It was a dark, drizzly January day when an email had popped into my university account: “Wanted – Marine Awareness Intern at Wembury Marine Centre.” I had been hunting high and low for a placement that was based in the UK, that would form a part of my placement year. The role description sounded perfect, with a mixture of public engagement, aquaria maintenance and working with school groups, and sounded like it was a good mixture of previous volunteer roles I had done, such as volunteer aquarium host, aquarist and speaker for a whale conservation charity. Even through this was a shorter placement than I needed to fulfil my full 6 months required by the university, I applied anyway, thinking a summer by the sea was just what the doctor ordered. Checking my emails obsessively, I received an email back from Cat and Coral asking me to interview for the role, with a small task describing an animal found in the rockpools attached. The day for the interview came, starting out with drizzling rain, and an early morning doctor’s appointment had left me feeling really flustered, made worse by me forgetting the toy crab I had as a prop and having to dash back home. As I arrived at the marine institute, the lift had broken, leading to a hot climb up four flights of stairs to reach my interview, seeing a potential intern head in and interview before me. I attended my lecture an hour later, to receive a phone call from Cat asking me if I wanted the role, which I happily accepted, feeling a massive relief knowing I had one placement secured.
I was thrown in at the deep end on my first day, with rockpooling and stream dipping with a school group, with myself and Naomi helping with the rockpooling, both of us getting massively overexcited after seeing a strawberry anemone for the first time in a rockpool. By the end of the week I was exhausted, but incredibly happy with being able to teach so many school children about the sea. As the school season continued, my confidence and ability grew to be able to lead sessions, from small classes to huge safaris in a complete variety of age groups, abilities and weather! However, the smiles and enjoyment of all of the children made it very much worthwhile.
The public safaris started in July, going to a part of the rockpools where we were finding many more animals. My ability to ID creatures grew enormously, as well as my confidence in teaching the public all about them. Our events wouldn’t be anything without the amazing volunteers, who were always happy to lend a hand when I was unsure on a species or how something was done. It was also incredibly rewarding to be able to talk to a variety of people every single day, getting an idea of what people’s opinions were of events over the summer, as well as what their interests and hobbies were. Our volunteers are also amazing in extraordinarily difficult situations, such as torrential rain and managing the centre alone led to me being stranded in a very soggy marine centre! However, our volunteers came to the rescue, helping with the clean-up and giving me a lift home, saving me waiting for the Wembury bus which would’ve had to contend with flooded roads! Our work truly would be nothing without our volunteers, and I am truly grateful for all of the help they have given me this summer!
Finally, I would just like to thank Cat and Coral for such an amazing opportunity, providing me with so much knowledge and experience, smiles and laughter. Steph and Naomi for listening to me during car journeys around Plymouth, and for helping me to feel a part of the time. And to all of the school children, teachers and members of the public who have visited us at Wembury this summer, for helping my confidence grow in talking to large audiences and running events.