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How studying a master’s at ARU has shaped my career plans

Gemma Rae

Faculty: Science and Engineering
School: Life Sciences
Course: MSc Animal Behaviour: Applications for Conservation
Category: Animal sciences

3 November 2023

Picture of seals swimming in the sea

As Gemma approaches her graduation from ARU, her passion for marine conservation, especially cetaceans, ignites a thrilling new chapter. Join Gemma in this blog as she transitions from academia to hands-on work with ORCA, dedicating herself to protecting marine life and raising awareness about their challenges.

Reflecting on a Transformative Year at ARU

With graduation around the corner, I have been reflecting on my year studying at ARU and what a transformative process it has been for me. I have focused a number of assignments on cetaceans as I find them so fascinating which has enabled me to gain a strong understanding of the behaviour of several species, and the anthropogenic threats they face. This knowledge has been invaluable for the current training I am undertaking for my new role with the marine conservation charity ORCA.

Training for a Cause: Protecting Marine Life with Desk-Based and Boat-Based Learning

Picture of seal pup sleeping on the beach

My training is a combination of desk-based and boat-based over the next few months. After I have completed my training, I will be working on ships collecting data on cetaceans which can be used to inform policy and protect critical habitats. I will be running various workshops and educational activities to raise awareness of marine conservation issues and the importance of ORCA’s work to passengers on board. I’ll also be out doing deck watches where I will help passengers look out for and identify wildlife, talk to them about any species we see and get them interested in whales, dolphins and porpoises! 

Empowering Conservation: ORCA's Impact and the Role of Ship-Strike Mitigation

I am so happy to have the opportunity to work for a charity dedicated to the conservation of cetaceans-magnificent animals that are facing many threats globally. Learning about the impact of ORCA’s work, particularly in relation to ship-strike mitigation is really inspiring and I am looking forward to learning more throughout my training. It feels so rewarding applying everything I have learned at ARU into practice and studying the course has been a pivotal step towards working in a field that I am

 passionate about.

Nurturing Marine Life: Working at the Seal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre

There will be a gap between finishing the desk-based training and starting boat-based training, so during this time, I’ll be working at a seal rescue and rehabilitation centre. I will be caring for sick and injured grey and common seals and preparing them for release. It will be grey seal pupping season when I start working at the centre, so it’s expected to be particularly busy at this time. Sadly, one of the most common reasons why pups are brought to the centre is due to human disturbance from passers-by on the beach. It is so important to maintain a respectful distance from these animals and keep dogs on a lead as the mothers abandon their pups if they don’t feel safe to return to the beach.

A Glimpse into the Future: Observing Grey Seals and Embracing a Career in Marine Conservation

I am really looking forward to learning more about different marine mammals and working to help their conservation in two very different roles over the coming months! I recently visited a local grey seal colony to observe their behaviours before I start at the rescue centre. One of my favourite behaviours is the banana-shaped pose whilst seals are resting.

Endings and Beginnings: Farewell to ARU and Stepping into the World of Marine Conservation

Picture of seals in a banana pose

As I sat and watched the seals basking in the sun and gracefully surfing the waves, I felt true inner peace and excitement for the future. From the fascinating range of topics covered to the engaging teaching styles and practical skills that are taught, the Animal Behaviour: Applications for Conservation MSc has been truly inspiring and has taken me on a journey of self-discovery and professional development. The skills and knowledge I have gained from the course have provided me with an excellent foundation to start a new career.

Although my time at ARU is now at an end, it is just the beginning of a new chapter as I venture into a career in marine conservation!

*All pictures were taken from a respectful distance to prevent disturbance to the seals.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.