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Ocean Minds presents Callum Waldie

Profession: Wildlife Conservation

Organisation: Fregate Island Private, Seychelles.

I am inspired by Callum's courageous spirit. He is not afraid to take chances, change his mind and go after his dreams. A joyful personality and a pleasure to be around, he is willing to learn from his experiences in order to secure his long-term goals.

1. How did we meet?

Honduras, June-July 2016. Operation Wallacea. I was initially learning to dive for the first time ever, and then continued on to be a research assistant, and you were completing your DM.

2. What is one memorable ocean moment from our time together?

Diving was brand new to me at the time that we first met, and of course I instantly fell in love with it. I was a fresh faced, diving beginner and my knowledge of the whole situation was very limited. Not only did you help me underwater whilst you were assisting the diving instructors and me, but you also provided me with valuable insight as to how I can better myself as not only a diver, but a wildlife conservationist too. You encouraged me to obtain my Advanced Open Water, which looking back was a very good decision as it has definitely helped me in certain professional diving scenarios since.

3. What encouraged you to pursue a career in marine biology/conservation?

Failure encouraged me. I have always had a passion for wildlife since I was a young lad. Although, when I was young, I never truly understood or believed that I would be able to pursue a career within the sector. This led me to finishing school, getting my A levels, with a feeling of being stuck and a little bit lost. I knew university was the path I wanted to go down, but I didn’t really know what I wanted in life at the time. I picked a subject which I had done well in at school (business related) and applied for some universities in that subject. Within months of starting the course I knew that it was not what I wanted to do. So with the fantastic support of my parents, I dropped out, rev-evaluated my goals and ambitions, and began my journey to becoming an aspiring wildlife conservationist.

4. How did you land your current job?

Everyone in this industry understands how difficult it is to find any sort of work, paid or unpaid. There are some great social media groups dedicated to helping other dedicated conservationists find work. This is exactly how I found my current job. However, I will add that although the competition in this sector is extremely high, there is also a huge sense of camaraderie within these groups. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed, even though they’re likely to be your direct competitors for the few available jobs, and that only encourages me further that I am aspiring to work within a field with people who have this sort of mind set.

5. What is it about your role that makes you feel like you are truly making a difference?

I love the idea of ‘contributing to science’. The thought of conducting research which continuously adds to the plethora of knowledge that we as humans already have on this wild world excites me. There is still so much which is unknown to us, and so much which we once thought was true, which we have since disproved. To be a part of this cycle of knowledge and understanding makes me very happy. My favourite part about being a conservationist is conducting research. It can be such an extremely slow process in some instances, but as you watch the data build up over the days/weeks/months, it really makes it all worthwhile. Plus, if you get to share your data and/or results in the form of a publication or collaboration, that’s an even better feeling.

6. What advice would you give to aspiring ocean warriors?

This is a tough one. Like I said I didn’t always know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and some people do. It’s great to have that drive and sense of direction as a kid but that was never me. So, to all the ‘Callum’s’ out there, young or old, who are unsure or hesitant on whether they can do it or not, I say just go for it. You’ll be amazed at what you can do when you put your mind to it. I was terrible at school, and if you had told me 10 years ago that I’d come out the other end of education with a master’s degree in wildlife conservation I would’ve called you crazy. Immerse yourself in the world of conservation through reading, watching documentaries and films, attending seminars and talks when possible. All of a sudden you’ll be living and breathing what you initially believed wasn’t possible.

7. What has been your most unforgettable experience in the ocean and why?

There have been countless unforgettable moments in the ocean. Each time I go down below the surface, it’s like I’m drifting into a new world and I cant wait to see what this short journey has in store for me, or what secrets the world wants to share with me.

However, my ultimate and most memorable experience (to date) has to be the first time I encountered grey reef sharks whilst on a dive. It was just my diving buddy and I, and we were around 12m deep and visibility was at approximately 10m, so not great but not terrible. We had just finished setting out a transect line and as we looked up, we noticed 10 or so grey reef sharks taking turns to swim close to us to check us out, and then dart off again. This lasted for 20 minutes or so, until they realised we were neither predators nor prey, and they disappeared into the deep blue of the ocean.

8. Who has inspired you to achieve your goals?

I have been lucky enough to have had many inspirations throughout my lifetime. There are obvious answers such as celebrity wildlife workers such as Sir. David Attenborough and Dame Jane Goodall. However, I think it’s important to also find daily inspiration with those closest around you, as they’re the ones which can truly encourage you and help you when you need it most. As mentioned above, my parents inspired me to make the career switch when I first decided to work towards becoming a conservationist and continue to inspire me to this day. My grandad (who is sadly no longer with us) was and still is a huge inspiration in my life. My girlfriend, my friends, and you [Margaux] all inspire me. It is a genuinely wonderful feeling when you can see someone else achieve their goals, and that is often where I take my inspiration from. If they can achieve their goals, what’s stopping me?

9. What do you hope to achieve in the future?

This is a tough one. I believe it's important to have goals, however within the conservation industry, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have flexible or broad goals. Things can change and move very quickly in this industry, so adaptation is an important skill to have. I would love to progress up the ladder with my diving qualifications, and continue contributing to science through research and publications as my short term goals. As long as I keep feeling like I am achieving the latter, whilst also improving my skillsets, I will be more than happy.

Note from Callum

Thanks a lot for asking me to do this. It’s a lovely feeling to feel appreciated as a wildlife conservationist, and it only provides me with more encouragement that this path which I am currently on is the right one.

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