This week we chat to…Brittany Dolan from the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge (ECWR). Working as a Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator, Brittany works in a fast paced and critical field. Her advice? Work hard but don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help, people want you to succeed! 

Name: Brittany Dolan

Job Title: Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator

Organisation: Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge (ECWR)

  • What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?

I have felt a deep connection to the ocean since childhood, however I started college as a Philosophy major. I got involved in the extracurricular activities offered within the Marine Science Program and soon changed majors. It was a calling I couldn’t ignore, that fulfilled my passion for conservation and working with wildlife. 

  • What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?

I pursued as many fieldwork and research opportunities as I could fit into my schedule. I started interning in cetacean photo ID in Africa and as a result, was involved in several stranding events that would come to change my career path. Throughout college I continued to pursue internships and volunteer opportunities that would provide me with a wide range of skills and experience that I could use to bolster applications for job opportunities.  

  • How did you land your current job/position? 

After many internships, volunteer opportunities, seasonal field positions, and other paid work, I acquired the right combination of skills and experience to qualify for my current position. 

  • Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?  

I enjoy working in the field and leading stranding responses.  

  • Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’? 

When I interact with the public and educate them about the animals that strand, stranding science and the threats these animals face in the wild, I can see the impact my team is having. Many people have never seen a whale or sea turtle and do not understand the impact humans have on their environment. Seeing people begin to understand and knowing they will live more thoughtfully is an amazing thing. 

  • What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?  

I wish I had had a more realistic understanding of how competitive stranding response is and had a better sense of what opportunities are available for recent graduates.  

  • Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?

How to properly maintain field equipment, such as solar powered systems, propane refrigerators and canvas tents.  

  • What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?  

Work hard but don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help. Your professors and advisors want you to succeed.  

  • What is your favourite marine creature and why?  

I generally have a soft spot for any endangered species but I have a particular soft spot for the Hawaiian Monk Seal. They have faced such adversity and the efforts being made to help them recover are ground breaking. Hopefully the science behind their recovery can be applied to other species in need.  

  • What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?  

My first season working in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Program I came across a weaned seal pup with a magnificent snake eel protruding from its nostril. After forming a plan with our veterinarian, my partner and I safely removed it! Certainly one of the most unusual moments of my career! 


Thank you Brittany, a great insight into an exciting and critical field of work. Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge currently have a vacancy for a Marine Mammal Veterinarian. More details here!

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