Case study

Deep-sea biologist and postdoctoral fellow — Diva Amon

Growing up by the ocean in Trinidad influenced Diva's choice of career. She's currently about to start a new role at the Natural History Museum, London. Discover how she got the job

How did you get your job?

I've just finished my role as a postdoctoral research fellow and assistant project manager in the Department of Oceanography at the University of Hawaii. I worked there for three years on deep-sea mining and its impact on the largest animals in the deep ocean.

Before that, I did an MSci in Marine Biology at the University of Southampton and a deep-sea biology course where I learnt that 95% of deep-sea oceans are unexplored. I decided to stay on at Southampton and do a PhD in Ocean and Earth Science.

Next year, I start a new role in London at the Natural History Museum for the Marie Curie Fellowship, doing research on how we affect our deep oceans.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

I've taken an academic path, which has focused on research and communicating this as opposed to going into industry. My MSci in Marine Biology equipped me with basic knowledge and skills, which have been key to my research career - laboratory and analytical skills, fieldwork experience and even communication skills.

I did an undergraduate degree in marine biology but you can also do a broader degree like biology, chemistry or physics and specialise later. That way, you have a wider range of skills and potential jobs to fall back on.

What are your main work activities?

For one to three months I'm on a ship exploring new parts of oceans and collecting samples. I bring these back to the lab and spend the remainder of the year analysing my findings, whether looking at animal DNA, microscopy work or CT scanning. I spend a portion of the year writing up my findings for publication and communicate these at international meetings.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I wanted to develop my capability in deep-sea science so I applied for my PhD in Ocean and Earth Science. This really developed my skills and confidence, which I will be able to build on when I formulate my own research programme with my fellowship at the Natural History Museum in London.

In terms of career ambitions, The Natural History Museum has research scientists behind the scenes without the teaching element of universities. I'm open to the latter if it allows me to research what I want but researching and communicating to society is my real driver.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love travelling to amazing parts of the planet where we're the first to see new species and habitats we had no idea existed.

Another benefit of marine research is that it's quite flexible.

What are the most challenging parts?

Being on expeditions for up to three months of the year, sometimes with limited communication, isn't easy so you have to consider the impact of your work on your personal relationships.

Chasing funding and being flexible to take on positions across the world can also mean a lack of stability. The fact that positions tend to be between one and three years long can make it tricky to make long-term plans.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

You need to get as much experience as you can whether volunteering at aquariums, museums and local nature centres, or doing beach clean ups or internships. Most are unpaid but will help you gain skills and work out what you enjoy.

Networking and social media can also open doors. Research positions on LinkedIn and the Twitter marine science community is a great way to connect with people you may want to work with as are Facebook and Instagram. You can even watch discoveries being made, as expeditions are live streamed from ships.

Finally, be flexible and opportunistic. It's often about being in the right place at the right time and being open to moving to new places.

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