An interview with WiseOceans… Alex Childs from MWSRP
It can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to getting involved in marine conservation and setting yourself up for your dream job, so we interviewed a few people who work for various amazing organisations to give you some hints and tips as to how to make it happen for you, whatever your background.
Here is the first instalment – watch this space for more!
Name: Alexandra Childs
Job Title: In Field Coordinator
Organisation: Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP)
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I always knew I wanted to end up working in conservation; initially I started out with terrestrial wildlife in Southern Africa but made the switch to marine once I started with the MWSRP and haven’t looked back since.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
Even though my primary area of study was not related to the marine environment I have always had a healthy appetite for learning and pursued my interest in conservation in my own time. I am now hoping to go on to do a masters in Environmental Biology.
- How did you land your current job?
Luck. I had just had to leave my previous job due to work visa issues and heard about the opportunity with the MWSRP through a friend.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Knowing that what we do here helps to further our knowledge of whale sharks and protect them through research and social engagement.
- Are there aspects of your role which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
All the time, every school trip and presentation we give, all the volunteers and apprentices we have, there is always a moment when you can see they have experienced or discovered something new that will fundamentally change the way they interact and view the marine environment in their daily lives.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
Social media. I had never really payed much attention to it nor thought it would be something that I would have to ever know much about or use in a professional capacity, but since being with the programme it has been a steep learning curve as to how best to engage with our supporters.
- Are there any skills you didn’t think you would need but did?
Art. I often draw in my spare time as a hobby and I guess it goes without saying that when you work with children crafts are always going to be a big part of your activities but I definitely underestimated how much cardboard I would be drawing on and cutting out!
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Always pursue what interests you. Never be afraid to ask a question, the worst anyone can ever do is say no. Send your CV to everyone, if you don’t get the job you have still made a contact!
- Which is your favourite marine creature and why?
Sharks! Obviously the whale shark has a particular soft spot in my heart, but I love all sharks, they are incredible creatures, so diverse, and we still know so little about them!
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea (so far!)?
My first and the only encounter we have recorded with a young whale shark called Mayo who was about 3.5 meters. He was super inquisitive, checking out the dhoni (Maldivian boat) and then me and my colleague. At one point I stuck my head out the water to call in the group of school kids we had with us and when I looked back in it had snuck up on me and must have been no further than 30cm from my face! I got a bit of a fright and made, what I am told, were some very funny noises, but Mayo didn’t seem too fussed and continued to swim up to and around us for another ten minutes before he left the encounter. A magical experience that I will never forget.
Thanks Alexandra! It sounds like you have had some amazing experiences and have many more to come.
To find out more about the Maldives Whale Shark Research programme and get some fantastic experience to help you on your journey to becoming a marine conservationist then have a look at their page in our Marine Research Expedition section.
Don’t forget to sign up to our weekly job alert email for the latest marine conservation opportunities.