An Interview with WiseOceans… Shainéa Reilly from Naifaru Juvenile – Atoll Marine Centre

This week we chat to Shainéa. Like so many of our interviewees, Shainéa emphasises the importance of using your university term breaks and summer vacations to build up your experience by volunteering.

Name: Shainéa Reilly

Job Title: Marine Biologist

Organisation: Atoll Volunteers

What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?

I don’t really have that one ‘special’ moment that stands out to me at a point in my life. I have just always been drawn to the ocean, grew up visiting my grandad and great uncle in Anglesey and was always out on the boat searching for marine life! At Uni I ended up picking marine based topics and modules, including my dissertation. So, it has always been an interest to me from what I can remember!

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

I studied Wildlife Conservation at University in the UK, whilst I was studying I also went abroad volunteering a lot in many different countries and to get as much experience as I could for the marine aspect side of things to try and see what I liked best and get my foot in the door with the hope of being noticed and offered/getting internships.

How did you land your current job/position?

I follow many organisations on social media and I saw the advertisement on their Facebook page. Their requirements and desirables fitted all my past experiences I had whilst I was volunteering abroad so I applied and hoped for the best.

Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?  

Watching the turtles being released back where they belong after we helped them to recover.

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

The outreach to the locals, and educating them with the wild pet trade, correct waste management and knowing that if there is a turtle in distress that they call us and bring it into us at the Marine Centre.

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

Well, I kind of already had this knowledge but not to the extent of it. It is how much employers and companies ask of you even just for an entry-level job. Also, how much you are actually expected to work for free or have to pay to volunteer.

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

I wouldn’t say it is a skill but definitely need to be physically fit for this kind of career, especially upper body strength with having to lift the turtles and they can be super heavy!!

What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?

Make sure volunteer and get internships as much as possible when you are free, especially during uni. So, go abroad and volunteer (if you can) during term breaks and summer times. This helps you (hopefully) get your foot in the door with some of the organisations for when you do graduate!

What is your favourite marine creature and why?  

Wow, this is a TOUGH question!! I think maybe a species of whale or dolphin as they travel a lot, which I love to do too! But I can not decide on the species unfortunately as they are all awesome!!!

What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?  

There are a couple, and they are both from this year. I went to 2 places that Blue Planet 2 was filmed, Sipadan Island (Borneo) and Hurawalhi Bay (Maldives).

Sipadan had the most beautiful coral reefs I have ever seen, my first time seeing sharks in the water, a tornado of barracudas, SO many jackfish and the whole time there was spectacular!!

Hurawalhi Bay is where the manta rays were filmed, we were snorkelling with over 40 manta rays, barrel rolling and they were so shallow, not afraid of us being there so they got SUPER close, sometimes a bit too close for comfort!

I will never forget these moments!!


Thank you Shainéa. It certainly sounds like you are getting some incredible experiences in your job. 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 marine conservation.