Find out what Emily's best sighting was during her Wildlife Officer Placement on board the Cap Finistère!
Wildlife Officer Emily here again for this week’s blog. I can’t believe that this is the last blog from me.
It has been an incredible four weeks on-board Brittany Ferries Cap Finistère as an ORCA Wildlife Officer. So for my final blog I thought I would reflect on my time and also talk about my journey from a young child passionate about whales and dolphins to working in the wildlife conservation sector.
The passengers I have met along the way have always wanted to know what my best sighting was during my time as a Wildlife Officer. This is such a tricky question to answer as I have truly loved every minute of my time on-board and it is so hard to choose THE best sighting. I have always been passionate about whales, dolphins and porpoises and before I started I had a list of cetaceans I was hoping to see during the crossings. Four weeks later and I have almost ticked off everything from my list!
I have been lucky enough to see energetic displays from pods of common dolphins and striped dolphins. From our cabin window I saw thirteen Risso’s dolphins making an appearance in the Channel. The elusive beaked whales, including Cuvier’s beaked whales, have been treating us to brilliant breaching displays as we pass over the deep sea canyons close to Northern Spain. I have been lucky enough to spot several harbour porpoises during the calmer crossings and even caught a glimpse of the characteristic head which lacks a prominent beak. One particular harbour porpoise sighting from the cabin got me very over-excited and resulted in me hitting my head on the window much to the amusement of my fellow Wildlife Officer, Heather! I have also seen minke whales, sei whales, fin whales and pilot whales. A few very lucky passengers and I even caught a glimpse of a male orca during one of the early morning deck watches, which definitely made the 5.30 am wake up worth it!
During one of my final days we also spotted a small pod of bottlenose dolphins as we cruised past the Brittany Islands. This was a particularly special sighting for me as this species of dolphin is where my obsession with cetaceans and other marine animals began and I can remember as a young child always being fascinated with them. This initial love for the species developed overtime and is the reason I chose to pursue a career within the marine conservation sector.
As Wildlife Officers one of the questions that we get asked most frequently is; how did you get this opportunity? Everybody’s journey is different but we thought we would come up with a few “top tips” for pursuing a career within the conservation sector.
The first piece of advice is to research your dream job to gain an understanding of the requirements of the position. This will enable you to tailor your skills acquisition and development to the type of role you are hoping to pursue in the future. It will also help you decide whether to undertake a degree subject like Zoology, Biology or Marine Biology. The next tip is to take online courses to boost your knowledge or enhance your skill set. It is also valuable to volunteer with different organisations within the sector and gain experience in a variety of different positions. It gives you a chance to meet like-minded professionals and ask questions! A key aspect of marine conservation is the ability to communicate effectively with a diverse range of audiences and to convey important information to modify behaviours and attitudes to protect the environment and wildlife. Gaining experience of presenting to a variety of different age groups and different audience sizes is vital.
In my opinion, the most important piece of advice is you should never lose sight of your career goals and where you want to end up. During your academic and professional development you could encounter difficulties or set-backs that may make you feel like you won’t reach your dreams however it is vital to remember why you chose to pursue this path, to keep in mind your passions and to stay motivated throughout your journey.
So that is officially it from me for this season. I want to thank everyone I have had the opportunity to meet during this experience, it has been a pleasure!
Bay of Biscay Wildlife Officer Placement