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Q&A: Marine Biology graduate Hannah Lightley

We caught up with Hannah Lightley, a MSc Marine Biology graduate who now works at Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

What did you do after you graduated from the University of Hull?

After I had finished my exams in May, I moved to the Isle of Mull in the Hebrides to participate in a 4-month volunteer placement with The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust as an Outreach and Research Assistant.

What is your typical working day?

As an Outreach and Research Assistant, I spend a lot of time in our visitor centre talking to locals and tourists about marine mammal wildlife in the Hebrides and marine conservation on the West Coast of Scotland. I give a lot of talks and presentations but also lots of interactive and engaging activities to get people excited about marine mammals and the work we are doing to conserve the marine environment.

I also spend a lot of time outdoors conducting headland watches or being on boats spotting for cetaceans. This data is then collected and recorded to help monitor the abundance and distribution of cetaceans on the West Coast. I also go through sightings data recorded by the public via our app, validating and ensuring the sightings are correct.

What do you like most about your job?

The thing I love most about this job is that no two days are the same, you never know what you are going to see out on the water or what you are going to get up to that day. Obviously being outside seeing some incredible wildlife is also a bonus!

Watch: Hannah Lightley talks about her time studying at the University of Hull and her work at the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

What’s been the highlight in your career to date?

I think my highlight so far was seeing killer whales of Handa Island (West Coast Scotland) during the summer. It was my first time seeing killer whales in the wild and it was just incredible and very emotional. We were also able to identify the individuals in the pod via photo ID to a group from the Northern Isles Pod - Busta and his family!

What are you looking forward to doing next?

I’m looking forward to getting back out on the water and doing some wildlife guiding in Scotland or further afield for a few months before starting my masters in September 2020.

How did your time at Hull set you up for success in your career?

Studying at The University of Hull really gave me the confidence and skills to apply for this sort of role and actually succeed! The knowledge gained from the course was transferable and really beneficial to working in this field.

Studying at The University of Hull really gave me the confidence and skills to apply for this sort of role and actually succeed! The knowledge gained from the course was transferable and really beneficial to working in this field.
Hannah Lightley, MSc Marine Biology graduate

Hannah Lightley

Marine Biology

Hannah Lightley, MSc Marine Biology graduate

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

The advice I would give is that marine mammal science is very competitive so you have to be passionate and driven if you want to get anywhere. There are going to be people in the industry who try and put you off it, but you just have to persevere and be determined that you are going to get somewhere. I would also say you need to be enthusiastic and patient as a lot of the time I am just staring into the blank sea but when you do see something it's unbelievable!

What would you say to anyone thinking of studying Biological Sciences at Hull?

Studying at Hull was probably the best thing I've ever done! The support, opportunities and skills I received from the department were invaluable and what has made me a success today. The lecturers are so passionate about their field and conducting really forefront research which is just so important within Biological Science. There is a lot of practical work within the degree which was so important to me as you are really getting a feel for the subject and transferring the knowledge gained to a practical setting. The industry links were also fantastic and the opportunity to get involved with degree-related things in my spare time has really helped put me ahead of other students.

Try Marine Biology for yourself

The North Sea + The Deep + leading academics = ideal place to study marine biology.