Kate Downes collecting samples from fish at the pierhead

Current employer: Ascension Island Government

Current job title: Marine Fisheries Scientist

Current location: Ascension Island (UK Overseas Territory)

“Never give up on your dreams: nothing worth having is ever easy. Most people do not see the daily struggles you face, especially when it comes to your career so keep pushing on. If you work hard enough, you will get there!”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

I graduated from BSc Environmental Science in 2014. Previous to this I completed the FdSc Marine Science at Falmouth Marine School (2007–2009). I had a four year break between doing my foundation degree and completing the BSc to gain experience in marine conservation. I worked at Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Global Vision International in the Seychelles, and also became a PADI scuba diving instructor. I moved to Ascension Island in October 2014 after gaining employment as a Marine Fisheries Scientist with the conservation team of Ascension Island Government.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

No, I have always known what career path I wanted to take and was very fortunate to be offered employment not long after completing the BSc.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

The limited amount of paid conservation jobs available for graduates, especially in the UK.

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

The most exciting thing to happen in my career is to live and work in some of the most beautiful places in the world.

A personal highlight has been recently working and diving with Dr Sylvia Earle (a world-renowned marine biologist) on Ascension Island. Dr Earle identified Ascension Island’s offshore waters as a ‘Hope Spot’ – an ideal location for a large scale marine protected area – and her visit, along with RSPB, was to raise awareness of the unique marine biodiversity found in Ascension’s waters.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the same line of work?

To get as much experience in the field you wish to work in as you can. Any volunteering placements or internships will benefit you enormously when it comes to securing paid employment.

Do you stay in touch with other University of Plymouth alumni or lecturers?

It is difficult staying in touch with everyone from university, especially as I live abroad. But I have stayed in touch with my project advisor, Alison Stokes, and I have also referred a fellow student, Bryony Nash, to secure an internship with the conservation department I currently work with: helping Ascension’s nesting green turtle research from January to June this year.

Students sampling dog whelks in Hong Kong