Finishing my third year as a marine biology and zoology student in the UK, at Bangor University, I quickly realised that the most beneficial way to broaden my career options, was not only to rely on having good grades, but to gain experience working in a marine biology centre and contribute to the research they are carrying out, in order to achieve valuable skills, which I can apply to a future line of work.
Cape RADD, (Research And Diver Development), has offered me this experience of volunteering at their base in Cape Town for a period of six months, with the potential of gaining a deeper insight into the hands on research that they are doing with the endemic species of shark in False Bay and getting me directly involved with their current projects. The citizen science snorkels Cape RADD offer contributes data to their shark conservation program. This project engages eco tourist guests to be educated on the ecosystem in False Bay and the vast marine biodiversity within it in an informative briefing by a trained marine biologist. Then guests are taken out into the kelp forests by their marine snorkel guide. The objective of the trip is to take photographs of several shark species which are then uploaded to the Cape RADD finspotter database which uses trained software to identify each photo and decipher whether it has been seen before or if this is a new individual to the database. This project uses citizen science to educate recreational water users and also allow them to giveback and directly contribute to shark science and conservation.
This has offered me experience in getting to know the beautiful kelp forests and the abundance of creatures that live within them. After a few weeks volunteering at the centre I discovered the only problem I had on the snorkel trips was the annoying fact that I needed to resurface to breathe! Therefore, I decided to progress this further by enrolling on my SCUBA diving open water course, so I can now spend longer below the surface…
I have always loved the ocean and to finally be diving in one of the most unique places, being the Cape Kelp forests, is a dream come true. With Cape RADD and impact divers I have completed my open water diving course, learning the skills required to be able to confidently, safely and comfortably dive to 18m.
Now I am using the SCUBA diving and the freediving skills I have gained during snorkel for science trips, and I am able to create and work on my own research project. My project will investigate the distribution of octopus dens in a densely populated area. On return to the UK, I hope to apply apply this research to my masters degree. Not only is learning new dive skills helping my studies and providing experience for future career options, but it’s such a fun and exhilarating experience, to be in the water with the animals that have always fascinated me, sharks, octopus, seals and many more. Diving is a whole new world I have now become fully absorbed in and after one month at the base i will now be continuing my advanced diving courses, allowing me to dive at night and at greater depths.