A while back I was interviewed on the Creative Reboot podcast and the Research Adjacent podcast. Both hosts asked me how I discovered my niche as a marine conservation writer. It's something people often ask so I thought I'd share the story with you here. Enjoy!
How did I get to where I am today?
So, the boring CV standard answer is that I've worked in PR - both in agencies and in-house - for most of my career. Then, five years ago, I felt like I was done with London and wanted to do something completely different. That led to me thinking about what I enjoy and connecting my passion for the ocean with my expertise in copywriting and PR.
The 'CV' version
My background is in PR and communications. I worked in London for a long time for a couple of different PR agencies and in-house at Cancer Research UK. After a few years in PR where I was learning the process of how these stories come about, I started to realise that I love writing and it's one of my strengths. Even within my PR work, it was always crafting messages and telling stories that I enjoyed. I started to think maybe I could do that as well. I was working for a travel PR agency at the time and I asked my boss if he would mind if I started doing a bit of a side hustle in travel writing? He was keen because it's also a great way to build relationships with editors so would strengthen my PR expertise too. Obviously, I did keep the two things separate to avoid conflict of interest. So, I started writing for Diver magazine as my first foray into getting published. Over the years, my diving and my writing work have got closer and closer. Now, I specialise in marine science and marine conservation.
It wouldn't have happened without a uni holiday
But it's important to rewind to a time before I'd even started in PR. I don't think I would have ended up in conservation if I hadn't learned to scuba dive when I was at university. Aged around 20, I was going on holiday to Australia and my travel agent talked me into getting my scuba cert. "Well, you can't go near the Great Barrier Reef and not learn to dive," she said.
At the time, I wasn't much of a water baby. I grew up in Reading - a landlocked town in the UK. I was always a bit indoorsy and bookish as a kid. So I wasn't super keen. But I thought oh, well, may as well give it a go.
It was not love at first sight
When I first learned to scuba, I hated every second of the training. We were sitting at the bottom of the pool while I learned to take my regulator out and take my mask off and it was so uncomfortable. It just felt weird and awful. But I'm quite stubborn. So I gritted my teeth and thought if I could just get to the end of the course, I'd never need to dive again.
But once I got into the ocean, that all changed. We saw corals, sharks, turtles. It was incredible. I just loved it. I remember coming home - I was living in Bristol, another landlocked city, at that point - and thinking it was a shame I wouldn't have the chance to go diving again.
A second chance
Then a year or so later, I was on holiday by the coast and I saw at dive shop. I had the time so I decided to do little refresher course. From there, it snowballed. I started planning holidays to go diving, then I started writing for Diver magazine as a side hustle which meant I could go to cool diving destinations to cover them for an article.
Edging closer together
Looking back now, I can clearly see my expertise in communications and interest in diving and marine topics were gradually edging together. After nearly 10 years in London, I burned out and quit my job. I didn't know what I wanted to do but it certainly wasn't comms anymore. Or so I thought. While I was working my notice, I started thinking that maybe I could do something in the marine conservation sector as I'm so interested in the ocean.
Researching a path
I did a fair amount of research to try to figure out how to make this work. I didn't want to go back to university to study as a marine biologist - for one thing, it would take a lot of time and money. And for another, I've never been a scientist. My skills have always been in languages and arts. In the end, I reached out to a scientist I knew (I'd interviewed him for an article about sharks a while back) and asked him if I was looking in completely the wrong places to find out how to get into the sector. It seemed like there were only two options: either you pay a lot of money to volunteer for an organisation and maybe not have that much impact. Or you have to retrain as a scientist, which wasn't the way for me either.
A lucky break
I didn't know if the scientist I'd turned to for advice would even reply - he's very busy, after all, and people must get in touch with him all the time to ask him how to get in to the sector. But he did reply. And his response stunned me. He asked if I'd emailed him because he has his own marine conservation charity (embarrassingly, I hadn't realised this). His charity had actually been on the lookout for someone to help with their comms so it seemed serendipitous that I'd been in touch. So, I sent my CV over, had an interview with the CEO and, fast forward a couple of months, I was on a flight to Mozambique to volunteer with the charity. Retrospectively, it feels like everything was naturally leading to that point. But I see that as the tipping point where I officially started specialising in marine conservation.
This time for Africa
I quit my job, left London and ended up volunteering with Marine Megafauna Foundation, which is a marine charity based in Indonesia and Mozambique. As well as doing comms work for them. I was seeing the impact of their science and conservation work. I got to go out on the boats and was trained to help them with some of their field work as well. It was just fascinating - did you know a NASA algorithm is involved in whale shark conservation?!
Since then, I've worked with marine conservation charities and other organisations trying to do good for people and planet. While I still do small bits of PR and comms strategy work (for the right clients), my main focus is writing about marine science, conservation and sustainability. I've helped various organisations with their messaging development, website copy, blogs and annual reports. And I've been published by the likes of Nat Geo, the Guardian, New Scientist and more. With hopefully many more new bylines in the pipeline too.
Work with me
If you enjoyed this blog and my other published work and need copywriting support for your own projects, let's chat. I'm available for commission from organisations and editors to help with articles, blogs, web copy, reports and more.
If you're interested in commissioning me, feel free to get in touch for a chat - I'd love to hear from you.