Friday, May 6, 2011

Sharks, Whales & Penguins - want to work with them?

Hi Sea Fans!

It's been a long time, I'm so sorry, it's been a hectic 2 weeks.  A sunfish rescue, checking out the Great White Sharks and what research is being done, attending the Ecos Schools Showcase (like an expo), a leaking tank (we saved the fish, don't worry), being at the Kirstenbosch Biodiversity Expo (it's still on till Sunday so those of you who want to pop in, please do!),

The author, Heidi, at the Kirstenbosch Biodiversity Expo.
and preparing for a market in Parklands tomorrow (Cafe Picasso from 9 am to 1pm) has really kept us busy.  But seeing as I haven't written in a while I think I'll break the stories up into a few blogs so for now, here's an interview I did with a really friendly Marine Biologist who works at a Shark and Whale watching Centre:

Professional: Michelle Wcisel

1. What is your job?
I am a zoologist/marine biologist at a non-profit organization called the Dyer Island Conservation Trust.

2. What did you study/do to get this kind of work?
I studied Zoology at university. I always had a keen interest in the outdoors and animals.

3. What do you do in a normal day?
No day is normal, which is why I love my job! Whether it is a cormorant that's in need of rescue, guiding on the whale watching boat, or tracking a great white shark, everyday brings new adventures!

4. What is the most interesting thing you've come across/experienced in your job?
The first time I met a Southern right whale was a moment I will never forget. We were at sea early one beautiful morning. The sun was just rising and the calm ocean mirrored the pink hue of the sky. The large black body of a whale parted the still water, and the misty deep exhale of the whale rose meters in the air catching the first yellow rays of sunlight. The whale approached our vessel and curiously circled us in a very elegant arching movement. It was an incredible moment.

5. What is a not-so-nice thing about your job?
Hmmm, tough question! Like I said, my work is different everyday and I often spend many hours at a computer or at sea, so it's hard for me to remember to do the everyday things like grocery shopping or taking out the garbage (my house can get very smelly)!!

6. What do you love about your job?
I love that I get to spend everyday outdoors with animals and show people how beautiful our world is! Also, I get to work with people who share the same passion about wildlife that I have.

7. What would you say/recommend to kids who want to do what you do?
All great things come with lots of hard work and enthusiasm. Be prepared for challenges and greet them as an opportunity to learn!

8. Anything else?
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a teacher, an astronaut, a singer, a biologist, an engineer, a jazz musician, and the list goes on! Don't be afraid to try different things because you never know what you will end up having a passion for.

So what do you think, Sea Fans?  Do you want to do what Michelle does?  It sounds like fun!  Stay tuned for more interviews because as the weeks go by I'll keep interviewing more professionals so that you know what kind of interesting environmental work there is.

Have a great weekend Sea Fans and chat soon.
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  1. Hello, I loved this article! I really want to do what Ms. Weisel does. Do you think you could answer a few questions for me? What classes did Michelle take? How did she get to where she is now? This is exactly my dream job :)

  2. Hi Emily!
    So sorry for taking so long to reply.
    By classes, do you mean at school or at university? Generally, at school you need Biology, Science and Maths but check with your university that you'd like to go to and see what their requirements are. (Different universities and different countries can vary with entrance requirements for Marine Biology). At university, biology, maths, physics, chemistry, biochemistry and botany are some of the subjects you could have to take but again, it depends on the university that you attend.
    Michelle looked into working possibilities and internships overseas and managed to find the Dyer Island Conservation Trust here in South Africa. There are lots of places around the world that provide internships, you just need to be aware that many, if not most, ask you to pay to do it (well worth it though, considering the experience you get! AND it's good for your CV).
    If you'd like to know more, e-mail me at and I can put you in touch with Michelle.
    Hope this helps.