An Interview with WiseOceans… Anna Elliott from the Sea Trust
This week we chat to Anna from Sea Trust. She talks about the importance of understanding and accessing funding streams, a really important aspect of working in the non-profit sector.
Name: Anna Elliott
Job Title: Project Development Officer
Organisation: Sea Trust
What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I started off studying environmental science and then working in forestry and terrestrial ecology. However, I grew up next to the sea in Pembrokeshire and I’d always been interested in Marine Biology. I think having experience in both terrestrial and marine ecology makes me better at my job.
What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
I returned to University to study a masters in Environmental Biology & Conservation and had the opportunity to specialise in Marine Biology. I think a masters is important in this field as there is so much competition. I am always trying to learn new skills and learn about new species to achieve my career goals. I would like to study for my PhD one day.
How did you land your current job/position?
I found out about my current position on a job page online. I was lucky it was very close to where I was living which was an advantage. I think having an MSc helped and also I had met the Sea Trust team when I was researching for my MSc dissertation.
Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I love the variety of my job, I never get bored as every day is different.
Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
I think working with school children and educating the general public using our small aquarium really makes a difference. It helps people realise what incredible diversity we have on British coasts which enthuses people to want to change their behaviour in order to protect our wildlife. For example, we had loads of people telling us they’ve stopped using single-use plastic bags and straws after our Ocean plastic jellyfish display.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I wish I’d known how important volunteering is and also the importance of being able to identify species. I would have focused more on practical taxonomy at university and I would have volunteered with more organisations like Sea Trust.
I didn’t think I’d need to know how to apply for funding. However, I spend over 50% of my time developing projects for funding applications and managing and evaluating funded projects. It is a very important skill to have if you want to work for a non-profit conservation organisation.
What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Volunteer and intern as much as you can. Learn taxonomic ID skills and other practical handling skills e.g. tagging. Also, be positive and enthusiastic and learn how to work well within a team.
What is your favourite marine creature and why?
I love jellyfish as I did my MSc dissertation on barrel jellyfish. I love them because there is such a huge variety of species and they are so relaxing to watch. Also they are so simple and delicate and yet some of the most hardy species in the sea. You even get an immortal jellyfish which is really cool.
What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
My most unforgettable moment at sea would probably be ‘jellyfishing’. I had to measure and collect tissue samples of Barrel jellyfish for my masters. So I accompanied the fishermen who were harvesting them to extract collagen for medical research. It was a very interesting experience as I had to collect and weigh around 40 huge slimy jellyfish which measured up to 1 metre in diameter and weighed up to 30kg. This was very challenging as the boat was rocking and the fishermen needed to get the jellyfish on ice very quickly. But I managed it which felt like a huge achievement and after an initial icy reception from the fishermen I felt like I earned their respect.
Thanks Anna, we have to agree, jellyfish are simply incredible!
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