I loved my time at College. I enjoyed my subjects and had great support from the Aspire programme to further my goal of becoming a marine biologist.

While I did have a few close friends from my old school, our timetables rarely matched up, so this pushed me to find new friends. Having that experience helped me when I started university and made it less daunting.

Doing an EPQ while at College was hugely beneficial, as it developed the academic writing and research skills that I’d need at uni. It also meant I could research a topic I was passionate about – ocean plastic pollution. Although having an EPQ didn’t reduce my grade offer for my Masters, it did evidence my interest in the degree and my ability to research a topic independently.

Doing an integrated Masters was incredible. In my fourth year, I travelled to Phuket, Thailand to conduct surveys to assess coral and reef fish biodiversity, comparing data across different sites. Water sampling to determine water quality and pollution levels gave me the chance to explore how the different reefs sites have been affected by human activity.

I also got to present research on polymorphism – how animal life can take different forms within a species – in boring clams that I’d observed on the reefs. This was a valuable trip as it allowed me to put my knowledge into practice. Another highlight was writing my dissertation where I used carbon and nitrogen isotopes to study 23 different killer whale populations to find out how and what they feed on. It was the first global study of its kind.

After graduating, I worked as a paddle board instructor to save up some money and then travelled for three months all over SE Asia before returning to the UK starting to look for jobs here and abroad.

When I first started looking for more information about what life as a marine biology student would be like there wasn’t much around. So, when I started my degree, I began posting about what I was learning to try and help educate others. I’ve always tried to show the hard and less glamourous parts alongside the more obviously rewarding aspects of studying for this qualification – it’s not all field trips and sunshine! (Although Phuket was pretty amazing.)

My Instagram account has grown to nearly 100k followers now and I’m keen to keep it alive as I start my career and continue ‘making a commotion about the ocean’.

Hannah Gibbs

Reigate College: 2017-2019

Higher Education: MSc Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography, University of Southampton

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