Careers in Life Sciences

Rebecca Daniel

"One year really does fly by, so make the most of it!"

Rebecca Daniel, MSc Tropical Marine Biology graduate, now the Director of The Marine Diaries.

I have always been fascinated by the ocean (I had a dolphin themed bedroom age 4!) and knew I wanted to go into marine biology and conservation. I learnt to scuba dive at age 9, and after that I was hooked!

I volunteered with sea turtles in Greece during my undergraduate degree at Durham University and discovered my love of fieldwork. So after finishing my degree in Biological Sciences I applied for the MSc Tropical Marine Biology. I chose Essex as it was the only university to offer this course and ultimately my favourite module was "Tropical Marine Systems", which covered coral reef, mangrove, and seagrass ecosystems.

I also found the “Professional Skills” module really useful as it highlighted not just skills that you might need in academia (such as poster creation, grant applications, and vodcasts) but also covered statistics and coding in R, which are great transferable skills for any career in science.

I started working as an Environmental Consultant for Orbis Energy a month after handing in my thesis, and worked there for around a year and a half. The role involved data analysis and visualisation in ArcGIS, report writing, and research on marine species.

Throughout my degree at Essex and since graduating, I have also been running a marine conservation non-profit, The Marine Diaries. We use storytelling and digital media to communicate ocean science. My role has grown from content creation, like social media and article writing, to managing the organisation - deciding on projects, campaigns, and our strategy. So far I’ve trained and managed around 50 volunteers. Many of whom are still involved, whilst others have gone on to careers in marine conservation.

The first big project I launched for The Marine Diaries was our ‘Plastic Not Fantastic’ campaign in 2019. It brought together over 35 collaborators - from scientists to campaigners, sustainable businesses and conservation organisations. The month-long campaign highlighted the key sources of plastic pollution, and explored the impacts and solutions - giving people actionable ways to help.

In 2021 we released a 9-month series, the ‘Marine Ecosystem Diaries’. The series took people on a journey across 9 different marine ecosystems - ranging from well-known coral reefs, to the severely threatened and under appreciated shellfish reefs. Each month we released a short film and illustrated poster, compiled by a team of researchers, illustrators, and videographers.

Through running The Marine Diaries, I realised that my passion and skills lay in digital communications surrounding sustainability and conservation. After Orbis Energy, I worked for a short period at an environmental PR firm but was made redundant at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. Since then, I’ve been working for Carbon Brief - who specialise in climate change journalism - initially as a Digital Content Executive and now as their Digital Marketing Manager. This involves overseeing the digital strategy, managing our website, social media, and newsletters, and looking for ways to reach new audiences with our content.

I still continue to run The Marine Diaries in my spare time with our voluntary team. We’ve got some really exciting projects at the moment, including an e-learning course, ocean adventures, and a film in partnership with Waterbear and Nikon.

My advice to Masters students is to remember that one year really does fly by, so make the most of it! Make sure you plan well in advance for your thesis topic if you want to get published and start reading round the subject early on to find something novel to investigate. Use the extra time you have outside of assignments and lectures to read around subjects that interest you, and go to the lecturers with questions.

I would also recommend doing a placement in your holidays or in place of the masters field trip - as work experience will help you secure jobs in the future, and will allow you to make strong connections in the industry. Remote volunteering can also be really helpful, especially if you cannot afford to pay for expensive volunteering trips abroad. If you have a passion for ocean conservation - get in touch with The Marine Diaries! We’re always looking for people to help out.