Lauren Eyles loves the sea. So much so that she has made it her life’s work. She is an ocean conservationist and presenter and works with Springwatch, the Marine Conservation Society, the Sea Watch Foundation and BBC Blue Planet UK.
We spoke with Lauren about why she is so passionate about marine life and protecting our planet.
Hey Lauren, thanks so much for getting involved with the Friends of 2 Minute interview series! How has the beginning of 2021 been for you?
It has felt super slow! I can’t complain too much though. I live in a lovely part of South Wales, really close to the beach, and so have still been able to spend time in the environment that makes me happiest. It’s also been really nice to have more time with my son out of school, which I wouldn’t have had in normal circumstances. No matter how hard it’s been juggling everything, I’ve cherished that the most over all these lockdowns. But, things are starting to pick up and the sun is shining – so life is good!
You’ve been working for the Marine Conservation Society for 10 years which is amazing. When did you first realise you wanted to work in this sector?
I’ve always had an affinity with the ocean. At age seven I told my grandma that I wanted to become a marine biologist, that I wouldn’t have much money, but would have a good life! This early fascination started when visiting the beach as a child and not being able to sit still! I couldn’t resist a good explore of the rock pools and I’ve always had a love for dolphins and cetaceans. I mean, what little girl doesn’t?!
When did you start working as the Regional Coordinator for the Sea Watch Foundation? What does your role there entail?
With a real love for cetaceans, I began volunteering for Sea Watch Foundation at the very start of my career, about 15 years ago. I wanted to get stuck into practical conservation work right here in the UK. Sea Watch are based in New Quay, Wales – home to one of two semi-resident Bottlenose dolphin populations within the UK. It was great to go out on their research trips to study these animals, and others, to learn about monitoring techniques. Years passed, but in 2019 I re-connected with them and not long after became their regional coordinator for South Wales. The role includes acting as a point of contact for volunteers wanting to get involved in monitoring cetaceans, encouraging sightings to be submitted to Sea Watch and organising watches over their national event ‘Whale and Dolphin Watch’ every summer. Last year, I also helped them with some short films promoting their important citizen science and educational projects.
Can you tell us about the film you’re working on? Spotting orca in Scotland sounds incredible.
One of the projects that Sea Watch organises every year is called Orca Watch. It’s a 10 day citizen science event involving volunteers to monitor orca, and other marine wildlife, from areas of northern Scotland and surrounding islands. I am working with a brilliant film maker to capture the heart of this event including the many citizen scientists that get involved, the amazing marine wildlife in Scotland and the Sea Watch Foundation’s wider work. This trip holds deeper meaning for me too. The only orca I have ever seen was in captivity when I went to SeaWorld with an ex and his family almost 20 years ago. If I’m being totally honest, I wasn’t fully aware of the utter cruelty of the industry I was supporting at the time and now I would love to see an orca in it’s natural environment, living free in the wild. Unfortunately, for a second year the event has moved online due to covid, but we hope to come back even more determined in 2022! And, let’s hope that we do see orca, as they are after all a wild animal!
Your work is so extensive! Can you describe to us a particular career highlight?
It would have to be when I dragged, (well I say dragged, but there were no real complaints!) my husband and two year old son to Hong Kong and Australia for a secondment with the Australian Marine Conservation Society in 2016. I was born in Australia and wanted to get a feel for living and working there. I helped with community campaigning for a marine park in Sydney and travelled up to the head office in Brisbane to support the team in their plastic litter messaging. It wasn’t all about work and there was lots of time with the family too, as well as surfing and diving, where I was really lucky to see the incredible weedy seadragon – I couldn’t take my eyes off it! The time went way too quick but was an amazing personal and professional experience and one that my son, who’s now 6, still remembers parts of – particularly the massive spiders! He wants to go back one day, which I know we will.
You also create Youtube videos and run talks at science festivals about the work that you do. What’s your main reason for educating people about marine conservation and wildlife?
I love everything about the ocean – being on it, in it and near it. The ocean is important for so many reasons, and holds some incredible life, yet I often find that engagement of wildlife for adults can be skewed towards the land. The ocean really is out of sight, out of mind, but it seems that we have to see it to believe in it and to care. I think it’s like anything in life, that if you haven’t experienced something, then it can be very difficult to connect with. That’s why I love sharing my love for all things marine and showing others the huge diversity of life that’s out there and how people can help to keep it that way. I am currently putting together a piece all about Jellyfish which will be out on my Youtube channel soon.
Before you worked for MCS you worked with kids running Rock Pool Rambles which we love, as it sounds very similar to our Beach School programme. Now you write for a science and tech magazine called How It Works, aimed at children and young people. Can you tell us why you think it’s important that kids and young adults learn about science and nature?
I love rock pooling! It’s one of my favourite things to do. I find it incredible the amount of programmes now aimed at young children that teach them all about wildlife and the ocean. I can only remember one programme when I was little and even that wasn’t very marine focused! Information just wasn’t very accessible at all. My son knows more about marine wildlife than I ever did at his age, which I’m so proud of and I hope I’ve played a part in that.
And we must keep this going – the more information and facts that children and young adults have, the more informed and inspired they are going to feel about wildlife and the need to protect it with more open minds. I have worked in marine litter conservation for a long time, so my son has naturally grown up around it, and even has a better attitude towards litter and recycling than my parents!
It’s so much fun writing for ‘How it Works’ and bringing marine creatures and topics to life. I have written about the amazing life of rays, how sperm whales can dive so deep, exploring rocky shores, shape shifting cuttlefish and I’m about to write one on the weird and wonderful Blobfish! Go and check them out.
Can you give us any information on the book you’re planning on writing this year?!
Writing a book has been a real dream of mine for a while but for a long time I didn’t think that I was good enough to do it, particularly after a few dead ends. However, there have been a few developments this year that I can’t talk about yet, but hope to soon – so watch this space!
Lastly, did you learn anything from the uncertain times of 2020 that has changed the way you live?
There isn’t anything really big that stands out – like I said, I’ve been really fortunate over lockdowns, but I guess what I did realise is how important it is to take each day as it comes, rather than always looking towards what’s next all the time – I’m such a planner!
Follow Lauren on Instagram to see more of what she’s up to.