This week we’re with Ashley Yarbrough, Education Leadership Intern from REEF.  Ashley was  interested in oceans and their conservation from a young age. Knowing this she was then able to chose relevant university courses and benefited from choosing courses that diversified her education while still focusing on her particular interests. Ashley’s great advice is to explore subjects that go beyond your core interests. You don’t know what you might like until you try it.

Name: Ashley Yarbrough

Job Title: Education Leadership Intern

Organisation: Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF)

  • What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?

My interest in marine science developed though spending summers at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL. Those experiences exposed me to the biodiversity of the ocean and played a large role in my desire to conserve it.

  • What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?

When I graduated high school, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to study the ocean and help conserve it. In order to determine how exactly I would be able to do that, I attended Oregon State University and after some entry level courses, decided to graduate with a degree in Fisheries Science. While at OSU, I made a point to choose courses that diversified my education while still focusing on my particular interests. For example, I took a communication class that helped me develop skills that are useful when trying to communicate scientific ideas to a diverse audience as well as various ichthyology courses that were highly influential in my decision to study fisheries. With this degree, I hope to help fisheries become more sustainable through studying how fish populations are affected by climate change and their interactions with other species. I also became SCUBA certified while in school.

  • How did you land your current job/position? 

I participated in REEF’s Marine Conservation Internship in the summer of 2017 and then was offered their advanced internship position for the fall.

  • Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?  

To be honest, there really isn’t any part of my job that I don’t like but I think what I enjoy the most is any opportunity to get someone involved with marine conservation.

  • Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’? 

I feel like I am really making a difference when people come in to the REEF office just to inquire about who we are, what we do, and how they can get involved. In this scenario, I not only get to promote my organization and our projects, but I have the opportunity to spark someone’s interest in marine conservation and provide them with a chance to make a difference themselves.

  • What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?  

When I was first starting out, I wish I was more aware of the fact that it’s okay if your life doesn’t go exactly to plan. I was originally planning to start graduate school this fall but since that didn’t pan out, I was available to stay here at REEF which I quickly realized was the right decision all along. I still have the same goals, but now I get to have the fantastic experience of working at REEF as well.

  • Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?

I had a part time job at a retail store during my first couple years of college where I was interacting with the general public and spending a lot of time talking to people on the phone. I didn’t think either of these skills would be particularly useful in my long term career but here at REEF I use them on almost a daily basis.

  • What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?  

My advice to budding marine conservationists would be to explore subjects that go beyond your core interests. You don’t know what you might like until you try it so you shouldn’t shy away from new experiences!

  • What is your favourite marine creature and why?  

Sea turtles will always have a special place in my heart because it was actually a Green Sea Turtle named Nickle who lived at the Shedd Aquarium that inspired me to learn more about the ocean. The giant Pacific Octopus is another favorite of mine as well as the Blue Hamlet.

  • What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?  

My most unforgettable moment in the sea was my first warm water dive here in Key Largo. I got certified in the Pacific Northwest so seeing a coral reef for the first time was absolutely amazing.


Thank you Ashley, it’s always great to be reminded that fantastic opportunities often happen when life doesn’t go to plan! They certainly have lead to great things for you.

You could follow in Ashley’s footsteps and be a REEF intern too – REEF are currently promoting their Marine Conservation Internship for Spring 2018, apply now!

Don’t forget to sign up to our weekly job alert emails and keep an eye on our Wise Work pages so you don’t miss your dream opportunity in more marine conservation.