This week we chat to…Alberto from Tengah Island Conservation. While he spends much of his time underwater and working directly with sea turtles Alberto also points out the importance of gaining skills and experience in statistics and GIS. It’s not the first time we’ve heard this advice!
Name: Alberto Queiruga Maneiro
Job Title: Project Manager
Organisation: Tengah Island Conservation
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I was born and grew up in a small coastal town in Galicia (Spain). That means that my life has always been linked to the sea. After finishing my degree in Environmental Science, I started working closely with sea turtles and slowly I got more and more involved in other topics related with the sea, like coral reef conservation.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
I managed to work my way up to the level of Project Manager with a conservation NGO by gaining experience over the years through paid and unpaid positions and internships around the world. I know that it can be hard, and sometimes quite frustrating when there are only unpaid opportunities or positions with very low salaries, but on the other hand, this type of opportunity helped me to get really good fieldwork experience and progress a little bit more quickly. At the same time, it was also a great way to connect with relevant and like-minded people in the conservation world.
- How did you land your current job/position?
In the normal way, searching for job offers in different websites and applying for them. They were looking for someone with experience working with sea turtles, living in remote areas, and also with managing teams of volunteers and interns. Luckily, my previous experience meant I was a good fit for the team.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I am a scientist and I am passionate about nature and animals. What I enjoy the most is being in permanent contact with animals and collecting valuable data in order to protect them and help in the conservation of their ecosystems and populations.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
Definitely! We are an NGO which works in the conservation of endangered species (sea turtles) and endangered ecosystems (coral reefs). Our constant fight against marine pollution or poaching and all of the achievements that we made in the last couple of years, makes me feel quite proud of myself and also of my team.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I know that gaining work experience and creating a good network is very important in this world, and I regret to not have started getting involved in these kinds of projects sooner, even before I started my studies.
Nowadays, as part of my job, I give training to students and local people who want to develop their knowledge in conservation. Some of them are still starting their studies, and I think it’s great that they join these projects so early because they will get a much clearer idea about how to focus their studies and their future.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
GIS and statistics. I would encourage everybody who loves the fieldwork to get proper knowledge about those topics.
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
As I said in my previous answer, proper training and gaining experience by joining volunteer events or carrying out internships will help you quite a lot in your career as a marine conservationist.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
Because of my background and all that I have lived with them, I must select sea turtles, specifically leatherbacks.
It is just amazing to see such a massive and prehistoric animal coming out of the water to nest. I would never forget the first time I saw them. Costa Rica + Thunder Storm + Leatherback = Pura Vida
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
In the last years I have made hundreds of dives, with hundreds of different memories, which make it hard to pick only one.
Last year, for instance, I had a special dive while we were mapping one of our coral reefs. We were surrounded by hundreds of “Pickhandle Barracudas” and above us hundreds of jellyfish were avoiding us to get back to the surface. It was scary, and at the same time simply amazing!!
Thank you Alberto. If you would like to contribute to the work Tengah Island Conservation does, you can apply to be a Conservation and Research Assistant with them. Click here to find out more.