So, you’re looking for a marine conservation internship? Maybe you’re a biological sciences student, or perhaps a recently qualified SCUBA dive professional. Having a degree is a fantastic step towards your future career in the field of marine conservation or being a qualified diver. BUT, it’s not everything. As I am sure you’ve read a thousand times already, marine biology is an incredibly competitive field and having an undergraduate degree is not going to set you apart from the crowd of students who have got applied experience in the industry through hands on internships and development courses.
If you are still not sure whether you should spend the time and money to gain the extra experience and knowledge alongside your academic studies, here are four reasons to convince you that if you are lucky enough to be able to do a marine conservation internship course, you should.
‘Travel broadens the mind’ and exploring new places and experiences is always beneficial and will help you grow as a person. Visiting new countries and experiencing new cultures gives invaluable experience, so why not gain professional knowledge and experience in your field of interest at the same time through a marine conservation internship and ticks both boxes?
One of the most common things you will hear when looking for marine biology work or post graduate positions in this field is ‘must have previous experience’. This is for good reason, as much as you can read and research marine field skills, and the theory taught in University, until you have experienced the process and techniques used gone through the challenges which crop up and applied them yourself under professional guidance you will not have complete understanding of your field.
Experience can often be a chicken and the egg situation when searching for positions. But if you chose a well-designed internship which offers real life applicable skills and training this can be your ticket to gaining that experience for your professional development, and also having a great time whilst doing it.
Word of Advice: When searching for internships it is VERY important to check the organization is going to give you the hands-on relevant experience you are looking for as an early career scientist. Many places offer ‘marine internships’ but are not giving students the take home skills and experiences, which will serve you in the professional biologist world. As much as working with White Sharks or whales might be, unless there is some real scientific teaching and purpose behind the experience you might as well be a tourist.
New contacts and networking opportunities
Joining a marine conservation internship field course is a great way to meet new people. Not only the course instructors and scientists who you are joining to learn from, but also exposed to the circles of people that they know in the industry and of course the other students on the course who will be in a similar position to you in terms of career path and interests. You will often get opportunity to join or even participate in events and talks which will expose you to new people with different backgrounds and fields of interest. The marine biology and conservation circle are relatively small and there are often overlaps with collaborations or conferences, so you can usually be put in contact with someone through a few degrees of separation. This is fantastic when looking for potential collaboratives or maybe a supervisor for your course work. Joining an internship field course also gives you a good professional reference for when you are applying for your next job or academic position.
And you never know, you might just meet your future wife, best friend or business partner.
New ideas and perspective
This goes hand in hand with meeting new people and experiencing new places. When you see things for the first time or from a different perspective, you may see things in a different mindset which others have missed. This can spark fresh ideas which might just inspire you to follow your new found passion and interest. Whether this be freediving for the first time in the kelp forest and realizing this is what you want to do and choosing to research this area based on freediving techniques. Or perhaps from working on a research project on your field course, and having ideas which will benefit the project or even develop an entire new project from the process. Many students often come on the Cape RADD course unsure as to what direction they want to go in terms of study, and by the time they leave they have a new perspective and understanding of the research field and maybe a new found passion for a topic or environment which they want to explore and investigate further.
Individual development and mentorship
This point is often over looked by students in search of a marine conservation internship course. As important as it is to chose a course which suites your interests and destination dreams, getting the mentorship and relationship with your instructors is very valuable. There are a lot of courses out there which take on as many people as possible and churn them through like a corporate machine, and there are others out there who pay attention to the individual needs and interests of students, nourish their passion and support their ideas. This is a big part of Cape RADD’s mission when running our courses for early career scientists. We operate on smaller groups in order to make sure everyone gets the attention and mentorship they need to support them through the process of learning and developing skills necessary for their future careers.
Many Universities don’t have the time to take students out on field trips or if they do, there isn’t always the one to one tuition and your needs may be overlooked. If you are ‘just another student’ then you won’t get the same development. Students spend a lot of time and money to gain these skills and it is the responsibility of the course instructors to make sure that each student gains as much as possible from the experience and is supported. At Cape RADD that means taking the course at the student’s pace and tailoring the course to specific interests as much as possible. Small groups mean we get to know our students and can advise and pass on our experience. It also means building a relationship with people to the point that when you need to ask for a personal reference from your experience on the course, we can give a strong and reliable referral to your employer or school.
Convinced? Check out the Cape RADD marine biology field course for the early career scientist ‘Tool Box’ internship.