A passion for preserving natural heritage and marine research

Discover how Plymouth provided Camilla Labonté with the invaluable experience to turn a desire to protect the ocean into a globe-spanning career

Camilla Labonté comes from a small tropical island in the Seychelles and has a passion for natural heritage and marine research.

Camilla was initially drawn to study BSc (Hons) Ocean Science and Marine Conservation at Plymouth because of its outstanding international reputation for marine based courses.
“The more I did my research, the more I became captivated by the modules and the wide opportunities for hands-on experience through lab works, boat works, computer practicals and field trips.”
Camilla talks to us about how her time at the University prepared her for a role working for the Seychelles Island Foundation, as well as what inspired her to follow this career path, recent research experience travelling across the globe, and what the next steps may be.
Camilla Labonte

In conversation with Camilla Labonté


A passion for ocean conservation

Do you know when your love for the ocean and conservation began? 

Born and raised in the Seychelles in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO), I grew up surrounded by warm tropical waters as my playground. I spent my childhood swimming, snorkelling and island hopping by boat. 

In these early experiences, my love for the ocean was ignited, which led to my desire to study and protect it.
Do you have any role models you look up to in your chosen career?
Angelique Pouponneau, a lawyer and environmentalist from Seychelles, is someone I look up to. Angelique is a co-founder of SYAH-Seychelles, an environmental youth non-governmental organisation (NGO), that combats climate change and promotes sustainable development. 
Through my involvement with SYAH, I engaged with peers from different parts of the Seychelles and participated in activities such as beach clean-ups, mangrove planting and the Blue Economy Internship Programme in Seychelles and Mauritius. 
Angelique’s dedication and work ethics inspires me to strive to make a meaningful impact in the field of environmental conservation.
Camilla Labonté looking out to sea.
Camilla Labonté completing in situ physical water parameter measurement and water sampling for nutrients analyses. as part of the aquatic monitoring short course.
Camilla Labonté standing in the tangled roots of the mangrove forests.
Camilla Labonté representing the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) in a hands-on workshop: 'Advancing marine monitoring in Seychelles – A deeper dive into stereo - BRUVS research training'.

Working for the Seychelles Islands Foundation

Can you tell us about your role as a Science Officer for the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF)?
My role involves supporting science monitoring and conservation projects. This includes data collection – such as tropicbird monitoring and sea turtle track surveys – equipment sourcing, data entry, research report/protocol writing, doing educational outreach programmes and much more.
What are some of the highlights of the role so far?
A highlight of my job has been assisting with data collection for a project on the Aldabra Atoll UNESCO World Heritage site. Under the guidance of Dr Annabelle Constance, we investigated the grazing effects of Aldabra Giant Tortoise on vegetation grassland. 

Working on Aldabra Atoll, surrounded by its pristine beauty and untouched ecosystems, provides a powerful perspective on the importance of research and conservation.

Camilla Labonté conducting aquatic nutrient analysis at the Blue Economy Research Institute (BERI).
Camilla Labonté taking part in the Monaco Explorations.
Camilla Labonté presenting for the Monaco Explorations.
Camilla Labonté preparing to snorkel.

Global opportunities

What was it like to represent the Seychelles in the 2023 Youth Exchange programme?
Being part of the delegation that represented Seychelles at the 2023 NCC Youth Exchange Programme in New Delhi, India was an amazing experience. With youth groups from 19 countries, we showcased our country's cultural heritage on an international stage. 

The trip empowered us and enhanced our professional development through activities like the Republic Day Camp, national events, interactions with dignitaries and visits to historical and cultural sites. It was a thrilling and memorable journey.

Can you tell us about your time on the Monaco Explorations?
After graduating in September 2022, I joined a one-month offshore expedition hosted by Monaco Explorations aboard the SA Aghulas II vessel. The mission was to explore Saya De Malha, a submerged oceanic bank on Mascarene Plateau in the WIO, which gathered an international multidisciplinary team of approximately 40 scientists from Seychelles, Mauritius, France, Monaco and South Africa.
It was an eye-opening and remarkable experience. Onboard, I was part of one of the ten working groups called Team Phytoplankton, which was led by Dr Nuette Gordon from the University of Seychelles. We conducted day and night shifts, collected seawater at different stations using the CTD and performed tasks like filtering, storing, and fluorometric analysis. I participated in various activities with other working groups, including sorting benthic invertebrates and sponges, assisting with video surveys and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations, salinometry.
Interacting with scientists onboard was enriching and I enjoyed learning new oceanographic skills. The experience provided valuable knowledge and allowed me to forge meaningful connections. It was my first extended offshore research expedition and it fuelled my desire to pursue more offshore work in the future.
Camilla Labonté graduating on the Hoe.
Camilla Labonté in India attending the Youth Exchange Programme with NCC (National Cadet Corps) Republic Day Camp in 2023.
Camilla Labonté swimming in the sea, home in the Seychelles.
Camilla Labonté MCing for the 2022 Eco School Awards.

My time at Plymouth

You studied BSc (Hons) Ocean Science & Marine Conservation. How did your time studying at the University help prepare you for life after you graduated?
Studying at Plymouth provided invaluable preparation for life after graduation. Fieldwork experiences fostered comfort and teamwork skills. Working with the different software data analysis, as well as the career sessions they did throughout my degree, was beneficial. 
Despite the challenges of COVID-19 during my second year, the extra support available especially for international students meant a great deal to me. The lecturers' helpfulness and guidance were invaluable to our success. 
I loved how the 24/7 library access accommodated my night owl habits, and the diverse sports clubs and societies added to the vibrant University experience. 

The residential field trip to the Isle of Scilly in my final year was a highlight of my studies – not to mention that it was my first-time snorkelling with seals.

What were some highlights from your time at Plymouth?
Some highlights included being part of the committee for the African Caribbean Society (ACS) and the Tropical Island Society (TIS). Working together with the committee to organise activities for students was a really rewarding experience. 
The food festivals allowed me to try new cuisines from around the world, while the Give It A Go sessions introduced me to new sports. 
Exploring new places, both within South Devon and beyond, was also a memorable highlight of my time at the University.

What do you hope to achieve within the next five years?
My aspiration is to have completed a masters degree and to start a PhD degree in marine science. 

I want to expand my knowledge and expertise while making meaningful contributions to the field.

Do you have a passion to understand and protect life in our seas?

This course offers an integrated approach to understanding the oceanographic processes that support life in our oceans, how marine ecosystems function and how marine activities can be managed sustainably.
Learn about the policy structures designed to protect marine ecosystems and our oceans, and be primed with the skills and enthusiasm to confidently start a job in marine conservation management and scientific research.
Gain specialist skills including ecological survey methods and quantitative data analysis. Develop a range of practical skills with our own fleet of boats, Marine Station, and industry standard oceanographic and surveying equipment.
Shoal of small fish swimming together over seafloor with seagrass, Atlantic ocean.