An Interview with WiseOceans… Alex Hughes from World Cetacean Alliance
To help mark National Dolphin Day on 14th April, we caught up with Alex Hughes from World Cetacean Alliance to learn about her role as Discovery and Outreach Coordinator.
It was a trip to Borneo that first ignited Alex’s interest in marine life. She then discovered that communicating this passion was what she wanted to do. Now she has the opportunity to inspire a whole range of people who can become the next ambassadors for the oceans.
Name: Alex Hughes
Job Title: Discovery and Outreach Coordinator
Organisation: World Cetacean Alliance
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
Ever since I can remember I have been passionate about wildlife and growing up near Brighton, I have always loved the ocean. Being able to combine the two was perfect!
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
I actually have a broader zoological background, studying Biology and Animal Behaviour at undergraduate level and Animal Behaviour and Welfare for my masters. Through practical experience, voluntary work and working as a presenter for several zoos within the Whitely Wildlife Conservation Trust I realised that I wanted to be a wildlife educator.
- How did you land your current job/position?
I have actually started working for the World Cetacean Alliance fairly recently. I joined in January 2018 to run and develop a new training course however this has since developed into developing a suite of training courses and schools programme with the Brighton Dolphin Project. It’s very exciting!
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
My role is split between being office based to running training course sessions or schools sessions. My favourite part is definitely running the sessions – I love speaking with new people and inspiring them about the wonders of the ocean.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
Being able to train a wide variety of people to inspire them about ocean conservation or even to help them get a foot in the door is incredibly rewarding. From those who are looking for a career change to the whale champions of the future, it has really helped me see that ocean conservation is for anyone and everyone and it’s great to be able to spread that message! A lot of my daily inspiration comes from our Partners, the World Cetacean Alliance is a global Partnership, so we speak with people all over the world from many different backgrounds. I was on a conference call with the WCA Education Working Group recently and I found it so inspirational that there were all these organisations from all over the world working together to help whales, dolphins and porpoises.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I have certainly learnt a lot and know that I will keep on learning throughout the whole of my career. I think when I was starting out, even before university it would have been useful to know how competitive this industry can be – but also if you persevere you will get a job! Just keep going with those job applications and you will get there in the end.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Digital marketing and technical skills. I never thought that I would need to know anything remotely technical but as the World Cetacean Alliance secretariat is a small office we all have very varied roles. I have watched lots of YouTube videos to work out how to edit websites, create Facebook ads, use Google AdWords etc. Luckily we know some kind people which can offer some advice on this side of things too!
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Volunteer experience can be really beneficial. It makes you stand out and shows your commitment in a very competitive industry. Our training courses such as our Whale Champions Course and Responsible Whale Watching Guides Course include access to volunteer opportunities with our global Partners, working with whales and dolphins all over the world. Volunteer work can be really fun, highly rewarding, plus you can travel too! I’ve had some incredible experiences volunteering abroad – with turtles in Vietnam and on game reserves in South Africa.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
I love whales, dolphins and porpoises of course! I should say my absolute favourite is a cetacean species but in reality it’s turtles – is that really bad?! They just seem so wise and their biology is amazing! I love octopuses (octopodes?) too, I find them fascinating and supposedly they have the equivalent intelligence as a human 3 year old!
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
When I was 15, I went diving for the first time in Borneo and was amazed by the incredible, vibrant world just below the surface of the water. This was definitely an inspirational moment in pursuing my future career.
Thank you Alex for this great insight into the World Cetacean Alliance. We could not agree more that with continued training, experience and a lot of determination, you will eventually land your dream job! Why not boost your CV now by attending one of the WCA’s courses, for more information visit our course page here.
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