A day in the life of a marine biologist

Monica McCardMonica McCard
Monica McCard
Lisburn woman, Monica McCard, is in her final year studying Marine Biology at Queen’s University.

The mother of three boys is married to Colin and is the Regional Co-Ordinator for Coast Watch Ireland. Coastwatch is an annual eco-audit of the shore - something Monica is very passionate about.

Monica was always interested in marine biology as a child but it wasn’t until after she had her family that she decided to do an Access course that the path to her current studies began. She originally studied nursing but in 2011 she decided her desire for marine biology was so much that she knew she had to follow her dream and that is exactly what she has done.

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I get up at 6am and am usually away before the boys wake. My husband takes over and gets the children ready for school before he goes to work. Most days I will be analysing data and going through reports. It is a really hectic time right now but I know it will be worth it.

I am now based three to four days working in the marine labs in Portaferry. I will be collecting data on the very exotic Lionfish, which are invasive species, and a native species, possibly shrimp, and finding out more about predator prey interactions.

I really do live and breathe my work right now although I do make sure I spend quality time with the children when I get home and then once they are sleeping I am often found sitting at my computer until midnight.

As well as my research work for my degree I also carry out surveys for Coast Watch. I realise how important surveys like these are, especially since we live on an island.

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We only had a few sites surveyed last year but this year I aim to push it a lot further. I am very lucky to have friends who also study marine biology and zoology and other environmental subjects at Queen’s all interested in giving up their time to help out.

The aim of the Coast audit is to walk a 500m survey unit of shore while completing the Coastwatch survey questionnaire with observations on shore use, animals, plants, litter, stream quality, erosion and any special observations. These findings and any photos are transferred to computer, or posted back to the Coastwatch office in Trinity College Dublin so others can input the data. The results are collated and a highlights draft published on December 1.

I have been wanting to do this for so long and I am hoping it is a stepping stone to finding a job in Australia when we move next year. The hours are long but it’s worth it.