Daniel is a PhD researcher in marine science at Durham University and a Student member of the IMarEST.
Summarise what you do in one sentence
As a scientist, I study genetics of marine predators to better understand how oceanography impacts their population structure.
Describe your academic/training history and how you got to where you are today.
I completed an undergraduate masters degree in Marine Biology at Bangor University (2010). I then went on to work for many organizations around the globe to gain experience before starting my PhD in 2015. Following my Masters degree I worked for Bangor University, Shark Conservation Society, Turtle Watch (Rekawa, Sri Lanka), Ascension Island Government and Edge Hill University. I would say my career path is fairly typical, especially for someone wanting to work with charismatic marine megafauna. It is a competitive field so it is vital to build up a broad base of experience and skills.
Describe a typical workday
Currently there is no such thing! This is what I love about my job. Some days I can find myself in the laboratory extracting DNA from samples or preparing DNA for next-generation sequencing. During fieldwork seasons I can be found freediving with huge schools of Barracuda or taking biopsy samples from Bottlenose Dolphins with a crossbow. Previous positions have seen me putting temperature sensors into the nests of sea turtles as they lay their eggs on remote beaches, traversing oceans on research cruises or even giving a caesarian section to a shark!
What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?
Above all an ability to think on your feet and solve problems. Along side this you need to stay calm under pressure. Inevitably things do not go to plan, especially during fieldwork, so you must always 'work the problem' by thinking outside the box to overcome obstacles. A good mathematical mindset and a capability in logistical planning are essential too.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
That's a hard one - there is simply too many to choose from! I have a great love for the animals I study and getting the opportunity to have priviledged access to them can be really special. I also love being surrounded by people who are so passionate about what they do. If I really have to pick one thing though it would be the fulfillment gained from knowing I am making a difference, even in a small way. By discovering new things and pushing the boundaries of human knowledge we can better protect and make use of the natural world around us.
What challenges have you had to overcome?
Working in a competitive field, you have to move where the work is and this can be tough on families back home, especially when you are in remote locations. However, communication technology is getting better all the time and so this is becoming less and less of a problem.
Give us an interesting fact about you!
I love to climb mountains! Escaping into wild and rugged landscapes is so refreshing for the mind. Wherever I am I try and get into the hills wether to wild camp or just to hike for a few hours. My favourite thing to do is to sleep on a summit and watch the sun rise from the top - there is nothing more able to make you feel alive in the world!
Why did you become a member of the IMarEST?
I was first introduced to IMarEST when they accredited my undergraduate degree program. I then joined as I admire the work that they do. Over my career so far I have seen that the best results always come from multiple organizations working together, especially in an interdisciplinary context. I think this epitomizes IMarEST - they are a melting pot of ideas and a great interface of all of the different sectors of the maritime community.