This week we’re on home turf in London with Pippa Howarth. As someone who is well on the path to her career in marine conservation, Pippa’s advice is to put yourself out there and create a presence. Read on to find out which path Pippa has chosen to lead her to her dream job.
Name: Pippa Howarth
Job Title: Research & Development Intern
Organisation: The Society for Environmental Exploration – ‘Frontier’
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
My passion for the marine environment was sparked from the early age of 10 when I was introduced to scuba diving by my Dad, whilst on a family holiday in Mauritius. Since discovering the wonders of the underwater world, I have taken every opportunity to play my part in marine conservation by getting involved in a variety of international projects and marine based employment through which I now hold a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer qualification.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
Since finishing school, I have furthered my education with a BSc Honours in Marine Biology and Oceanography at Newcastle University, UK from which I graduated in June 2016. The privileged access to the underwater ecosystem I have gained as a scuba diver has allowed me to apply the theory, taught throughout my education, to personal experiences. This has increased my awareness of marine exploitation and the resulting environmental issues, fuelling my desire to contribute to the worldwide effort of conservation to enable a sustainable future for our oceans and associated organisms. Outside of my academic semesters, I have sought active involvement in a number of marine projects employment in countries of varying climate, affluence, ethnicity and remoteness. I now hold an unconditional offer to study the Msc ‘International Marine Environmental Consultancy’ at Newcastle University, starting September 2017.
- How did you land your current job/position?
To fulfil the entry requirements for my upcoming Masters, candidates are required to have completed three months minimum relevant work experience post BSc graduation. In search of an appropriate experience to accredit my application with long-term career benefits, I set up a grounding telephone conversation with a well-known marine biologist long established in the Indian Ocean, specifically The Maldives. Their advice to me, as a recent graduate aiming to kick-start their career, was to possess a differentiator and diverse skill set. This led me to apply for the Research and Development Intern position at Frontier which would complement my practical field based experience by gaining a behind the scenes view of a Non-Governmental Organisation with a commercial element.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
The aspect of my job I enjoy most is foreseeing project development within Frontier’s research programmes. I really enjoy facilitating the process of taking a research proposal or idea, getting it off the ground to make a difference somewhere else in the world. For example, I recently attended the Annual Conference held by ESRI the governing body, which supply ArcGIS Software, in the aim of supplying our research projects which the software. I am a believer that there is always room for development and this will develop our projects by adding a new dimension to our data analysis of botanical surveying.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
Frontier publishes quarterly Science Reports available on the website which highlight the progress of the research programmes during that quarter. The reports follow the structure of peer reviewed scientific literature written by our research teams out in the field. As a Research and Development Intern, it is my role to critically evaluate the reports through constructive feedback making sure our research and scientific output is of high standard. Reading the reports and extrapolating trends from analysed data sets you get a real sense of the difference Frontier is making to the biodiversity of the regions we work in and to the livelihoods of the marginalised communities that surround them.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
It wasn’t until I was actively seeking a position in the marine industry that I truly realised how few and far between jobs there are. The industry is extremely competitive. This has only fuelled my drive to get the most out of every opportunity and experience to succeed in this field. I am therefore extremely grateful for the opportunity at Frontier.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
The biggest thing I have learned so far from working with Frontier the need of finding a balance between volunteer experience and research progression. Given the commercial element of Frontier is at the forefront of its operations I have learned that research and project development sometimes requires patience due to the reactive nature of operations within an NGO.
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
My one piece of advice I would give to individuals wishing to pursue a career in marine conservation is to be proactive. Use every opportunity to its full potential and put yourself out there. It’s not just what you know; it’s who you know! There are so many accessible platforms to get your voice and story heard, create a presence.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
Given there are so many, this is a hard question to answer. If you had asked me this question a few years ago, hands down I would have said a Green Sea Turtle. However, having conducted an Oceanography based dissertation as part of my undergraduate university course, I now fully appreciate the role that biological organisms the naked eye cannot see play within energy and biomass transfer through the ocean system. It’s this understanding that will be critical to tackling contemporary environmental issues that face us today.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
This is another tough question! I am very lucky, that during my 13 years of scuba diving, I have had many unforgettable moments in the sea. I will highlight my top two! During my gap year, between finishing school and starting University, I spend a few months living on Gili Trawangan where I undertook the PADI Divemaster and subsequently PADI IDC & IE course to become a PADI Dive Instructor. Growing up, being inspired by my first Instructor, I always had the dream of becoming an instructor myself. My first unforgettable moment in the sea has to be passing my instructor exam at the age of 18. I felt such a sense of achievement and have been privileged to certify over 150 students since, witnessing a lot of people’s first breaths under water.
My second most unforgettable moment in the sea occurred during my role as a Research Assistant with Reef Doctor a Non-Governmental Organisation based in Ifaty, Madagascar. During a sunrise exterior dive on a Saturday morning, at our 5m safety stop, our dive group was accompanied by a Humpback Whale. A truly gigantic yet graceful creature. Despite being 6ft tall, I have never felt so small in my life! I was lucky enough to capture it on film despite physically shaking due to the overwhelming sight. A privilege to be in the water with such a mesmerising animal.
Wow, it’s hard to beat a humpback whale on a safety stop! Thanks for the great advice Pippa and good luck with your MSc.
You can get involved with Frontier too, maybe in one of their exciting locations around the globe – Frontier
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