Interview with Marine Biologist and ‘Women in Ocean Science’ ambassador Thea Moule

By Nuri Max Steinmann.

Thea Moule is studying Marine Biology at Bangor University, lead ambassador at ‘Women in Ocean Science‘ and PADI Scuba Diving Instructor. We talked with her about her career path, women and science and more.

Hi Thea! Your studies go quite well. You were awarded the ‘Gavin Borthwick’ prize for being a mature student who showed the most promise in your cohort. What was your inspiration to pursue a marine science degree and what is your future plan?

Thank you, I am really enjoying the degree and was both extremely delighted and thankful to receive the award! 
I have always been drawn to the ocean as it remains vastly unexplored. Due to my adventurous nature this led to my career in the scuba diving industry. This gave me the ability to work and travel the world while experiencing the wonders of the ocean. This path led me to work on diving vessels where I was exposed to the current threats that affect our oceans, such as coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef and plastic pollution in Indonesia. My exposure to this allowed me to experience the oceans health decline up close and personal. I couldn’t just stand there and not be a part of making a difference. This is where my passion first began.

My future plan is to pursue a career in the marine industry with a particular focus in exploring the impacts of global warming and anthropogenic effects on marine ecosystems, to help conserve and better protect the future of these ecosystems. I hope to move to Canada upon completion of my degree and would love to get into the marine research community there.

You are lead ambassador for the initiative ‘Women in Ocean Science’. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

It’s a great pleasure to be a part of such an amazing and passionate community of women within the field of ocean science. Being a Lead Ambassador I represent Women in Ocean Science at Bangor University to promote their message of empowering women in marine research combined with my own passion for the ocean. I have run beach clean events for the community and currently organizing talks showcasing female researchers. For the World Ocean Clean Up, I collaborated with the local aquarium ‘Anglesey Sea Zoo’ and together we collected a total of 23 kg of marine litter. Last month (October), I was granted Ambassador of the month which was amazing recognition for my work and I am extremely thankful for the title. 
The online platform was founded by Madeline St Claire and provides a space to share experiences, research, stories and communicate with like-minded women. There are regular blog posts about inspirational women in the industry, raises awareness on current topics and provides a search engine of marine biology jobs. I love this quote by Mads which sums up WOS perfectly – ‘WOS is not about excluding men, it is about celebrating and empowering women in ocean careers’. 

Have you ever had any difficulties in your career due to your gender? If yes, how did you handle them?

Fortunately, my experience has been positive and I have not had any difficulties due to my gender in the marine industry. I have worked under the direction of both male and female researchers who have been supportive and enthusiastic towards me gaining experience and skills that will allow me a successful future in marine science. Though issues regarding an individual’s gender can arise in any industry. It is to be noted women are massively underrepresented in the STEM industry.  Through organisations and societies that empower women it illustrates not just to the younger generation but to society that women too can follow career paths into STEM.

Are there women in ocean science or in general who have been an inspiration to you? 

From a young age I have always been exposed to women in science, and I am extremely thankful for my parents for this. My dad was an aerodynamicist at QinetiQ and briefly at NASA and was the co-author of a book titled ‘Women in Space’. He wanted to promote female astronauts and scientists that were not recognised for their incredible work. During this time I had the honour to meet Valentina Tereshkova the first female astronaut in space. Though I was a child back then, our meeting inspired me to pursue a great career in science.

Further down the line, I became aware of Sylvia Earle and Jane Goodall who are both advocates to protect our environmental and are most definitely the most inspirational women of our life time for the work they have done for our natural environment. I am also inspired by young activist such as Greta Thunberg and Autumn Peltier, as I truly admire their passion and confidence to speak out. Aside from the globally recognised names, I have personally been inspired by the women I have either had the pleasure to work for or have met in the industry. To name a few; Holly Date, Svenja Tidau, Liz Morris-Webb, Katy Ayres, Siobhan Vye, Mae Dorricott and Hannah Earp. Each of them are passionate about their field of research and have guided and shared their passion with me further influencing me throughout the duration of my degree. Thank you!

Climate Activist Greta Thunberg has inspired millions to join ‘Fridays For Future’ on the streets to demonstrate. While the momentum for change seems to be there, global politics seem to move into the opposite direction. What do you think needs to be the next step?

‘Friday for Future’ is a great movement to get not just her community, but communities of young people worldwide together that share the same views and shows each other that there is hope for change but also to demonstrate to society to get their voices heard! I don’t know whether politics are moving in the opposite direction, but they sure aren’t moving quickly enough into creating policies and actions that consider our environment. The next step would be that our natural world is taken seriously allowing the health of the environment to be considered a top priority for governments globally. It should be about uniting as a world and tackling the climate crisis together!

Despite scientific evidence, climate change denial is still very common. Do you have personal experience with that? Do scientists need to communicate better? 

Due to the nature of my degree and the people I surround myself with means I haven’t as much met individuals in denial about climate change. However, working in other industries, I have met individuals that genuinely do not care about the environment or the consequences of their actions, which is heartbreaking. I do believe their needs to be a better platform in place where scientists work closely with the public to raise awareness of current research. As scientists tend to be passionate on their topic and don’t consider all sides of the story which can cause misunderstanding in the science communication world. Therefore, we need to create a way to explain science to skeptical communities. One way of doing this is by making literature widely accessible through articles and publications in local news, so everyone can keep up to date. There does appear to be a divide but bridging the gap and engaging with skeptical communities will help restore an understanding of global climate stressors for future generations.

How do you feel is the mood towards the climate crisis in the UK?

The mood towards the climate crisis is steadily increasing with movements like ‘Extinction rebellion’ and ‘Friday for Future’ marches taking place across the nation. Earlier this year MPs declared a climate change emergency which is a step in the right direction. Although this is a positive notion for the environment, the next step is to put this into action. However, in the UK the spotlight is currently on Brexit (the removal of the United Kingdom from the European Union) which is overshadowing the climate crisis. Until a solution for the political situation has been obtained, I fear the climate crisis will remain on the back burner.

Picture by Fullreelfilm

It is 2050 – What is Thea Moule doing and how will the planet and the oceans look like?

By 2050 I would like to be in the midst of a career making a positive impact on the ocean through researching the anthropogenic effects as they relate to climate change by exploring ways to protect marine ecosystems. Working in the STEM industry where there are equal representatives of both genders. In an ideal world, the planet and especially the ocean are in a much healthier state. Ideally, we have slowed down exhausting the planet of its resources and have developed a sustainable approach globally. Have moved away from materialism by replacing our current throwaway culture and taken value in items. Facebook posts are no longer articles on another species becoming extinct, instead, they show thriving ecosystems. We are no longer racing to save ecosystems as we have shifted to a more sustainable, and harmonious relationship with our environment.

Although we are a long way from this reality at the present moment, it is not unattainable. But if we continue on the same path we are currently on our outlook for the planet and oceans are disastrous. Therefore, action needs to be taken and it needs to be now! 

Follow Thea Moule on Instagram and Twitter.

Copyright of all pictures by Thea Moule.

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