Living Seas: From dolphins to dredging with Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Abby Crosby
Abby Crosby is the Marine Conservation Officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust, working within their Living Seas department which focuses on Cornwall’s diverse marine life, all the way from corals to basking sharks. The Living Seas aim is to collect data, create awareness of threats to marine wildlife, and campaign for better protection of Cornish marine species.
I first met Abby through Newquay Marine Group’s work with Cornwall Wildlife Trust, as well as attending the annual Seaquest Southwest conference in late 2015. Her passion for her work is evident, and her valuable advice to future conservationists is based on a plethora of experiences accumulated from her strong background in the field.
What does your job entail?
My main goal is to achieve our Living Seas vision, which is all about ensuring the future holds a healthy thriving marine environment. To do that, I coordinate several projects and programmes which all involve collecting data. They’re all about educating people and raising awareness for our brilliant marine environment, and ultimately campaigning for better protection.
What are some of the projects that you coordinate and work with?
In particular, we have projects such as the Marines Stranding Network; we’re the official recorders for all dead organic material that comes into the Cornish coastline, particularly focusing on cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises and whales) as well as other animals such as seals, sea turtles and basking sharks. We also have a project called Seaquest Southwest which is our public sightings project, where the public send in their records of the marine wildlife and we use this information to better understand how to conserve the animals on our coastline and in our waters.
We do a lot of work on Marine Conservation Zone development, and consult on the progress in our government to ensure that they are successful. I also do work with the Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code Group (CMCCG), which was formed in 2011 and whose core aims and objectives are to respond to concerns over increased pressure on marine wildlife resulting from recreational use of our coasts and seas. The Group include membership of Government bodies such as Cornwall Council, Natural England, the Marine Management Organisation and Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, plus Non-Governmental Organisations such as the RSPB, the National Trust, Cornwall Seal Group and Research Trust, and British Divers Marine Life Rescue.
I consult on planning and development issues, and am asked to comment on many consultations such as port development and offshore dredging. We’d be asked to review these to ensure that we have sustainable development for our marine environment.
Do you have a favourite project that you are involved in?
I can honestly say that the best thing about working for the Wildlife Trust is how varied the work is and how you have the ability to one day be looking at sustainable fisheries; the next day take children rock pooling; the next assess a port application for dredging and the next write an article for a magazine on bottlenose dolphins.
So I think the fact that the work programme is so varied just makes it fascinating. It just gives an all round good knowledge of our conservation work in the county which is really exciting and interesting.
Has marine life always been a passion of yours?
I’ve always loved the natural environment in general and I’ve always been fascinated by it since I was very little, just science and nature in general! So that continued all through my education and made me decide to go into biology. I think it was only at university where I seemed to thrive in the marine modules that it seemed a natural progression to follow that route and study a masters in Marine Science.
What was your first job after you graduated from your MSc?
My first job was a seasonal placement. It was a short seasonal contract which I think is really important for people to consider after volunteering. It was a 6 month contract with Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust in South Devon as a Marine Ranger. It was mainly very education based, and I think education is a really good place to start as it shows you don’t only have the knowledge of the natural environment but it shows that you have that ability to effectively pass that knowledge on to other people. And that skill is not just useful in working with children, but with all stakeholders and sectors.
How did you progress from a seasonal marine ranger to Marine Conservation Officer at Cornwall Wildlife Trust? Was it a long journey?
I think once you’ve got your first paid position, opportunities do open up. If you’re enthusiastic, organised and knowledgeable and prove yourself to be a dedicated member of staff, doors will open for you and your next opportunity will come along.
For me, my next opportunities came around quite fluidly. Whilst I was at the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, another placement opportunity came up at the Marine Biological Association (MBA). At that point I was working for the Trust as an Environmental Education Officer, and I had the chance to go back into marine with the MBA. While it was almost a step back professionally, as it was going back into a trainee placement, it was marine so I took that opportunity. It was working there that I volunteered one day to help on Looe Island with Cornwall Wildlife Trust and met my current boss, and heard about the job I’m in now! I was then able to apply, was asked to interview and was successful. This was all back in 2007 and eight and a half years on I’m still here with the Trust!
And obviously still loving it!
Yes definitely, I love it! They’re like my family.
If you had one piece of advice for anybody wanting to follow a similar career path as yourself, what would it be?
You just have to work really hard. You’ve got to be enthusiastic and work hard and keep achieving to get yourself to where you want to be. You get some people who have the most amazing opportunities but really don’t show dedication and you really can’t believe it! You just always have to do your very best.
Since it’s such a small sector, everyone knows everyone which is very handy, and it can really work in your favour if you just remember to be nice to everyone! You really do meet some brilliant people.
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