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Damien Haberlin, Ecologist (Post-Doctoral Researcher)
Earth & Environment

Damien Haberlin, Ecologist (Post-Doctoral Researcher)

Damien Haberlin is a Phd researcher working in Ecology. His job can involve long days in a boat or in a lab so it's quiet varied.

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first question!

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

I think that would be my PhD supervisor, Dr Tom Doyle. His support and encouragement has been important over the last 5-6 years. 

Describe a typical day?

It’s difficult to describe a typical day in research, because there are several aspects to what we do. During field work, our day can be dictated by daylight, tides and the seasonality of the species we study. In my case, jellyfish mainly occur in summer so most of my fieldwork is done then, which can mean long days in a boat, sometimes working around the clock. During the winter tends to be when I can focus on lab work, analysis and writing. In addition, we would attend meetings, conferences and workshops to discuss our work and look for new research opportunities. 

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

We are primarily field ecologists and therefore, we cannot setup controlled experiments, which means we must try to understand a species or an ecosystem as it occurs naturally. This means that our data collection must be designed to answer specific questions and so experimental design and a good understanding of statistics are crucial. In terms of analysing the data we collect, an ability to programme is increasingly important. We often use satellite data and GIS in our analyses, so an understanding of different types of data is important. In more general terms, it’s important to be organised, to be able to communicate and present information to other people. 

What are the main challenges?

I used to really dislike writing, but as I have developed in my career it has become easier, and sometimes even enjoyable. My biggest challenge is presenting to large audiences; I don’t like this. But it is unavoidable and usually once I begin talking it’s fine, however, I hate the nervous feeling before speaking. 

What's cool?

Being outside! Getting out in the boat to take samples is great and I really enjoy going to sea in the larger research vessels, and heading offshore for days/weeks at a time. I enjoy meeting other scientists, and meeting people within other industries.

What is your education to date?

  1. Certificate in Mechanical Engineering, 1994 – 1996
  2. B.Sc. Zoology, 2001 – 2005
  3. M.Sc. Marine Biology, 2009 – 2010
  4. PhD Zoology – studying jellyfish, 2014 - 2018

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

Many of the practical skills I’ve developed have proven to be essential over the years; driving boats, diving and an aptitude for fixing things and improvising in the field. In a more academic sense, good writing and a strong grounding in math and especially statistics are absolutely essential. Finally, but certainly not least, you must be able to work with people!

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

I love the sea and tend to snorkel, dive and surf in my spare time, so you’re never really switched off - work and life over-lap a lot. I don’t buy into a lot of the work-life balance stuff, life is life and you make time for the things you want or need to do. The majority of research positions are contract based and few of us have permanent roles, so job security is certainly an issue in research. 

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down”  

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

It’s important to develop academic and practical skills if you can. Experience of field work is always sought after and stands out in a CV. Likewise, a good level of math and the ability to programme are increasingly important. I think project managers often look for a balance between those two aspects.

What is your current job title?

Post-Doctoral Researcher in Marine Ecology. 

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