hear that I study marine mammals for a living, many ask how I got started in the field. The truth is that it took a lot of hard work, being in the right place at the right time, and determination. I first got the chance to study cetaceans during my undergraduate coursework. I asked my biology lecturer if she knew of any opportunities to work on a research project and she offered to let me work with her for my undergraduate honours thesis. During that project, I was lucky enough to be able to complete field work, defend my thesis, and publish a paper on my work.

After graduation, I asked my advisor if she knew of any marine mammalogists in the area that I was moving to, and she put me in touch with some of her contacts. From there, I was able to secure a contract position working for a cetacean research organization. After a few years of working for various research projects, I decided to pursue my Master’s degree, which I am currently working on.

I don’t want it to sound as though luck is all you need to be successful in this field; it requires a lot of hard work and determination. However, the reality is that jobs in the conservation field are few and far between and being in the right place at the right time certainly helps. Knowing how to effectively network and maintain your contacts in the industry is also extremely useful as well as making your work easily accessible to others. Don’t be shy in reaching out to people whose work you admire. By putting yourself and your work out there and networking effectively, when jobs do crop up, you are more likely to be kept in mind for exciting opportunities! With determination and lots of passion, a career in marine mammalogy is highly rewarding. I am immensely grateful to be in this field every day, whether it’s a day in the office or a day out on the water.

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