An Interview with WiseOceans…Dr Lucy Woodall from University of Oxford and Nekton

This week we chat to…Dr Lucy Woodall, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford and Principal Scientist at Nekton. For Lucy, collaboration is key to a successful career in marine conservation. She is passionate about working with people from around the world to achieve common goals.

Name: Dr Lucy Woodall

Job Title: Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford and Principal Scientist, Nekton

Organisation: University of Oxford and Nekton

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

I always loved exploring the ocean, from rock pooling as a child, to SCUBA diving and ocean sailing later in life. I starting working in marine conservation as I wanted to share how fantastic the ocean is and what we can do to protect its secrets and benefits for the next generation.

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

After my BSc I gained many practical skills like SCUBA and experience on ships at sea which also allowed me to network across the globe. I then started in a PhD programme, and chose a topic where these practical skills were of vital important to my research practice.

  • How did you land your current job/position? 

My current position with Nekton evolved from a role where I organised an expedition and the science being conducted to the lead scientist. I now do very little of the expedition logistics but still have over-sight of all aspects, run the science while on expedition and a research lab when on land.

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

There are three main parts that I enjoy the most

1- Investigating the marine world

2- Sharing my intrigue and new findings with others

but above all,

3- working with people from across the globe, who all bring their unique and important questions and interpretation to the work we do together.

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

I am blessed to work in the Indian Ocean for the majority of my research. I am passionate about ensuring that our research is inclusive and that we work in collaboration with scientists who are from the countries where the expeditions are being conducted. A respectful dialogue is vital for mutual learning and achieving the best outcomes from the research.

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

It is totally fine to email other scientists and conservationists to say you like their work and also to ask for advice and guidance.

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

Every day I realise there is more I don’t know, but I collaborate with lots of different people, who are all experts in different things. The most useful, but maybe not considered academic skill I have is knot tying and splicing ropes. These are very useful in preparing for field work and while at sea.

  • What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?  

Follow your passion and be curious. There is no right path to take, enjoy the journey, it might take a while but that is OK.

  • What is your favourite marine creature and why?

The seahorse… my PhD research was conducted on these amazing fish and I still sit on the IUCN SCC seahorse, pipefish and seadragon specialist group panel which advocates for these incredible fish.

  • What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?  

There have been so many it is really hard to choose. I will give two, my first time seeing a turtle was from the rigging of a Tall Ship, my eyes just popped out of my head, I never thought that I would ever see one, I had always seen them on TV or in books. Secondly, the first time I saw seahorses was diving in about 2 m of very murky water, and I saw over one hundred. The visibility was so bad that as I swam they just kept popping up out of nowhere. It was a very special experience.

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Thank you Lucy, I think we would all love to see one seahorse let alone over a hundred!

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