New Zealand’s pristine marine reserves are known around the globe for their biodiversity and natural beauty. Meet the woman who gets to show them off to locals and visitors alike.
Name: Lorna Doogan
Job: Deputy national director of Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR)– a programme of the Mountains to Sea Charitable Trust, which is a non-profit NGO.
Tertiary education: BSc from The University of Auckland in Biological Sciences and Marine Science
How long have you been in your role? Five years
How did you get into this role? I was the president of the Auckland University Underwater Club and was looking for speakers for our club meetings. I found Samara Nicholas who founded EMR in 2002. After volunteering for a year Samara offered me the Auckland regional coordinator role and I haven’t looked back since!
Why did you choose this career? I grew up spending my summers at Opito Bay, snorkelling around the Mercury Islands. My grandparents started camping down there 60 years ago and are three families remaining with adjacent properties. There’s a running joke that the bay must breed marine biologists as there is one from each family.
What does a normal day/week look like for you? I’m very lucky in my job, I spend most days in, on or around the ocean. Over summer I help facilitate school programmes as well as organising a series of community-guided snorkel days around the Hauraki Gulf. I organise events that showcase the Gulf. Some events are run out at islands like Motutapu and Rotoroa – which are not protected by a marine reserve. I run kayak and stand-up paddleboard events within reserves such as Okura and Te Matuku, which are too dirty to snorkel in. In winter I do lots of funding applications and planning for the upcoming summer. Our summer season runs from September to June so it doesn’t leave much time to find much-needed funds to run our programmes.
Is the job what you thought it would be? This role is so much more than I imagined. I do give up my weekends for summer to run these events, but is it really working when it’s what you do for fun? I appreciate EMR’s director, Samara Nicholas, throwing me in the deep end (literally) and getting to run the Auckland region as a 21-year-old who hadn’t even finished her degree.
What is the most rewarding thing about your job? Getting to explore some pretty amazing places for work, swimming with dolphins and seals in the South Island. Dodging sharks at the Kermadecs and getting to photograph giant cuttlefish in South Australia where just a few of the highlights. Having the ability to address issues in our marine environment and to make a tangible difference through our rangatahi is the highlight of my job. Seeing the look of excitement on people’s faces when they look under the water in a mask for the first time and see their first fish is also very rewarding.
What is the most challenging thing about your job? The cyclone season from February to March always throws a spanner in the works for a job that relies heavily on the weather. That and keeping a trailer of 110 wetsuits tidy and dry!
What is your career highlight to date? I was exceptionally lucky to get an invitation to assist EMR on the Young Blake Expedition to the Kermadecs in February this year. We travelled north on the Royal NZ Navy’s HMNZS Canterbury to one of the largest marine reserves in our Economic Exclusive Zone. Braved 8m waves and helped to take 18 voyagers from the Sir Peter Blake Trust YELF programme snorkelling in crystal-clear water at the northern-most point of New Zealand.
What advice would you give those considering your career? Volunteering is key, find organisations that share your passion and get beyond the classroom/lecture theatre. Join clubs, meet people and spend lots of time in the ocean.
What is your personal mission statement/motto that you live by in your career? Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life.
What skills do you think are valuable in your industry?
Public speaking and compassion are very important. Being able to hold someone’s hand and coax them into a novel situation of snorkelling is a real skill as this interaction may shape their life experience of the ocean.
What is a common misconception about the industry/career?
I’ve had people ask, “When are you going to get a real job?”, this role is so much more than taking people snorkelling. It provides an opportunity to communicate important information about our oceans to students and adults alike. To quote Jacques Cousteau, “People protect what they love” and how else are we going to get people to love our oceans?
– Upcoming snorkel events: Shakespear, December 1; Whangateau, December 2; Okura, December 15; Torbay, December 16. Okura kaitiaki day, December 15.
To find out more, look for EMR on Facebook.