This week we chat to…Victoria Beasley from GVI, Curieuse, Seychelles. She never gave up when it seemed that landing a job in marine conservation was out of reach. Hard work, networking and making all her volunteer experience count was what paid off in the end.
Name: Victoria Beasley
Job Title: Science Coordinator
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I grew up in a small town in Michigan so marine science was not a phrase you heard very often; however, I was lucky enough to grow up with an adventurous family. Having exotic veterinarians and SCUBA divers as parents ignited my passion for animals and the marine world. At first, I viewed this passion solely as a hobby and it wasn’t until after receiving my undergraduate degree in cellular biology that I decided I wanted to incorporate the marine world into my career path. I concluded that exploring, researching and protecting a topic that fascinated me, was the best way to spend my time. I utilized my experience in cellular biology and incorporated it into marine science while conducting coral disease research for my masters; this would not have been possible without my family and my passion for the marine world there to inspire me.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
The first step I took to achieving my career goals was to get an education. Marine conservation is a very competitive field so after undergraduate school I spent a summer working as a waitress to save money to volunteer in a marine science program in Seychelles for six months (GVI Cap Ternay, Seychelles). From my experience, volunteering was crucial for making connections with those in the conservation field and helped me acquire the position I have today. After volunteering I furthered my education and received my masters in Marine and Environmental Science from the University of the Virgin Islands. Based on my education, experience and networking as a volunteer I now have the position I have today. What I haven’t mentioned are the difficulties I encountered along the way. As I mentioned above, this is a competitive field; after my masters I worked for over a year in an unrelated position that I disliked until I was able to get a job in marine conservation. Staying positive during these times was near impossible, but simply continuing to apply for jobs, and persistently contacting my connections ended up paying off. To ensure that I further my career in marine conservation I continue to network and try to stay up to date with ongoing studies and techniques.
- How did you land your current job/position?
I started as a volunteer intern with the organization (GVI) I am now currently employed at. Volunteering gave me a chance to show GVI what I am capable of and ensured my familiarity with the organization. I believe my experience with GVI, and having the regional director as a contact, is what gave me a major foothold in landing my current position. My education can also be credited, but without my experience and contacts within the organization, I am not sure I would be sitting where I am today.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
My position entails overseeing 7 scientific studies that include: green and hawksbill sea turtles, sicklefin lemon sharks, Coco de Mer palms, beach profiling, BRUVS (baited remote underwater video surveys), mangroves and Aldabra giant tortoises. Not only am I responsible for conducting these studies but I am also responsible for the training of staff and volunteers, data entry, data analysis and report writing for these projects. I also oversee short term independent studies conducted by our interns, which have ranged from studies on coral diversity and abundance to erosion mitigation around our base. I also coordinate with other scientists in Seychelles and the rest of the world to share project results. Out of these responsibilities fieldwork and report writing are the most enjoyable; putting the physical effort into data collection and then visualizing results through reports is very rewarding for me.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
As I mentioned, fieldwork and report writing are the most enjoyable aspects of my job; not only because I am able to use body and mind, but also because I believe I am making a difference while doing them. On top of fieldwork and report writing, I also feel like I am making a difference in the lives of some volunteers and staff who join our team. When a volunteer or staff leaves Curieuse with an array of new skills, knowledge, and inspiration, I feel like I may have helped make a difference in their lives and how they may want to live it; and as a result, may have helped the marine world by doing so.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I wish I knew that I would make it through! The path is a hard one, and I am still walking it, but it would have been nice to know I would make it this far. All the classes, exams, job applications, rejections, networking and jobs I didn’t like, it was all worth it!
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Growing up I was a swimmer and became skilled at holding my breath underwater. I never thought this skill would be useful but there have been many situations when freediving came in very handy! From survey work, like freediving to catch sea turtles for a tagging project, to random situations, like freediving down to get a big metal cooking spoon that fell from our boat when no one else could. Also, a very nice skill to have when I simply what to explore!
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Make those positive connections with classmates, professors, co-workers and other marine scientists, they will most likely come in handy. Volunteer, it’s the easiest way to gain experience and expand your resume when you’re starting out. Finally, even if it all seems impossible, keep your head up and stay in the loop (even volunteering in a somewhat related field can help), you never know when/who may connect you to your next job.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
The hawksbill sea turtle is my favourite marine creature. It’s a popular answer but I cannot help it, they fascinate me! How they are able to utilize both the land and the sea, be graceful and awkward at the same time, like swimming with the slightest of movements, but directly into a coral head they didn’t notice. At times it seems as if they are so awkward that they shouldn’t belong, but then I remember that their graceful, awkward, friendly (but sometimes unfriendly) selves do exist, and it gives me a sense of optimism for life here on earth.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
I received my open water SCUBA certification when I was 13 and have been freediving for most of my life (although not really knowing it was freediving). I have been so lucky to experience many unforgettable moments in the sea. From seeing coral spawning, catching my first hawkskbill (for science), to running into some dolphins while on a coral survey. But my most unforgettable moment in the sea is not any one moment, but rather how I feel in the moment when I’m underwater. Entering an entirely different world and feeling at complete peace while being a part of it. They are the moments why I keep returning to the ocean and continue to work towards its conservation.
Thank you Victoria – it’s great to see how your persistance and patience has paid off!
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