This week on ‘An Interview with WiseOceans’ we spoke with Maisy Fuller from Gili Shark Conservation
Name: Maisy Fuller
Role: Operational Manager
Company: Gili Shark Conservation
Top Tip: Even when it’s tough, keep going!
Quick Fire Questions
1. What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
From a young age, I was captivated by nature and grew up dreaming of adventures in the wilderness. Like many current marine biologists, this passion was partly inspired by the amazing documentaries I used to watch on TV. Blue Planet was a favourite at home and opened my eyes to the amazing underwater world.
Whilst studying in high school, my passion for the marine environment was solidified in biology class, where I had several wonderful teachers. These teachers allowed me to realise that a career in marine science was possible and that there were endless ecosystems to explore and research. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today!
2. What steps did you take or are you currently taking to achieve your career goals?
Initially, one of the most important steps to take as a budding marine biologist is to complete a degree (although this isn’t always necessary!), so after high school, I completed my Undergraduate and Master’s degree at the University of Southampton. While there, I also volunteered on turtle and shark conservation projects in my free time.
This practical work experience allowed me to gain my first internship after university. The marine conservation job market is highly competitive, and without real-world experience, I would never have got my foot in the door! Therefore, my biggest piece of advice to any aspiring marine biologist is to volunteer as much as possible within your budget (there are some incredible organisations you can volunteer at for free), and if you can’t find anything that suits you being advertised online, find an organisation you want to work with and email them directly!
Building up both your hard and soft skills is also very important. For example, I gained my PADI Divemaster whilst working in the Philippines (I worked for free for a marine research organisation but got food, accommodation and my Divemaster certification in exchange), providing me with the diving experience to gain a paid job in the Cayman Islands. Regarding soft skills, being an effective communicator with excellent adaptability and time management is a must! You can build these up whilst working, but also there are some fantastic online courses you can partake in.
3. How did you obtain your current position?
I applied! I was living in the UK and had a very secure job as a government adviser for the environment, but something was missing. I saw the job advertised and just decided to go for it.
If you are applying for a company you have no connection to, it’s essential to research the company before applying and ensure you are addressing their goals and requirements whilst writing your CV and cover letter. It makes you stand out and much more likely to gain an interview.
4. Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I do so many tasks that choosing a favourite part is tricky! I enjoy conducting research on the reef, and I am particularly passionate about coral restoration. I also love watching how my student’s knowledge and perspective of the environment changes throughout a programme. Nothing is more inspiring than watching students transition into educated environmental stewards who go home and spread their new knowledge to their local community.
However, the key part of my job that I enjoy the most is working with my fantastic team every day. The project is my family and this island in my home. We laugh together, problem-solve together and hold each other up when we are feeling down. Together I feel like we can change the world from our little island!
5. Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
I love seeing what our participants do after spending time at Gili Shark Conservation. So many people from local and overseas communities have joined our programmes and are now making their own waves in the marine biology field. It’s a special feeling knowing that you helped someone achieve their dream!
6. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I wish someone had told me to trust my instincts and have confidence in who I was as a person. Travelling all over the world and moving from one remote field station to the next is physically and mentally exhausting. Even more so when you are highly emotionally invested in your work. It is perfectly acceptable and healthy to go through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during this journey, but it is never okay for you to feel like you’re not enough of a person to get through it. Always be eager to learn new skills and stay humble but also have confidence in your capabilities and what you can achieve. You can do anything you put your mind to!
7. Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
I have gained so many varied skills during my career. Let me know if anyone needs help with plumbing or building a septic tank! However, I think your soft skills are the most important skills required when working on marine conservation projects (aside from the typical research and diving skills).
Before working in this field, I didn’t quite comprehend how much problem-solving you must do whilst working in remote locations. I never thought I would be in some of the situations I have been in… a great example is a tree 40m falling and crashing into our camp whilst working on a turtle nesting project. There are also more common problems, project participants missing home, someone feeling sick, the power going out for the third time in a day, and the generator not starting up. You have to be able to deal with all kinds of situations and keep a cool head when everything gets a little wild!
8. What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Even when it’s tough, keep going! Sometimes it’s hard not to feel put down when you’ve applied to what seems like a million jobs and not gotten anywhere, but you will reach your dream job in the end.
Also, kindness, patience and understanding are nearly always the answer, especially when working within a new community in remote locations. People always have reasons for their actions, so it’s important that you understand those reasons and find a middle ground to work together to protect marine ecosystems.
9. What is your favourite marine creature and why?
I love hawksbill sea turtles! They look like algae-covered dinosaurs destroying the reef underwater (completely normal behaviour). We are lucky to have so many turtles here in the Gili Islands that we usually see one on every dive.
10. What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
Although I’ve had some incredible encounters with wildlife, my favourite moment was collecting corals of opportunity for our “Back to Life” restoration artwork whilst my mum snorkelled above and watched us work. It’s always so special to share my passion with family and friends and allow them to experience the magical underwater world.
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