This week we’re with Ciaran Hyde, Stingray Ecologist and PhD Candidate at Griffith University. Her advice is to is be proactive and persistent – take every opportunity that comes your way as you never know where it might lead.
An Interview with WiseOceans…
Name: Ciaran Hyde
Job Title: Stingray Ecologist, PhD Candidate
Organisation: Griffith University
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I have always loved the ocean and marine creatures but I was awful at science in school, so I moved into journalism. One day I was sitting in my office looking out the window at the river and realised I needed to be outside, so I quit my job and went travelling to the South Pacific. I was in the ocean every day for two weeks and I knew that was what I wanted to do. So I came back to Australia and enrolled in my degree and have never looked back.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
I applied myself 110% to getting the best marks throughout my degree so that I would have the opportunity to undertake my Honours after graduating. I then worked extra hard at that to get First Class Honours in order to be invited to carry out a PhD with my university, which I am currently completing. I have always researched what steps I need to take to get me in the direction I want to go, with both study and work, and then gone after them proactively – I don’t stop until I achieve my goals, and I’ve been rewarded for that by being offered dream jobs and amazing opportunities.
- How did you land your current job/position?
I knew within the first few days of starting my degree that I wanted to work with sharks and stingrays in research and conservation, so I contacted a shark researcher and offered to volunteer. I ended up doing volunteer and paid work for him for the next five years over my undergraduate degree and honours. Through working with him I also landed a job as an Eco Ranger / Marine Biologist at a Resort on Moreton Island in Queensland, where I worked with whales, dolphins, turtles, sea birds, dugongs and many other marine animals every day. I worked there while I finished my honours degree and when I received First Class honours I moved from that job to study and work full time on my research/PhD investigating stingray ecology and conservation. Now that I’m almost finished, I’ve been offered an amazing opportunity to work in the South Pacific next year.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
That every day is different. When you’re working with wild animals, out in their environment with so many different variables, nothing can be predicted and anything can happen. You’re constantly learning new and interesting things, you never know what each day will bring.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
When I get the opportunity to talk to people about what I’ve learnt or what I’ve seen and they take it on board, sometimes even changing their own beliefs about an animal or something the media has told them, that makes me feel like I’m making the biggest difference, especially when you know they are going to pass that knowledge on too and make a difference themselves.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
That persistence pays off, and that you should take every opportunity that you come across, because you never know where it will lead. I recently, reluctantly (and last minute) entered a speaking competition and some amazing doors have been opened for me, just from standing up and giving a three minute speech.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Sea-sickness management!! I didn’t know how badly sea sick I would get on almost every trip out on the water, even on calm days. I felt like I failed as a marine biologist! But now I have the foresight and routine to manage it down to a fine art. But sorry to all those sharks I threw up on beforehand!!
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Don’t aim to fix everything, helping just one animal, or changing one person’s mind whenever you have the opportunity makes more of an impact that trying to do everything at once and not getting it right. A lot of small impacts eventually add up to a big one in the end.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
Seals. I love them! They have such adorable faces, and seem so playful and gentle… and then you find out they are big stubborn creatures that can do a bit of damage if they want to… don’t underestimate a seal!
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
I’ve been so lucky to spend so much time in and on the water with such a wide range of animals, that I could name a million! But the most unforgettable has to be the first time I swam with a whale shark. Seeing such an amazing, graceful, massive animal so close, and sharing its space just took my breath away. I’ll never forget that experience.
Thank you Ciaran, your hard work and persistence have really paid off. We wish you all the best in the next step.
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