Case study

Community seagrass initiative project manager — Mark Parry

After pursuing an MSc in Applied Marine Science at Plymouth University Mark is now based at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, the largest aquarium in the UK, as a project manager of conservation initiatives

How did you get your job?

I returned to Plymouth University, where I studied my undergraduate degree, to develop my skill set at the School of Biological and Marine Sciences. Plymouth offered a degree course which developed my practical skills and helped me actively contribute to marine surveys in the field. After graduating, I worked on geophysical surveys as an environmental scientist, recording data for the oil and gas industry. I was fortunate enough to travel in this line of work, from Iraq to New Zealand.

Looking to use my skills in local conservation, I applied to work for the National Marine Aquarium. Thanks to my past experience, I was offered my current position.

What's a typical day like?

It involves a mix of working with enthusiastic volunteers and analysing data to gain a better understanding of seagrass beds in the UK. I help volunteers develop their marine survey skills through SCUBA diving or using cameras to investigate the seabed. We also work with a number of schools to highlight the importance of human influence on coastal waters. In marine conservation, my day changes with the seasons - my workload is different from winter to summer, so my job never feels repetitive.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy working with people and seeing them develop through the project I'm involved in. To be able to spend my working day on the water, knowing that I'm working with the community to safeguard Britain’s beautiful coastline, is a rewarding feeling.

What are the challenges?

Conservation is no longer seen as putting fences around protected places and asking people not to enter - that doesn’t work with the sea. My greatest challenge is working with so many mind sets and different types of people to influence lifestyle change that has a positive impact on our oceans.

In what way is your degree relevant?

It gave me a perfect mix of practical and reporting skills, which has made me employable in marine conservation. I couldn't have selected a better course - many of the post doctorates I meet through seagrass conservation hold the same qualification.

What are your career ambitions?

I'd like to keep travelling with my work, observing seagrass on a larger scale as they are the world’s most widespread coastal eco-system. My greatest ambition would be to work on regenerating lost seagrass beds, which involves growing seagrass and transplanting it into the wild. I'd like to look back on my working life and be proud that I helped regenerate lost natural spaces.

How do I get into conservation?

  • Communication is key. If you can engage with others, you're more likely to be successful at whatever you apply yourself to. Work with groups and large audiences to learn how to make yourself understood.
  • Find an area you enjoy and stick with it. If you keep doing what you're good at, the rest will fall into place.
  • You can learn something from everyone you meet in your professional life. A professor can teach you plenty, but so can anybody who has an interest in similar subjects. Never discount someone's knowledge on a subject you may think you already know lots about - I'm always learning from the volunteers I work with.

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