This week we’re with Lucy Mcleod, Senior Wildlife Officer at ORCA. She has got to where she is through hard work, enthusiasm and dedication. Her advice is that if you are able to stay passionate and continue learning and gaining new experiences there is nothing you can’t achieve. We agree!
Name: Lucy Mcleod
Job Title: Senior Wildlife Officer
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I have always been environmentally minded, even as a child. I also believe in the power of education so I knew I wanted to work in job where I had the opportunity to teach people how they can help protect the environment. The marine environment seems so fragile and yet there is still so much for us to discover about it. This curiosity lead me into a marine biology degree to help me better educate others through my career.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
I studied both marine ecology & conservation and marine biology. After obtaining my degrees, I worked my way up a progressive ladder within ORCA. I started volunteering, doing educational outreach, teaching school and community groups about the marine wildlife around the UK. I then undertook a Wildlife Officer placement with ORCA in the Bay of Biscay which lead me to being employed as a Wildlife Officer in this region the following year. Now, I am the Senior Wildlife Officer in the North Sea, whilst the wildlife here is less abundant than perhaps in Biscay there is still a wealth of animals here and the bird life is fantastic. I also have to manage and run the unique wildlife centre we have on board the DFDS ship King Seaways, as well as being responsible for the Junior Wildlife Officer and the four Wildlife Officer placements we have joining us this summer. It’s a lot of responsibility but I feel I have taken the best route possible to get me to where I am.
- How did you land your current job/position?
It all started by volunteering, I offered to help ORCA in any way I could. I would assist with the educational outreach programme, visiting schools and community groups to enthuse with them about whales and dolphins. I also helped in the office doing a variety of administration roles. When I was a trainee Wildlife Officer in the Bay of Biscay, I knew I wanted more, so I really took note of what I was being taught and worked on being the best Wildlife Officer that I could be.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I LOVE that I get to survey at sea almost every day. Some people go their whole lives without ever seeing a whale or a dolphin in the wild but I have seen so many now and still get just as excited every time I spot some. I also love teaching people of all ages about the amazing lives of cetaceans, when kids and adults alike are amazed with facts about the blue whale or simply how many harbour porpoise we have here in the North Sea, it delights me to answer their questions.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
Definitely. I have a keen interest in the effects of plastic pollution on the marine environment. I love sharing my knowledge on this topic and teaching people how they as individuals can make a positive impact and reduce their use of plastic. By teaching others these important issues, I genuinely believe I can influence change and have a positive impact.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I wish I knew how amazing a life at sea can be, if I’d have known this from the start I would have begun this journey much sooner.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
There are so many different aspects to this job; communication, management, surveying at sea. It is the combination of them all and using them effectively together that I has been the biggest learning curve.
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Never give up and never let people tell you that you cannot make a difference because you can! Keep going, no matter how hard it might be, if you are able to stay passionate and continue learning and gaining new experiences there is nothing you cannot achieve.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
I adore pilot whales. I think they are beautiful with their glossy black skin and large round faces. Also the fact that they have incredibly strong social bonds melts my heart whenever I think about it. The fact that they are still hunted in the Faroes as well as being prone to mass strandings makes me feel like we need to do more to try and protect this extremely sentient species.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
I’ve been really lucky and had so many great experiences at sea. I’ve seen southern right whales breaching and helped save a great white shark in South Africa, I’ve seen sperm whales swimming past the canary islands, I’ve been in a small RIB surrounded by dolphins and pilot whales in Maderia but I think the one memory that will stay with me forever is seeing a fin whale breaching just 50 metres away from where I was standing – out on deck on a Brittany Ferries vessel. I could see all of its roqual pleats, all the details on its body and I was so overwhelmed my eyes filled with tears of joy as it crashed back down into the waves.
Thanks Lucy, it sounds like you do an amazing job and it is fantastic to hear that you are spreading the word about the effects of plastic pollution, something we are very passionate about!
Orca run fantastic Marine Mammal Surveyor Courses, in the UK, over the next few months, sign up now.
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