This week on ‘An Interview with WiseOceans’ we spoke with Jen Spacagna from Manta Trust.
Name: Jen Spacagna
Role: Education Manager
Company: Manta Trust
Top Tip: Don’t give up!
Quick Fire Questions
1. What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
Whilst interested in working with animals from a very young age, it wasn’t until the age of 19, whilst on a University field trip to Belize, that my love for the marine environment was realised. Although I had been in the sea before on family holidays, this was my first experience of snorkelling and getting that first-hand view of a tropical marine habitat – after this I was hooked and started exploring this interest more by working at a local aquarium and learning to dive.
2. What steps did you take or are you currently taking to achieve your career goals?
Working in the role of Education Manager at the Manta Trust, I come from a varied background in both marine conservation and in education. I achieved a BSc (Hons) in Zoology and an MSc in Marine Biology, before also achieving a teaching qualification many years later. Like most people working in the conservation sector, I have spent time working in many different voluntary positions to help build up my experience and skills over the years, working on research projects for the Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch and the Mexico Caribbean Manta Ray Project to name just a couple. I have worked in many education roles, from environmental education to formal lecturing.
3. How did you obtain your current position?
I applied to the job advert placed by the Manta Trust which I saw advertised in their newsletter and secured the position after interviewing.
4. Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I most enjoy interacting with children and young people to raise their interest in the marine world. The questions children ask me never fail to get me thinking and seeing the look of amazement on their faces after they have used a VR headset to experience the underwater world and see a manta ray is always such a joy!
5. Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
Yes, every time I see a group of students finish a session and begin to talk excitedly with one another about the marine environment, it feels as though their love for the ocean has really grown.
6. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
Everyone’s journey into their dream career will look different. We all have different starting points and will face different hurdles along the way. Concentrate on your own career path and don’t compare yourself to others.
7. Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Although I knew it would be a useful skill, I underestimated the need for excellent communication. Communication is a critical part of my job, from delivering classes to children, giving talks to the public and delivering training to teachers, to writing social media posts, recording videos and networking with other professionals.
8. What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Don’t give up! Gaining employment in marine conservation is challenging as this is an extremely competitive field. Be prepared to take some knock backs when applying for jobs, ask for feedback where you can and work on continuing to gain skills, knowledge and experience to enhance your next application.
9. What is your favourite marine creature and why?
This is such a hard question! Firstly, I would need to say manta rays, I was hooked by their gracefulness the first time I saw one and my fascination with this animal only grows the more I learn about them. I also have a lot of love for whale sharks, so I feel they need an honorary mention here too!
10. What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
Spending time with the Manta Caribbean Project, I was often lucky enough to see large aggregations of whale sharks on the same day as seeing numerous manta rays breaching – an experience I will never forget!
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