March marks the start of the ORCA Wildlife Officer season and, although the 2021 season will look a little different, we are excited to welcome and introduce you to Jess Owen who is joining ORCA as the Hebrides Wildlife Officer.
Jess will be spending the summer working across the Caledonian MacBrayn (CalMac) fleet and inspiring passengers about the marine life that can be sighted around the incredible islands of the west coast of Scotland.
Hello! My name is Jess and I am joining ORCA this year as the Hebrides Wildlife Officer, sailing on CalMac Ferries across the Western Isles of Scotland.
I studied Wildlife and Media at the University of Cumbria where I really developed a love of all wildlife and started to become the nature nerd I am today. I first became involved with ORCA in 2015 when I applied for a voluntary Wildlife Officer role on board the Brittany Ferries flagship, Pont-Aven, sailing across the Bay of Biscay. I then trained to be an ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyor and joined the ORCA guide team on a Bay of Biscay Sea Safari trip. Following this, I left sailing the ocean for a year to do a traineeship with The Conservation Volunteers in Glasgow before returning to ORCA in 2017 as a Wildlife Officer on board the Cap Finistère in the Bay of Biscay. These initial experiences working with ORCA sparked my first interest in marine life and I went on to complete my British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), Marine Mammal Medic training and also volunteered in a seal rescue and rehabilitation centre, which turned out to be quite scary, seals are not as sweet as they look!
I then went on to work for the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust as their Engagement Officer for an exciting bird conservation project called Project Godwit. This took my bird nerd tendencies to a whole new level and I worked with local schools and community groups to promote wader conservation and community involvement.
The first cetaceans I ever saw were in the Isle of Skye, the minke whale and the harbour porpoise, and they have remained my favourite species ever since. I am very excited to be based in the Hebrides and to learn more about the beautiful islands on the west coast. I can’t wait to share exciting cetacean encounters with CalMac passengers, but I am equally excited to see the seabirds and the other rich wildlife the Hebrides has, such as basking sharks and great yellow bumblebees (that’s right, I am also a bee nerd). I am most looking forward to helping those traveling in the Hebrides to see and experience the rich marine life that surrounds them on their ferry journeys and to help them develop a positive and lasting relationship with it.
You can keep up to date with the ORCA Hebrides Wildlife Officer programme on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and through blogs on the ORCA website at www.orcaweb.org.uk/get-involved/become-an-orca-wildlife-officer/wildlife-officer-blog