Conservation showcase: Emily Mayman, BDMLR

June 8, 2022

Those that know me well might know that in 2021 I trained with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) to become a certified marine mammal medic. During the course, I learned how to respond when an injured seal or stranded cetacean (i.e. whale, dolphin or porpoise) is found around the UK coastline. I've written a few articles about strandings too. Being currently based in Reading, I haven't yet been able to put this knowledge into practice. But hope I to get more involved as a volunteer when I move to the coast (watch this space).

I'm in awe of the amazing work the BDMLR volunteers do. So, for World Ocean Day, I was delighted to speak with Emily Mayman about her role within the charity.

What does The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) do?

We're a charity dedicated to the rescue of seals, whales, dolphins and porpoise in the UK. Founded in 1988 in response to the PDV outbreak in Common seals, we're now a registered charity who have a strong medic base around the country all trained to respond to cetaceans and seals in distress.

What's your role at BDMLR?

My day job is as a nurse at a veterinary practice. Within BDMLR, I'm one of the Out of Hours Coordinators, an Advanced marine mammal medic and part of the Large Whale Disentanglement Team as a member and fundraising coordinator. A mouthful!

Why do you care about the ocean?

I've loved the ocean and nature since I was a child. I was shown pond dipping, owl pellets and bug hotels as a young girl by my father and grandfather and quickly found the addiction. Living only one minute away from the sea has meant I've grown up finding peace and serenity sitting by the ocean. I've watched my home coastline change and erode away as the years have passed and more plastics washing up on the shores. I couldn't not care. It's just not in my nature.

What's a typical day like for you as a BDMLR volunteer?

If it's a weekend or evening, I may be on the out of hours line. This means I'm glued to my phone and laptop dealing with any calls that come into the main line from anywhere in the UK. These can be from members of the public, Coastguards, the Police or other rescue groups. This also involves arranging the response from the charity depending on what is required. For example, anything from a couple of medics to attend a young seal pup to 20+ medics required to re-float a whale.

Our medics are amazing! Some weekends I'm out training on lochs or at sea on the BDMLR RIBs with the Large Whale Disentanglement Team where we refine and practice techniques for whales caught in different types of rope and netting. A couple of weekends a year I help train new Marine Mammal Medics too. I especially enjoy teaching the seal practicals as this is where I have the most experience. Lastly, at any point I may be out in my role as an advanced marine mammal medic rescuing a seal or porpoise that are commonly found on the coast in my home area of Yorkshire.

How did you get into conservation?

Strangely, my dad! He has a passion for all things nature. We've become much closer since we both took a turn in to marine work.

What's your favourite marine creature and why?

Humpback whales! I've only seen one so far, and plan to get a tattoo of the first tail fluke I photograph. They're incredible mammals and wonderful mothers. Their songs and calls have a huge range of frequencies and are some of the longest in the animal world. I've been in love with them since I was a little girl.

What's the most surprising fact you can share about the ocean?

That we have sent more people to the Moon than we have to the deepest parts of the ocean. We have such a thin covering of knowledge when it comes to the deep sea. The vast majority of it is entirely unexplored!

Do you think communications is an important part of BDMLR's conservation work?

Communication is everything. From young children to older generations and everyone in between. Communicating why nature and the oceans need us helps to drive passion and understanding. Hopefully, this might just help us to help nature. Communicating to inspire children especially is so important as they will help lead the changes for the next generation.

What communications challenges do you face at your organisation?

Often on the Out of Hours line we spend a lot of time explaining that seals haul out for long periods of time to rest and sleep. That they will sit in odd positions and will not always move away when they're disturbed. And that they will freeze if they are stressed, especially the small pups. Lastly, that they do not need to be in the water to survive. This can sometimes be a challenge when there are large groups surrounding a seal. Luckily, this is where our fantastic medics really shine by educating the public and echoing what we tell them on the phone.

What are your hopes for the future of the ocean?

I dream of a time when the oceans are safe for the mammals and creatures that live in it. No more Icelandic orcas with PCBs in their blubber, no more plastic bags found at the bottom of the sea and no more deaf fish because of traffic and drilling. It won't happen in my lifetime, I expect. However I do hope that as a population that shares this planet, that it can be achieved. I desperately hope so.

What's the one thing you wish people knew about protecting the ocean?

Small action by many can create big changes. It may sound cliche but it's so very true. The ocean is a vast place and it's not going to be fixed by one or a hundred people. Big changes need many people all doing a little something towards a common goal.

What tips do you have for someone who wants to work in the conservation sector?

Find your interests and passions to chase them. You can always change your path along the line. Having an idea of what sparks your passion to start with will help you hugely, even if it's something pretty niche!

What unanswered question do you still have about the ocean?

I'd love to know how many undiscovered species there are.

Anything you'd like to add?

Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your fantastic blog. The more awareness of marine nature and what it faces on a daily basis, the better. I'm incredibly proud of BDMLR and delighted to be invited to talk about it!

Ready to chat?


Great to hear you're interested in working together - I'm always keen to hear about exciting new stories from marine conservationists, potential commissions from editors and suitable briefs from prospective clients.

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