Hi! I am Tanya. I live with my husband and daughter in Shetland and am a Marine Scientist at the University. I have pets rats and do karate. I also love reading, photography (especially whales and dolphins) and crocheting cute animal teddies!
I am quite fortunate that I have always wanted to be a marine biologist, ever since I watched Free Willy when I was 7. I know I am so lucky to finally be living my dream in Shetland.
Living on Shetland is a lot of fun, there is amazing scenery, we get to see the northern lights and there’s lots of wildlife, especially whales and dolphins! In the last month I have seen Killer Whales and Humpback Whales, which was amazing.
We can regularly go several days without any food deliveries (by boat) from the mainland in the winter and the shelves in Tesco’s can go empty quickly. We also only have 2 super markets on the island, a Tesco’s and a Co-op and no other shops you would find on the mainland.
My pronouns are:
she / her
I study Shetland’s marine habitats, assessing their interaction with marine activities, and use surveys and computer modelling to aid conservation.
My work involves various aspects. I can go out on boats to survey the seafloor using sound equipment and underwater cameras. I also do shore watches to spot whales and dolphins. Back at my desk, I codes models, write up findings, attend meetings, and present at conferences.
My Typical Day:
I will go through a typical ‘desk’ day here first as they are more common.
I get up around 8am, get my stuff ready for the day, usually getting distracted by the sun rising over the mountains opposite my house over the water. My drive to work is about 10minutes, making sure I make a cup of apple tea before starting for the day.
I always start with checking my calendar in case I have any meetings for the day and then I check my emails. The day then consists of analysing data, writing or reading scientific papers and reports.
I have lunch with the rest of the colleagues in the building and then go back to working at my desk or attending meetings/training virtually or in person.
I finish at 5pm, which currently in Shetland is now pitch black as the sun sets at 4pm.
Here I go through what a shore watch ‘field’ day can look like.
I would get up like usually except instead of heading to work I would head to one of our predefined ‘sites’. Here we get out the binoculars and start scanning the area. We do a dedicated 10minute survey every 30minutes and record any whales or dolphins that are sighted. For the remaining 20minutes we just watch with our eyes.
We can also get the drone out and over the water to record the behaviour of the whales and dolphins that we can see.
Depending on what we find sometimes we might stay at one site all day, especially if there is lots of activity. Or we will move onto another site and repeat the observations.
All records are submitted into a big database (usually during a ‘desk’ day) and these help inform others peoples research.
What I'd do with the prize money:
I would create a workshop for local children where they would be able to look at the videos that I have of the sea bed around Shetland and learn to identify the different habitats that they are seeing. This is a very much a marine invested community but they only see what is on the surface so I would love to show them all the incredible stuff on the sea bed!
Withernsea High School, East Yorkshire (2003-2008)
Wilberforce College, East Yorkshire (2008-2010)
Bangor University (2015-2020)
I have three A’s and ten B’s
Geography (B), Biology (C), Chemistry (C), Maths (C) and AS Photography (A)
MSci Marine Vertebrate Zoology, Bangor University (1st Hons) in 2015-2019
PGCE Secondary Maths, Bangor University (2019-2020)
Whilst at university I completed 3 summer research internships. These focussed on benthic taxonomy, sea urchin reproduction and harbour porpoise habitat use.
Between my degree and my current I worked as a high school maths teacher during and post the pandemic.
I have also had numerous volunteering positions, including with BDMLR where I rescued over 100 seals and assisted in whale and dolphin rescues.
Marine Scientist in Shetland in benthic habitats.
I work on several projects both individually and as part of my department.
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Only when I stood up to bullies
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Photographing whales and dolphins
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To have infinite knowledge, time travel and universal education for all
Tell us a joke.
Why did the crab never share his food? - Because he was a little shellfish!