Starting my marine traineeship

Jade Chenery - Trainee Marine & Coastal Conservation Officer

April 2016

Although I have lived in land locked midlands for nearly 20 years I have always had a love for wildlife around me by going on walks around Leicestershire. After watching numerous nature documentaries and being fortunate to spend my holidays both here in the UK by the coast and around the world I decided a career in marine biology was where I wanted to aim towards. From an early age I planned what A-levels I needed to obtain in order to get a degree and set my sights on the University of Southampton. I achieved 4 A-levels in biology, chemistry, geography and mathematics which eventually led me on the BSc at Southampton in Marine Biology with Oceanography. In my second year I decided to transfer on to the integrated masters available to me to complete an MSci in Marine Biology. Whilst at University we had numerous modules in marine life including the chemistry and physics of our oceans which unearthed some surprising interests within me.

One of my main passions is marine mammals; this was set in stone during a trip to Canada in 2008 when I saw whales in the wild on the St Lawrence River. During my degree I was able to build on this love through numerous courses and volunteer opportunities that were opened up to me. I am a trained as a Marine Mammal Surveyor with ORCA. I have surveyed on boats trips over to the Isle of Man and Denmark. I am also a Marine Mammal Medic with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue. I have also spent some time in Tenerife in the summer of 2014 volunteering with the Atlantic Whale Foundation. I went on to work on the bottlenose dolphins of Tenerife for my final year dissertation.

Once I graduated last year I had an internship with a fisheries consultancy which allowed me to try something different. After that volunteered on a month long placement as a Wildlife Officer on board Brittany Ferries with ORCA across the Bay of Biscay from Portsmouth which was, although at times rough, a fantastic experience. I then went on to spend some time volunteering with the Sea Watch Foundation in New Quay to monitor the local marine mammal populations.

I am so pleased I have been accepted on this placement and whilst we are still only a few days into the traineeship the next few months sound amazing! I can’t wait to be challenged, work with multiple organisations and draw on all my marine biology knowledge whilst learning new skills that can be used in the wider world of work. I enjoy educating people about what is on their doorstep and hope to interact with as many people as possible help inspire people to protect our diverse UK coastline. I’m looking forward to brushing up on my species identification of all marine life and back to why I originally fell in love with the marine world!

January 2017

I’m not sure that at the end of April last year that I was fully prepared for what the traineeship was going to throw at me but it’s been amazing! I have received training in many topics which has included enhancing my skills in GIS. The first part of the traineeship was very intense with so much training given to help us plan and run our own summer events safely and reach out to as many people as possible. Courses in outdoor first aid, risk assessments, volunteer management, social media and campaign management were just some of the many training covered.

In the summer we put all the theory into practise with great events such as Rockpool Rambles, Guided Walks and Whale and Dolphin Watches. I was keen to continue these watches beyond the Wildlife Trust National Marine Week so I arranged additional events with the local Sea Watch Foundation Coordinator and our hard work and patience paid off as we was rewarded with a few harbour porpoise sightings.

I’ve enjoyed doing many surveys with NWIFCA including mussel and cockle surveys. My bird identification has grown 10 fold with dedicated training courses and surveys looking at bird disturbance and winter wild fowl counts. I even enjoyed helping to support a fellow trainee run the first Walney Wader Festival! My rocky shore species identification has been strengthened with our Citizen Science surveys called Shoresearch in which I led one at a new site in Allonby Bay and was recently trained for Capturing our Coast so I can’t wait to get back out with my quadrat!

In the autumn and winter months the presentation season loomed over us! However with time my confidence has grown and my pace has slowed as I’ve had practise talking about the amazing Irish Sea and Marine Conservation Zones to Wildlife Trust Support Groups and A-levels groups across Cumbria. I have also enjoyed delivering the seal workshops and getting stuck in with the marine litter project in which I helped collect, sort and clean the litter and supported a college workshop in which the students created sea bird sculptures.

One thing I did not see myself doing was piloting a drone. As part of my personal project I was involved in introducing two new methods for surveying the grey seal population at South Walney Nature Reserve. I compared and contrasted the three methods (two new and one existing) to count and observe the seals and each threw out its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of my drone highlights include capturing a seal pup birth during a flight and counting nearly 260 seals from one survey which is the most we have ever seen on the reserve! I am also due to appear on Countryfile Winter Diaries in February 2017 to talk about the seal surveying I have been doing.
The Mud Campaign has also played a large part of my traineeship as we’ve worked to spread the ‘Mud is Good’ message across Cumbria and beyond through muddy events, stands and presentations. The aim of the campaign is to get three final muddy Marine Conservation Zones designated in the last phase. The Ocean Quahog has been a particular favourite of mine to talk about as it’s fascinating to know we have such a wonderful (and old!) creature living in our waters.

They say time flies when you’re having fun and this past 9 months has truly flown by! I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity and I can’t wait to see what my next job will be but I can certainly say I’ll be well prepared for whatever comes my way. And finally I would not have been able to do it without the help of our programme manager and the support of my fellow trainees who started as strangers but we’re leaving as friends!