Elsa Domoney – MSc Sustainable Aquaculture graduate

Discover what Elsa has been up to since graduating and why she would recommend studying at Plymouth

Elsa Domoney – MSc Sustainable Aquaculture graduate

Choosing this masters was a great decision. I would recommend it to anyone with a strong interest in seafood sustainability. An immersive year of studying the aquaculture sector, covering all major aspects of the industry.

– Elsa Domoney, MSc Sustainable Aquaculture graduate

My career since graduating

Within a couple of months of finishing my masters in sustainable aquaculture systems, I joined the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) at Cefas, Weymouth as a Fish Health Inspector. We are a government agency working under our DEFRA customer to safeguard the high aquatic animal health status of both wild and aquaculture produced finfish, molluscs and crustacea in England and Wales.

I work within a team of field inspectors conducting surveillance programs of notifiable diseases, legislative compliance inspections and disease investigations following observed clinical signs of disease or unexpected mortality events.

My role also regulates and controls trade of live fish through import sampling and disease screening, as well as producing health certificate declarations for live fish exports.

Inspectoral duties also involve enforcement work when legislation or authorisation conditions have been breached, working on behalf of the Veterinary Medicine Directorate examining use of medicines and controlled substances, and working to develop and authorise new aquaculture enterprises both in the UK and overseas.

One highlight of my career so far has been working as a research assistant at the National Lobster Hatchery on the Lobster Grower 2 project. The project aimed to assess the viability of the European lobster (Homarus gammarus) as a novel aquaculture species.

My role primarily focused on planning, conducting and analysing scientific trials assessing potential ongrowing techniques of hatchery reared juveniles in sea-based containers on a mussel farm. This was where my interest in aquaculture was really ignited and it was a great to be part of an amazing team working on a pioneering project to diversify UK aquaculture.

The benefits of studying at Plymouth

When searching for institutions offering a masters in aquaculture (or similar), I soon realised there were only a few options. Plymouth's programme content appealed more to me than the alternative institutes, most of which were in Scotland and had a strong Salmonid focus. 

I was also already based in the South West and had friends that were Plymouth alumni, ranging from undergrad level to PhD graduates, who all recommended the University.

Choosing this masters programme was a great decision and I would recommend it to anyone with a strong interest in seafood sustainability. It was an immersive year of studying the aquaculture sector, covering all major aspects of the industry.

The programme encompassed lots of theory, with fieldwork and laboratory practicals in an academically stimulating environment, and much of the coursework across modules mimicked likely workplace encounters and challenges. It also provided plenty of opportunity to improve your scientific writing as well as public speaking – keys skills for the workplace.

The cohort was small which meant lots of contact time and the lectures knew everyone as individuals. The teaching standard was very high and was delivered in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere by experts in their field. 

The programme encouraged lots of independent work but also facilitated group work, too. The University also has great facilities and industry contacts who gave guest lectures, providing opportunity for networking and career advice.

I particularly enjoyed the fieldwork elements of the programme where we visited local hatcheries and fish farms. These trips consolidated my understanding of lecture material in real aquaculture facilities and were also great opportunities to ask questions and meet industry workers. Coincidently, I recently returned to the same trout farm we visited during the programme to conduct their annual compliance inspection, which was quite surreal.

For example, we used industry-approved feed formulation software to create suitable salmon diets, planned and designed our own fish farm (considering growth rates, stocking densities, feed volumes, feed costs, maintenance labour costs etc), learned lots about various production system designs and husbandry techniques, as well as gaining an understanding of animal physiology, health and disease.

The content of this masters programme prepares you well for a career within the aquaculture sector, but many of the skills gained could also be applied to other industries. 

I was fortunate that all my hard work paid off and I found employment quickly after completing the course. A range of aquaculture-related work experience, gained prior to the masters, also definitely helped me gain employment.

Elsa currently works for the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) as a Fish Health Inspector in Weymouth, Dorset.