Grace Phillips – BSc (Hons) Marine Biology graduate

Current employer: Reef Guru

Current job title: Co-founder; Director

Current location: Canada

“Plymouth is home to a number of marine organisations (The Marine Biological Association, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Shark Trust, etc.) which provide countless opportunities for volunteering, collaborations, and networking. For me, two separate bouts of volunteering at the MBA led to further research positions overseas through connections and referrals.”

Tell us what you have been doing since completing your studies.

I have been working for various non-profit research companies around the world, including The Manta Trust, Save Our Seas Foundation, OceansWatch, and Cape Eleuthera Institute, with extensive travelling in between.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

The most fun thing would be free diving with manta rays to collect data or catching green turtles by hand. The most exciting would be the recent creation of a coral reef conservation, eco-training, and consultancy organisation called Reef Guru with fellow Plymouth graduate Lucy Fisher.

Grace Phillips on the first year Roscoff field trip.

What would you do differently since graduating?

I would have perhaps thought more seriously about completing a masters, as this could have helped to secure better paid research jobs; but you can’t underestimate the power of experience and ultimately I have ended up where I want to be, on the exciting journey of developing my co-owned conservation/consultancy organisation.

Imagine you were about to start university again - with the benefit of hindsight - what would you now tell yourself to have done differently?

I wouldn’t do anything differently. I started my degree with passion and drive; I sought out local volunteer opportunities to gain experience; I studied hard and I graduated with a first class honours, securing my first research opportunity before even starting my final exams. Passion and drive are definitely the key to success.

What was your main reason for choosing to study your course at Plymouth? With hindsight how significant was this for you (e.g. the course was accredited, offered a work placement or additional masters year, location was key)?

My main reason for choosing Plymouth was location. The other universities I looked at in Wales seemed a bit small and isolated, plus the proximity of accommodation to campus in Plymouth was a huge win. This turned out to be a great choice: the good thing about the University’s location is that Plymouth is home to a number of marine organisations (The Marine Biological Association, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Shark Trust, etc.) which provide countless opportunities for volunteering, collaborations, and networking. For me, two separate bouts of volunteering at the MBA led to further research positions overseas through connections and referrals.

How did we support you in your studies? If you used any support services whilst at the university how did they enable you to get to where you are today?

The main service I used whilst at university was the library: it is an amazing source of scientific papers and books. Reading around your subject, expanding your knowledge base, gaining different scientific views, and incorporating this all into your essays, exams, and dissertation is key to top grades.

Grace Phillips working at Reef Guru's coral nursery table in Nicaragua.

How did studying at Plymouth change your career aspirations and plans?

Studying at Plymouth didn’t change my career aspirations and plans, it just strengthened them. The course emphasis on planning and executing your own research projects furthered my passion for research and propelled me into seeking out research opportunities after graduation.

What is your favourite memory of studying for your degree at Plymouth?

My favourite memory is probably how close we all were, in particular on my degree course but also across all three marine biology variants which made lectures, laboratories, and fieldtrips a lot of fun.

How well did Plymouth prepare you for the challenges that you have faced, or will face, in your career?

In terms of knowledge base, Plymouth did a great job in preparing me for my career. However, since graduating I have found the politics of academia, research, and funding difficult to navigate. More insight into the workings of real-world research would have been a huge benefit.

Why would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University?

I would recommend taking a marine biology course with Plymouth University due to its proximity to renowned marine institutes, its dedicated lecturers and professors and, stepping away from the academic benefits, the University is in a prime location for a vast number of outdoor recreational activities.