We caught up it with member of the NMA team Holly Wilson. Holly is a former placement student with the Ocean Conservation Trust’s (OCT) Ocean Advocacy and Engagement Team, and a current Ocean Discovery Ranger.

What’s your background?

I grew up in Plymouth and then went to Bournemouth University to study environmental science which covers a wide range of environmental aspects as well as marine ones. I chose to complete a placement year between second and third year to gain relevant experience before graduating and came here to the OCT. Prior to University, I volunteered with Wembury Scouts group for a number of years helping to run activities which often involved getting outside. During my time at school, I completed schemes such as DofE (which was very enjoyable, especially gold as we completed it in the Brecon Beacons) and Ten Tors which helped me build teamwork skills and learn resilience. During school I also completed a short placement with the Livewell Southwest wellbeing team which involved working with members of the public to help them get out in nature and exercise. At the same time as studying, I have worked in various bars and pubs as well as in retail on weekends and evenings to gain transferable skills and earn some money.

Why Ocean Conservation Trust?

While studying for my degree, it became clear to me how important the ocean is regarding most environmental issues and how key it is to solving problems. I learnt more about the behavioural change theory and the best ways to engage people and get them to change certain lifestyle choices. This opened my eyes to the impact of people-based approaches to solve large-scale environmental problems. This way of thinking is key to the OCT with the aim being to connect as many people as possible with the ocean as a starting point in protecting it; hence why I wanted to do my placement here. If people can visit and form a connection with the marine life and learn more on the ocean’s importance, then they will be more likely to help protect it throughout their life. I wanted to be a part of spreading this message and engaging with as many people as possible to create positive change.

How has working here helped you?

Since starting my placement with the OCT Ocean Advocacy and Engagement team my confidence as grown massively which in turn has made the role easier as I can now comfortably stand up and speak to large audiences which I previously have found challenging. I have also enjoyed physically connecting people with the ocean during the summer months through activities such as snorkelling and helping with outreach events outside such as sail GP which took place on the Hoe.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of volunteering here?

My advice to anyone who’s thinking of doing a placement or internship with the ocean advocacy and engagement team would be:  be prepared to do things out of your comfort zone, even if you don’t feel like you have the confidence to – fake it till you make it! I would also advise people to be themselves and not to be afraid to be a bit weird and goofy!

To learn more our about our volunteer programmes click here.

The National Marine Aquarium (NMA) is the UK’s largest aquarium, located in Britain’s Ocean City, Plymouth. It is run by the Ocean Conservation Trust, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the Ocean.

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