A Snapshot into Kirsty’s Marine Engagement Internship

Kirsty, one of our Marine Engagement Interns, who joined us for four weeks in Spring 2023, shares some of her motivations, highlights and lessons from her time with COAST:

It’s hard to believe but I am now in the final week of my Marine Engagement Internship at COAST. Over the past month I have learnt so much and feel very lucky to have had the chance to work at such a unique organisation. The staff and volunteers at COAST have a phenomenal wealth of knowledge and it has been an absolute privilege to learn new things and gain new skills alongside such an amazing team of people. And the variety of tasks I have undertaken during my time here has been more varied than I could have imagined – from sourcing raffle prizes for RV COAST Explorer’s Launch Party to creating quiz sheets and displays for the Discovery Centre, from helping with a rockpooling session with Whiting Bay Primary to researching the recent HPMA debates in the Scottish Parliament!

I have spent all my life coming to Arran. My Grandmother was from Machrie and every time I arrive on the island it feels like I am coming home. My love of the sea and marine life began on the island as a child – investigating the rockpools at Blackwaterfoot Beach and swimming in the sea at Machrie. And although I now live in Bristol and have worked as an actor for the past twenty years, the pull of the sea and island life has remained.

In fact, in recent years I have consciously sought out conservation based voluntary opportunities on various Scottish islands and have spent time doing maintenance work on St Kilda, archaeological surveys on Mingulay, bird surveying on Pabbay and working with the Scottish Wildlife Trust on Handa. I have loved this time spent on the islands learning more about our amazing coastline and wildlife, so much so, that I am now exploring it as a possible new career path.

When I heard about the Marine Engagement Internship that COAST offers it felt like the perfect fit. Obviously from time spent on Arran over the years I was very aware of COAST and the amazing work done here and that, together with the chance to spend extended time ‘at home’ on Arran learning more about its marine life, was an opportunity I was very keen to take up!

And it has not disappointed. I have been here at a very exciting time in COAST’s journey with the arrival and launch of RV COAST Explorer. I was even lucky enough to have a trip out on the boat last week trialing one of the Citizen Science trips that will be happening this summer. It feels like a wonderful new addition to COAST’s work, allowing locals and visitors to Arran to get out on the water and see for themselves what is happening beneath the waves.

That process of engaging people with Arran’s marine life and COAST’s story has been one of the most inspiring parts of my time here. Spending time working in the Discovery Centre you get to see the looks on the faces of children and adults alike when they encounter the creatures in the tanks – the sea squirts, starfish, squat lobsters and scallops, hydroids and butterfish, blennies and anemones – seeing with their own eyes what is living out in the Bay. And what visitors talk about time and time again is how impressed they are by what COAST has achieved and how wonderful it is that it all began with the community. As one woman said to me, it is just amazing what can be achieved if people work together, people say they are powerless but COAST shows what can happen if a community comes together and is passionate about making a change.

And that is definitely something that I will take away with me when I leave COAST at the end of this week – that together we can make a difference. And our seas and marine life need us to continue to join forces as a community to make that difference.