My Summer as National Whale and Dolphin Watch Assistant for Sea Watch Foundation

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Last summer I was lucky enough to spend my time studying dolphins and helping to organise a UK wide event surveying dolphins. Within this fantastic role as National Whale and Dolphin Watch (NWDW) Assistant, I got to talk to hundreds of different people from around the country and all different walks of life, as well as spending my days watching dolphins from my office window!

I applied to volunteer with the Sea Watch Foundation during the end of 2016, desperate to use my passion for cetaceans (dolphins, whales, and porpoises) in the UK. New Quay was perfect, a lovely view of dolphins in their natural habitat from my desk and hardly a minutes’ walk to the pier where dolphins could be seen nearly daily. Sea Watch’s Sightings Officer took a huge chance on me, as the youngest person all season, and one of the only undergraduates; I’m glad I didn’t disappoint! Having the chance to work with different people from all walks of life was amazing! I was surrounded by talking cheat codes on how to thrive in marine conservation.

My summer with Sea Watch allowed me learn so many new skills and get some great experience in event management and being organised! As well as getting to spend countless hours assisting with vital research on one of only two resident pods of Bottlenose Dolphins in the UK.

I made contacts all around the country and learn such amazing things, from the first minke sighting of the season in Yorkshire, to how often pods of 50+ bottlenose dolphins are spotted in the Channel Islands. I gained such an appreciation for the vast variety and abundance of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) around the UK, helped from the wonderful regional coordinators that Sea Watch have, as well as the different students and interns that join the team in New Quay each summer.

The first half of my time with Sea Watch was a lot of admin, currently I have sent over 3000 emails in the six months I’ve been here, posted over 200 watch packs, and publicised countless events. It’s not all emails and paperwork though! I got to channel my artistic side with posters and leaflets, even helping decorate statues for our local events!

Apart from my NWDW jobs, I also got to take part in training courses, surveys, and public engagement! It’s lucky I love talking, though I’m sure people wish I talked less about dolphins. Now that our season in New Quay is over, I’m sure the locals definitely appreciate me not walking into their stores with a different event to advertise every couple of weeks!

National Whale and Dolphin Watch is an enormous time for Sea Watch, it’s an extra push during the summer to involve and educate more people. With events taking place all around the country, and fun games and activities every day in New Quay, it’s the most tiring and fun week I’ve ever have! Even if it rains most days like it did this year!

After NWDW finishes, you’ll be chasing people for their effort forms, apologising for the typical British weather, and beginning the almost endless job of data entry. Data entry might sound dull, but it’s fantastic, you get to learn what everyone saw, as well as the odd amusing comments, like a daring jellyfish rescue! Plus if you’re like me, you’ll love seeing how many hours were completed compared to others, as well as watching your species count go up and up…

After NWDW, I spent a lot of my time completing data entry, getting exciting as our species count went up and up, finishing with 11 different species during our 2017 NWDW. To find out more about last years’ results the report is here.

Working with the Sea Watch Foundation gave me a new found appreciation for the importance of education and awareness, especially within the UK, as people seem blinded to the fact we do get lots of different cetacean species! My summer in New Quay was, exhausting, rewarding, inspiring and utterly unforgettable! But don’t just take my word for it, why not apply and see for yourself..!

For more information about the Sea Watch Foundation please visit their website by clicking here.

Photo credits: Sea Watch Foundation

Lauren Fidler

Lauren Fidler

Lauren Fidler is a Marine Biology and Oceanography student at Plymouth university, hoping to specialise in marine conservation. She is also a keen diver and photographer.

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