Home Career Guidance A Day in the Life of an Oceanic Research Intern

A Day in the Life of an Oceanic Research Intern

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Hannah Raven: Oceanic Research Intern

We interviewed a full time intern at SAEON, Hannah Raven. She does data collection and capturing for oceanic research. Scientists discover a problem area in the ocean and collect data and information regarding the problem and work towards a solution.

What does a typical day look like?

Time of Day Activity Comments
05:00 wake up and get ready for work
05:30 Drive to work Yes, this is normal as traffic to town sucks if you leave any later – believe me, I have tried
06:00 At work: have breakfast, check mails and continue with previous day’s tasks such as image processing or data cleaning or processing Not very exciting… being a scientist includes maybe 10% field work and the rest you will be stuck behind a desk… unless your research requires intensive fieldwork. The research I am currently working on involves offshore work which is extremely limited due to ship time etc.
15:00 Leave work YAY!

I get to leave early as I started early (miss most of the traffic home too)

15:30 Gym time (lots of swimming) I am currently preparing for my commercial diving course which will add to my qualifications to enhance my job opportunities later on
17:30 Get home and cook supper Depending on my mother whether she wants to cook or not.
19:00 Hang out with my fiancé Help him with his assignments or just relax and watch series or play cards
21:30 Climb into bed and read one or two chapters of my book I’m currently reading the Terry Goodkind series ☺


What do you enjoy most about your job?

I am currently an intern and still learning the ropes, but so far the best part of the job was going out to sea for a short trip from PE to CT. The diving course will also be a highlight (starting in Nov) for which SAEON has graciously allowed me to take the time off. Once this internship ends (March 2016) I will be starting my MSc degree in Zoology which has potential to include more sea time.

What do you enjoy least about your job?

Sitting at a desk all day.

Is there a qualification required to perform this job? Where and what did you study?

Yes, the NRF-DST internship program requires a minimum of a 3-year Bachelor’s degree and higher. I studied a BSc 4-year degree in Conservation Ecology (the equivalent to a Honours degree) at Stellenbosch University.

Is there any training provided by the organisation once you come on board?

No, the internship is a training year where we build our capacity on an individual level, which provides us with a year of experience in the working environment.

I was, however, placed in a ‘safety at sea’ familiarisation course in order for me to go to sea.

What type of person would be well suited to this job?

This job is based on data collected offshore, thus you should expect some sea time at some point (have a strong stomach) and you should be prepared to spend long hours in front of a computer analysing deep sea imagery and data. Extensive patience is required, as working with government often comes with unexpected challenges and working in the marine environment can be unpredictable.

How long have you been in this position and how did you get there?

I have been an intern at SAEON since April 2015 and was placed here by the National Research Foundation and Department of Science and Technology within their internship programme. 

Do you have any additional advice for someone interested in pursuing this career?

During your undergraduate degree, try and gain lots of experience working in labs and helping with field work as this adds to your advantage when applying for jobs later on.

What is a typical starting salary in this career field?

Within the internship program the salary is based on your qualification (much like most jobs) thus the higher the qualification, the more you will earn. As this is an internship program the salary is quite low( between R5000 and R7000) which increases annually with each new set of interns.

Within the marine career one can expect salaries ranging from R10 000 – R30 000/month depending on your position and placement within public or private sectors.

Any quirky advice for scholars looking to pursue a career in your field?

Don’t be discouraged by the fact that jobs are limited within this field and that you most likely won’t become a millionaire. As long as you work hard and are persistently networking with people you will get far. Doing this job benefits society and has exponential long term gains for our country and the globe.


EduConnect 2cents

Being a scientist can be a lot of fun and the experiences you could potentially have will be once in a lifetime. Imagine a trip out in the deep sea to collect data and waking up to dolphins or whales swimming by in the sunrise. It isn’t only just lab or ‘nerd’ work. It’s important and fun work that the world needs.

This career would be amazing for anyone who loves problem-solving, data-capturing, nature, animals and a little bit of science. You would definitely get the opportunity to travel and get out in the field, but you would also spend time in an office or lab. The best of both worlds. You could literally save the planet by studying something in this field.

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