Thalia Eccleston

Country: United Kingdom
Sector: Higher Education
Job title: Research Assistant
Subject of study: Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation
Year of graduation: 2022
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name

Bangor University

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

After finishing my MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation, I continued to live in Cornwall for the next year, until moving up to north Wales in September 2022. During the year after my MSc I worked in various hospitality positions whilst I searched and applied for jobs in the academic and commercial sector. In June 2022 I decided to volunteer for the Manta Trust in Mexico for 1 month to gain skills and experience in data collection, data analysis and interacting with stakeholders. After moving to north Wales in September 2022, I focused on applying for positions in the research sector at Bangor University and was offered a position as a research assistant at Bangor Business School. I am currently working on the project: Capitalising on the Slate Landscape UNESCO World Heritage Site and the development of sustainable and regenerative tourism in north-west Wales. Bangor Business school has collaborated with the department of linguistics and social sciences to undertake this project. We aim to qualitatively analyse data from interviews and focus groups with young people, to understand perceptions and feelings towards the slate sites World Heritage Status, and opinions on sustainable and regenerative tourism in these areas.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

I chose this career path as I thoroughly enjoy working in research within academia, and feel that the skills I have developed over recent years are well applied to this sector. The part I enjoy most about my work is working alongside other passionate researchers and with local communities, particularly those in deprived areas. I feel that making science accessible and collaborating with local communities is important, to take collective action towards conservation issues, and preserve local heritage and culture.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

The part I enjoyed most about this programme was my dissertation. I had very supportive supervisors and learned a lot from the data collection part of my research. My project focused on working with citizen science data to perform a global analysis of shark and ray entanglements in marine debris. The skills I gained from my dissertation allowed me to start my career in research, as many of the elements used in this analysis are now being applied to my current position as a research assistant. Additionally, I enjoyed the multiple field trips we took to undertake surveys around the coasts of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and Lundy Island. We had the chance to encounter some incredible wildlife including basking sharks, risso’s dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, harbour porpoise, grey seals, puffins and many more.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

The part I enjoyed most about studying here was meeting incredible people, and living in a beautiful part of the UK. I made so many life long friends during my MSc, and managed to visit some of the best parts of Cornwall during my 2 years living there. There are so many things to do if you love the outdoors, including freediving, snorkelling, surfing, coastal walks, sea-swimming and wildlife watching.

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

I chose to study at Exeter as they offered a course that included all the aspects of what I am interested in, in addition to having a great reputation as a University. The MSc Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation course offered skills in analysis, marine ecology, fisheries and aquaculture, field work and research. I wanted to improve in each of these areas after completing my BSc in Marine Biology, to then pursue a career in academia.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

My communication and presentation abilities improved a lot during my studies, and so far I have found these to be the most useful during my search for jobs and my position as a research assistant. Additionally, learning different analytical skills and software gave me the experience that helped me achieve my current role.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

The advice I would give is keep trying. I struggled a lot to get into my first role and had to do various jobs that I didn’t enjoy in the meantime. I applied for over 15 jobs and although I had quite a few interviews and came close to being offered the position, most of the time it would end in rejection. This isn’t the case for everyone, however this sector is very competitive so it can sometimes take a while to get your first break. Once I started to look further a field and apply for opportunities outside of marine conservation I began to have more luck. My advice is to expand into different career paths, and don’t focus on just one. Also keep at it and put the work into gaining more skills and experience when you can.

What are your plans for the future?

At the moment my plans are to finish this project and then apply for other jobs with the University when my contract comes to an end. I will continue to look for opportunities in the marine sector in the future, but hope to stay in research if possible. I would also like to work in the private sector or for an NGO at some point.

 

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