An Interview with WiseOceans… Beth Faulkner from the Manta Trust
Her advice is to practice public speaking and get comfortable talking to people about the issues that the oceans face. Also, network as much as you can, build up your contacts – it can open doors to lots of new opportunities that are out there!
Name: Beth Faulkner
Job Title: Project Manager
Organisation: Manta Trust
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I grew up on the south coast of England and was always playing in the rock pools in the summer. I love being near the sea and also have a huge love of animals, so I thought to combine these two and become a marine biologist. Now I get to encounter many beautiful creatures and be in the water every day!
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
As nearly every other person that works in the marine conservation field I first studied to get my Bachelor’s degree in marine biology. During this time I made sure that I got some experience by volunteering at places related to the marine field. Once I completed university I got my open water diving qualification and took the leap to move to the Maldives. Now I have a job that I love I make sure that I take every challenge and learn from them to expand my knowledge and improve my ability to make a difference in the underwater world.
- How did you land your current job/position?
I moved to the Maldives in 2015 to work as an intern. After my internship I was offered a job to work as a resident marine biologist. I worked for 2.5 years as resident marine biologist during which my work included turtle rehabilitation, coral restoration and education and outreach. During this time I became familiar with the Manta Trust and the work that they were carrying out in the Maldives. I contributed data to the Maldivian Manta Ray Project and got to know other staff members working for the charity. When a vacancy came up I applied straight away and now I am here working in Laamu for a great cause with beautiful animals!
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Any aspect that involves being in the water! I love when we are out surveying and we encounter our regular manta rays that you can identify using the spot pattern on their bellies. I have come to recognise many individuals and have got to know their personalities, so encountering any of of them is a wonderful feeling.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
One aspect of my job that makes me feel like I am making a difference is when we carry out educational sessions on local islands or presentations on the resort and you see people’s curiosity, excitement and respect for the underwater world increasing right before my eyes. Helping to increase the number of people that want to protect the ocean is something that I believe will make a huge difference in the future. Another aspect is when I am involved in new research that will allow us to understand more about the biology and behaviour of manta rays. Whether its carrying out trials of new equipment that have never been used before or using verified techniques to add to the data we already have, knowing I am contributing to science that in the end will help to further protect manta rays make me feel that I am making a difference.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
The value of practical experience. Academic qualifications are very important but practical skills in my eyes are much more valuable. Having experience and knowing how to do many aspects of a job before you apply will help to not only get the job but also to excel once you are in the field.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Public speaking. This is something that I practised only a little at university. Being able to talk to others and share knowledge about the importance of protecting the ocean and its inhabitants is key to making change.
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Keep going and network! Before I got where I am many people told me that I wouldn’t be able to get a job in marine conservation; that there is too much competition and only the best of the best get the open jobs. I kept going and took big steps that I wasn’t always completely comfortable doing, I made sure to speak to others also working in marine conservation and make links with people working for NGOs, charities and companies that I may want to work for in the future. This all paid off and now I am in a job I love in marine conservation!
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
Manta rays are obviously at the top of my list but I would have to say I have a soft spot for cuttlefish. I studied the common cuttlefish for my research thesis at university and in this time I found out what awesome creatures they are! Believe it or not, they have such character and are very clever!
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
Seeing a manta ray breach for the first time. I had been on a research boat in the Maldives looking for whale sharks and after a long day under the sun we were heading back to the island when we saw two manta rays cruising in the shallows. We jumped straight in and as we got closer one of the manta rays started to approach us. It came very close then swam down below us before swimming straight to the surface and leaping out of the water about 10 metres away from us! Everyone was beyond excited!
Thank you Beth for these great insights! When starting a new career or a promotion, it can be nerve wracking taking those big steps and the increase in responsibility, but when you are passionate about the work that you undertake, your drive can help you to tackle new challenges head on!
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