Our Membership Director and Education Officer, Kirsten Hintner, talks about how she got into conservation in this interview with WiseOceans. She gives some top tips for those who are interested in getting into the field. Kirsten says, “It’s about sheer hard work and not giving up that makes you stand out and gets things done in conservation. Forget about having a 9-5 job, this takes dedication and commitment.”
This week we chat to…Kirsten Hintner from Sea Watch Foundation. Kirsten was destined to work with the ocean and wildlife and always dreamt of dolphins and whales. Kirsten has combined her skills and knowledge of film-making with her passion for marine life to forge her career in marine conservation.
Name: Kirsten Hintner
Job Title: Creative Director of Adopt a Dolphin
Organisation: Sea Watch Foundation
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I dream in dolphins and whales, and have done from a very young age. When I was very young, these dreams were frightening – big dark shapes swimming below me, but now they are amazing! Then very first time I borrowed a friends mask and snorkel I stayed below the water for some three hours before realising that everyone had cleared off the beach and gone home for dinner! The underwater world to me was the most fascinating place and I knew I had to learn more. I love animals, am passionate about wildlife and the outdoors and so it seemed the obvious choice!
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
I am a very ambitious and hard-working person. Working 7 days a week for months on end to get a job done is not uncommon for me. I trained in media production because I wanted to produce films and media about wildlife and conservation. I produced many films as a volunteer film maker, offering my skills and knowledge to try to help those who needed to communicate their message. This was a win win situation – the charities gained from me free time and I built up my portfolio!
- How did you land your current job/position?
I was offered the role of Managing the Sea Watch Foundation membership scheme and educational platform some seven years ago. The job is very diverse and needed someone who could multi-skill effectively, think on their feet, come up with creative ideas that could be produced on a zero budget, and also someone who could communicate well with young people and children. Luckily, I ticked all these boxes thanks to all my previous film making and media work.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I love a challenge, and working to a tiny budget is exactly that! Thinking creatively, and coming up with solutions at the drop of a hat is what I thrive upon. I also enjoy working and communicating with young people in schools, workshops, and when out on the road doing our outreach work. I love inspiring young minds!
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
When I work in schools or with groups of young people, and I feel a connection with some of the individuals – that is when I feel I’m making the most difference. I receive letters from young adults that I remember working with as children thanking me for inspiring them to follow their dream into a career in conservation for example.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I think the answer to that question would be that I wish I had known how how tough working in conservation can be. I don’t mean tough physically, but mentally. There are so many conservation issues to be solved and negative things happening to our planet on a minute by minute basis that one person, or one charity, just cannot resolve it all! It has to be a group effort, and you also have to be prepared that righting the wrongs that have happened does not happen overnight. If you go into conservation, you must be willing to be in it for the long haul!
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Yes, accountancy!! I am definitely not a numbers person, but I have had to embrace the numerical side of me because all of us at Sea Watch are doing multiple tasks, and that is what makes someone an ideal candidate to work for a small charity!
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
You must be willing to help out even with tasks you don’t consider to be your forte. You must be flexible in your approach to a daily working life and the hours expected of you. Working long hours for many weeks is often required to complete important deadlines, and when it comes to conservation work doesn’t stop at 6pm!
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
The sperm whale has to be my all-time favourite marine creature due to its sheer colossal size and strength, and enormously huge head and miniscule mouth! I love the wrinkles it has all over its body, and the way it simply pushes itself through the water even though it’s probably the least airodynamic creature in the ocean with its square head!
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
I have two actually – one was during my first proper sea scuba dive in Pembrokeshire, Wales. I came around the corner of an enormous rock only to find myself face to face with a common seal who was, just seconds earlier, taking a nap! Needless to say, both of us had the fright of our lives, only to shoot up to the surface for breath!
My second was a scuba dive off the Island of Dominica. Nothing prepared me for what I saw down there – the colours and shapes of the live coral was like taking a trip around a sculptors studio that was alive with life. Sea turtles, brightly coloured fish, sea weeds, rays, and then dolphins to put the icing on the cake.
Thank you Kirsten, if this sounds like a dream job then make sure you check out Seawatch Foundation’s current vacancy here.