An Interview with WiseOceans…Jay Dawsey from CIMI/Guided Discoveries

This week we chat to…Jay Dawsey, Assistant Program Director at CIMI/Guided Discoveries in the USA. Jay highlights the importance of networking to budding marine conservationists. Building a network in your field is key and you can do this by getting involved in any way you can!

Name: Jay Dawsey

Job Title: Assistant Program Director

Organisation: CIMI/Guided Discoveries

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

My interests in earth science, water recreation, and cartilaginous fish helped lead me to pursue a career in marine conservation.  

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

Bachelor of Science from Coastal Carolina University (2016)  

Worked as a divemaster in Honduran Bay Islands (2017) 

Marine Science Instructor at CIMI (2017 – 2019) 

Master of Professional Science from University of Miami (2020) 

Gear Manager for Miami Shark Lab (2019 – 2020) 

Assistant Program Director of CIMI (2020 – Present) 

  • How did you land your current job/position? 

After working for CIMI as a marine science instructor from 2017-2019 I left to work towards my Master’s in Marine Conservation. After graduation in 2020, I was invited back to re-establish the location as the Assistant Program Director after it had been shut down by COVID-19. 

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

Teaching young students about the importance of marine conservation with different hands-on labs and activities is incredibly fun, but it is also challenging. As comfortable as we are in the water as instructors, some of our visitors have never swum before let alone put on a wetsuit and snorkel gear. There aren’t many feel good moments that top seeing a kid smile who did something scary and challenging to them for the first time. 

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

Being able to introduce students to nature who have spent most of their lives in concrete cities can be extremely rewarding. Helping them make connections to their daily lives help drive conservation efforts. 

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

Work ethic and networking abilities are everything in this field. Learn how to talk to everyone, build connections, you never know where one might take you. 

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

One of the most valuable skills I never thought I would use is writing code to create scientific figures and diagrams. Computers are an extremely powerful tool and I had no idea how to fully use them until I became a scientist. Knowledge and use of power tools, as well as general handy work/building, are also extremely valuable in this field. Marine conservationists do not always have the biggest cheque books; if you can’t buy it, build it yourself. 

  • What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?  

Get involved anywhere and everywhere you can. Volunteer, network, converse with other ocean enthusiasts because one day they may be the connection you need to achieve your dream. 

  • What is your favourite marine creature and why?  

My favourite marine creature is the Great Hammerhead Shark. They swim on their side over long distances, using their dorsal and pectoral fins to provide more lift in the water column. It’s a shark who has a fairly good understand of physics.  

  • What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?  

Being able to travel to a remote town on the Southern tip of South Africa to live for three months assisting with benthic shark research will always be one of the pinnacles of my life. Our team was assessing the efficacy of the coverage a marine protected are provided for heavily fished shark species in the area. While traveling to deploy acoustic tags in these shark species we would see small sharks, very large sharks, dolphins, penguins, and Mola mola. Everyday brought new experiences weather it was catching some of the rarest fish in that region or being stung by mass colonies of blue bottle jellies. It was always interesting! 


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