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How studying at ARU has prepared me for future careers

Gemma Rae

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

15 June 2023

Animal Behaviour: Applications for Conservation student Gemma continues her account of researching for her thesis in Galicia. This time, she reflects on how she's using the knowledge and skills she developed at ARU in Cambridge, and what this experience means for her future career.

Catch up on the third instalment of Gemma's experiences in Galicia.

My time at the Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute (BDRI) has put what I have learnt on the course at ARU into context.

The course has equipped me with practical skills and theoretical knowledge that can be applied to a broad range of careers. Being at the BDRI has been a great opportunity to apply these skills and has made me realise how much I have learnt from the course at ARU.

The course covers topics ranging from culture in dolphins and their sophisticated cognitive abilities (in the Cognition, Evolution and Behaviour module) to their impressive acoustic communication and how this is studied using bioacoustics (in the Technology and Techniques module).

This knowledge has been invaluable during my time at the BDRI and has provided me a strong foundation for future careers in the field of conservation.

Working on large and complex data sets was the focus of a recent assignment for the Communication Skills module, and without this experience, I would have found the data sets here at the BDRI daunting to work with.

Learning about human-wildlife conflict in the Current Topics in Conservation module has also been put into perspective out here, as I have seen first-hand the overlap between human activity and marine wildlife.

During a survey this week, I felt excited to see dolphins passing so closely that we could see them without binoculars. This turned to horror when a large boat raced directly towards the dolphins with blatant disregard for marine wildlife. Witnessing the heavy marine traffic in the area has highlighted the importance of studying the impacts this has on marine animals.

The BDRI also researches Eurasian otters, and I have had the opportunity to analyse otter spraints (dung) whilst here to learn about their foraging ecology.

Otoliths (calcium earstones) from fish in a petri dish, with a pair of tweezers and identification sheets

Learning how to identify fish species from their otoliths (hard, calcium carbonate structures located in the inner ear – see left) has been really interesting, but it's also saddening to see how many samples contain plastic, and this demonstrates the far-reaching impacts of plastic pollution (as emphasised in the Communication Skills module).

Studying at ARU and spending time at the BDRI has taught me so much more than I can put into words here. It has been a journey of significant personal and professional development for me.

Observing the incredible wildlife here in Galicia (see pictures below) and being involved in the research process has really brought everything I have learnt on the course to life and made me even more determined to pursue a career in conservation.

A pair of otters in a holt

Image credit: © BDRI

A dolphin leaping from the sea

Image credit: © BDRI

Four dolphins swimming with their fins above the surface of the sea

Image credit: © BDRI

Two dolphins leaping over the sea

Image credit: © BDRI

Gemma is studying Animal Behaviour: Applications for Conservation at ARU in Cambridge. Find out more about this and other degree courses at one of our Open Days.


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.