Meet Coral Smith, Marine Education Officer for Devon Wildlife Trust and Scubaverse.com’s newest blogger
Hello Scubaverse and fellow dive enthusiasts and thank you for inviting me to contribute to your blog! So, I’ve been asked to write a regular blog about the work I do to promote marine awareness and conservation in the UK, but before we get onto that I thought I’d give you a bit of background about myself and how I got started.
Growing up in landlocked Hertfordshire (not too far from Scubaverse HQ), it wasn’t until a summer holiday to Lyme Regis in Dorset, when I was about 4 or 5, that I got my first taste of the sea and marine life, rockpooling with my dad in tide-pools that seemed to go on forever. I like to think that’s where my interest in marine life started…
Moving on to when I was nine years old, our family moved to the Caribbean and I was lucky enough to have an amazing underwater world right on my doorstep. The sea then became a part of my life, as I’m sure it does for lots of people living on a small, beautiful island. Every weekend I was snorkelling on warm tropical coral reefs and Parrot fish soon became my favourite, as was watching the magical flying fish skim out of the water as the sun set on another day in paradise. But it was my first time swimming with green turtles that really did it for me and I just fell in love with the ocean and everything that lived there.
Four years in the Caribbean and then it was time to move back to Hertfordshire. After finishing school, I headed to Plymouth University to undertake a degree in Marine Biology and Oceanography. Here I learned that Marine Biology wasn’t all about swimming with turtles and dolphins in nice warm tropical water and that I’d probably never get a job in this field, but I managed to come away with a first class honours degree and went on to do a Masters in Biological Diversity. My lecturer was right about the job thing though, as I came out of uni and didn’t immediately land the job of my dreams, or any job even close… I guess I hadn’t really thought that far ahead! So I spent a couple of years doing various voluntary placements before finally landing a part time role in the education team at the Marine Biological Association of the UK, based in Plymouth. I spent three years working in a lovely team there, before moving on to my current role as Marine Education Officer for Devon Wildlife Trust, based at Wembury Marine Centre.
Wembury was my first full time voluntary placement back in 2009, and like so many other people now working in environmental education and outreach in the South West and beyond, it all started here. Wembury is a magical place, felt by both the locals and the tens of thousands of visitors who flock here each year. It’s not the best looking beach by any means – it’s pretty small, lots of the sand comes and goes, but the rocky shore and view of the Mewstone (a small island just over a kilometre out) is simply stunning. It must be up there as one of the most photographed and painted spots around and is a favoured filming location for numerous BBC Natural History programmes.
Historically, Wembury holds one of the richest biodiversity hotspots for intertidal marine life in the UK, and in recognition of this Wembury Bay was set up as a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area (VMCA) in 1981 and now also forms part of the Plymouth Sound and Estuaries Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Wembury Marine Centre opened in 1994 and was the inspiration of marine biologist, the late Dr Norman Holme. Today, the Centre is managed by Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) on behalf of a partnership including the National Trust, South Hams District Council, Devon County Council and Plymouth University Marine Institute.
My colleague Cat and I manage the Centre, both working for DWT, and each year we are supported by a small team of trainees and interns thanks to our partnership with the Marine Institute and other placement schemes. The purpose of our outreach work here is to promote Wembury as a Marine Conservation Area and to create a sense of marine stewardship among the local community and visitors alike. Our work also extends beyond Wembury, promoting The Wildlife Trusts’ vision of ‘Living Seas,’ where the marine environment is managed sustainably for the benefit of all its inhabitants and where people are inspired by marine wildlife and value the sea for the many ways in which it supports our quality of life.
Over the next few months you will hear more about the marine conservation work we do and some of the more interesting and bizarre stories from our little Bay in South Devon.
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