Meet our Public and Community Engagement Coordinator, Freyja Thomson! Having worked at the NMA for over a year, she was recently promoted from Public Engagement Host Level 2 to Public and Community Engagement Coordinator, and is enjoying getting her teeth into her new role. Find out how she got here, what her job entails and what she loves the most about working at the NMA here.
I was studying for my degree in Marine Biology and Oceanography at the University of Plymouth, which I graduated in 2018, alongside a part-time job in retail.
No two days are the same! As a Public and Community Engagement Coordinator, my day can be so varied; from delivering big and engaging shows to hundreds of people, to smaller, one-to-one interactions with members of the public, connecting them with our Ocean. One minute, I might be feeding the Ocean animals in our beautiful Plymouth Sound exhibit, explaining how and why the NMA looks after our animals, and the next we could be teaching a school group about the wonders of the sea. I’m also often found getting things ready for our holiday events, creating exciting shows or fun and educational trails around the building. As part of my new role, I also help to manage the Public Engagement Host team, ensuring our visitors are kept engaged and learn as many amazing things about our animals as possible.
I am currently planning sessions for our popular Ocean Squad – an action-packed, Ocean-themed programme of fun we put on for teenagers in the school holidays throughout the year. We’re planning a raft of new activities that are sure to be lots of fun, including some exciting Ocean-themed experiments in our Ocean Scientists sessions, and are talking to other groups across Plymouth to get them involved.
Alongside my colleague Lottie – who has also recently been promoted from Aquarium Host to Public and Community Engagement Coordinator – I’m also preparing and planning for our upcoming Holiday events during May Half Term and for the Summer Holidays. We’re creating themed events for our visitors to enjoy, and have lots of exciting things in store!
The NMA spent two weeks in Cardiff last May for the Volvo Ocean Race, and following this I was sent to attend Cardiff’s Extreme Sailing Event alongside Cardiff Council, where I was lucky enough to represent the NMA.
It was so much fun getting to chat to people all about the Ocean and what they can do to help protect it, as well as showing people lots of cool and interesting artefacts such as a huge whale rib and a turtle shell.
As mentioned previously, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Biology and Oceanography, which I studied for at Plymouth Universit, here in the city.
During my degree, I took a placement year, part of which I spent as a Marine Awareness Intern at Wembury Marine Centre. This placement meant being outside a lot of the time on the beach, leading rockpool safaris and assisting with snorkel safaris – something that has been really helpful when it comes to planning and running Ocean Squad! I also did a placement here at the NMA working alongside the biologists as a Husbandry Intern, which I spent mostly within the Plymouth Sound area looking after all of our lovely local species and their exhibits. Whilst I was at university, and for a little bit of my time here at the NMA, I worked in retail, spending 6 years communicating with shoppers and helping them to find the things they needed.
On the walk to and from work each day, and when I’m out and about generally throughout the week, I actively pick up any litter I see along the way to prevent it from ending up in our Ocean. I’m always doing what I can to help!
I’m looking forward to celebrating with the NMA in its 21st year, and undertaking all of the exciting projects we’ve got lined up. But I am most excited about running my first set of Ocean Squad sessions this year, helping make sure teenagers have the most enjoyable and inspiring time possible!
I love the variety that I have in my day-to-day duties. No two shows are ever the same, and the flexibility that we are given when it comes to doing our shows makes such a huge difference to the way we deliver them. The conversations I get to have with our visitors always brighten my day, whether its talking about our animals, from starfish to sharks, or answering our visitors’ questions. My favourite ever question was asked over half term, when a younger visitor wanted to know, ‘what is a shark’s least favourite smell?’.
My favourite sea creature has always been the Octopus, as they are just so intelligent! Nothing beats doing an Octofactor show with an Octopus determined to solve its puzzle and get the food out! I also love watching them crawl across their exhibits and stretching all eight of their wonderful arms!