This week on ‘An Interview with WiseOceans’ we spoke to Samantha de Putron from BIOS
Role: Associate Scientist / Assistant Director of Education / Senior Lecturer
Top Tip: Perseverance is key!
Quick Fire Questions
1. What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I grew up on the small island of Guernsey in the British Isles and as a child I was always out on my parents’ boat, exploring the beaches, and usually busy stuffing seaweed and shells into my mom’s beach bag. As I got older, I was always on, in or under the water and fascinated by the life, beauty, and intricacies of what I would see.
Observing the importance of the oceans and marine life was especially evident on a small island. Everyone is intertwined with the sea in one way or another, from simply being a daily view or a form of transport, to being vital for livelihoods and recreation.
Also evident were the nuances of storm damage, wave erosion and the constant and growing pressure on ocean resources. I was inspired into further study and a career in marine science with a strong education focus as through knowledge we can protect. My continued inspirations for this career come from observing the growing threats and impacts of anthropogenic pressures along with rapid environmental change and the realization of how much more needs to be done to protect our oceans
2. What steps did you take or are you currently taking to achieve your career goals?
I did an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology, followed by an M.Phil in invertebrate zoology, and then a PhD in coral reef ecology. Following that I held a teaching post-doctoral position for 2 years before becoming faculty at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS)
3. How did you obtain your current position?
The field work for my PhD studies was at BIOS and so I made many contacts during that time and also realized a job there was what I eventually wanted. A junior faculty position came up and I applied. I was a great fit to the position based on my past experiences, successes, my history with the Institute, as well as my research focus and direction
4. Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy that my job is so varied and that I am always learning. I also especially enjoy field work and SCUBA diving
5. Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
Education is a large focus of my job and very important to me. It gives a real sense of making a difference at so many levels. For example, from introducing the wonders of marine life for the first time, such as showing school children the microscopic content of seawater or taking someone snorkelling on a coral reef for the first time, to detailed instruction of undergraduate students and guiding career paths. Education is also very much a two-way process as students of all ages offer inspiration and research interns greatly contribute to my research projects
6. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
That it is ok to fail. Though necessary, and popular, marine science and conservation is typically underfunded. As such, is tough to find paid internships and it is normal to get rejected for funding across all stages of a career. The peer-review process for proposals and publications is also pretty brutal and I needed ‘thicker skin’ when I was starting out before I fully understood and realized the importance and benefits of this process. Also, sometimes research projects don’t work out despite how much preparation is done. My favourite saying is “if we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research”
7. Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Accounting – I do a lot of my own budgets and financial spreadsheets and I never realized how important these skills would be. Also, the ability to communicate science effectively at all levels
8. What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Marine conservation is a hobby for many people, an undergraduate focus for a lot of people, and a career for a few people. All levels make a huge difference in so many ways
9. What is your favourite marine creature and why?
I have so many! I’ll go with the majestic seahorse. Shy, elegant, unique and vulnerable. And they mate for life and the male cares for the young!
10. What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
Again, there are so many! Meeting charismatic megafauna in their natural habitats are moments you never forget and I have been fortunate enough to have swum with many, including humpback whales, dolphins, whale sharks, rays, turtles, and reef sharks. Despite being asked multiple times, I never get bored of SCUBA diving! I always find something new or different and there are so many moments to remember. Another example that comes to mind is coming eye-to-eye with an octopus peering through a crevice when I was working in a quadrat on a coral reef. As I worked away, laying still, she grew brave and carefully moved around me, intently watching my moves. I don’t know which one of us was more fascinated by the interaction!
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