An Interview with WiseOceans… Kathy James from Sea Watch Foundation
This week Kathy James of Sea Watch Foundation tells us all about her love for marine conservation and how she got to where she is today. She is living proof that you mustn’t let set-backs put you off…
Name: Kathy James
Job Title: Sightings Officer
Organisation: Sea Watch Foundation
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I have an innate desire for all wildlife conservation. I can’t trace it back to a time where I didn’t have that inclination! Increasingly, our seas are suffering as a consequence of human activities and I feel a personal responsibility to work towards positive goals in the field as well as terrestrial environments, through my personal life as well as in work.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
My formal education was studying Medical Microbiology and Zoology at Leeds University, however I place great importance on my practical skills learnt in the field. Having an experienced wildlife watcher nurture my passion has been pivotal in my life and I can’t put a price on all I’ve learned in the company of others in the great outdoors!
- How did you land your current job/position?
I became an active member of the conservation community in my local area. Arranging public events to spread awareness of marine conservation issues is probably what got me noticed, but also networking and volunteering for various organisations allowed me to show my strengths (and weaknesses!). I applied for a different role within the organisation which I was rejected for. A few months later, I became the line-manager of that very role, so don’t let set-backs get you down!
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I really love having people share their experiences of cetaceans around the UK with me. I can feel their excitement, even through our online sightings form and it’s a great part of today’s social media society that folks can share their experiences with so many other people, including research groups like Sea Watch.
Sometimes, working in New Quay with such regular dolphin sightings, I’m ashamed to say that I get blasé about seeing dolphins. As soon as I get outside and that pane of glass has disappeared between us, I am as excitable as the next person again! Taking part in photo-identification surveys with bow-riding bottlenose dolphins, bringing their calves over, whistling, looking at you and breaching is something that I feel so privileged to take part in. After an encounter like this, I am euphoric!
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
Absolutely! Our national sightings scheme makes a real difference to cetacean conservation in the UK and further afield. If you want to see some of the achievements of the scheme, that any one of us can take part in, then please visit:
I am proud to help steer the scheme and want it to be as successful as possible.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
The importance of networking and volunteering. Having applied field skills and showing who you are to potential employers is so important to breaking through the barriers of job applications.
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Get involved. You don’t need to be employed to make a difference; start now, volunteer, create change. You’ll do some good and it might even get you noticed in the world of employment.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
I am terrible at choosing favourites! I’m going to go for something that I have not yet had the privilege of seeing for myself… the pilot whale! I think they’re adorable. I love that they have such strong social bonds and it will be a good day if we can ever work out to prevent mass strandings.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
Learning to scuba dive off the coast of Cornwall was quite literally an eye opener for me. To see such incredible, colourful and diverse life under the water and just metres from the beach was something I hadn’t expected. I remember coming face to face with a cuttlefish and as we considered each other I was transported to another world. Yet again, I’m not satisfied to choose just one moment. The sea has provided so many moments of joy to me and I know it will continue to do so!
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