My first few weeks as a full-time SAIC intern were filled with a range of experiences. In the beginning, adapting to a new office environment took a little getting used to. I hadn’t been in a similar post before but was keen to get stuck in to make the most of this experience.
Before I knew it, my drive was accommodated for by the team and I had a range of tasks lined up to develop different kinds of skills: from targeted networking opportunities, and developing and assisting new projects from the beginning, to desk-based research and team building.
In my degree, I have explored integrated coastal management, marine spatial planning and oceanography but not necessarily anything aquaculture-related. So my first month at SAIC was a constant learning process and a very interesting one at that. Globally, aquaculture presents an opportunity to provide efficient, sustainable and nutritious food for the growing global population. Within this context, it is easy to see why this is an industry worth investing in.
Learning about Scotland’s eight Innovation Centres has also been fascinating. At SAIC’s engineering workshop I saw how industry experts and leading academics can be brought together to tackle issues collectively for the wider benefit to the Scottish aquaculture sector. To me, this is what collaboration is really about – utilising each other’s strengths and expertise to contribute to a bigger picture.
Mena with Jess, another intern at SAIC
After fully settling in to the SAIC dynamic, it was all systems go in the next phase of my internship. I was able to gain a greater understanding of both the commercial and research elements of aquaculture by visiting the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group (SSMG) factory and the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture (IoA); develop further my knowledge of Scotland’s Innovation Centres (ICs); and explore Scotland’s vision for sustainable aquaculture at a meeting with SEPA.
Being aware of the stages, processes and impacts from cradle to grave (or in the case of aquaculture, rope to plate) is vital in any industry. Visiting SSMG, who supply retailers all across the UK, was incredibly insightful.
Sam Houston, 2nd year PhD student at the IoA, kindly showed us around the cutting-edge facilities at the Institute and told us all about the research they currently do. It was clear that people with expertise in veterinary science, nutrition, genetics, animal health and welfare, immunology and environmental sustainability could all pursue a career in the aquaculture industry.
Through an all-IC task I was assigned, I have also been learning about the ways in which the ICs assemble innovative project ideas and partnerships ready for delivery. This task required analysing and processing data into a suitable format, as well as liaising with IC Chief Executives and their teams over the course of the month.
However, my highlight by far of month two was attending a SEPA meeting at Strathallan House. Representatives from SEPA, Marine Scotland, SAMS and the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) came together to discuss Scotland’s environmental priorities for aquaculture in the future. This was another great example of how to truly work together towards a common vision. Since the environmental aspects are what interest me the most about the industry, this was an ideal experience.
Mena and the team inspecting shellfish on a site visit
As my time here at SAIC comes to a close, I have continued to get involved in great experiences. Meeting with representatives from Tesco and the Sustainable Aquaculture Research Group at the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture (IoA) are just a couple of examples. Looking back, my internship went by far too fast for comfort.
Before embarking on my internship I hoped to get some worthwhile experience in a new industry to help me explore the opportunities are available in the marine world – and I wasn’t disappointed. I was able to explore the aquaculture industry landscape in Scotland and beyond, meet different kinds of experts and professionals who work in the industry, and become a valued member of a team. The team at SAIC are very well connected, which has allowed me to make contacts who will be important for me in the years to come.
The opportunities that this internship has given me have pleasantly surprised me as a previously non aquaculture-savvy person, and I would encourage anyone who is even the slightest bit curious about aquaculture to get involved in the industry. I was very well supported and can assure you that anyone else would be too.
A huge thank you to SAIC and their many contacts within and out-with the industry for their friendliness, time and support. It has been an absolute pleasure!
Well done Mena. We're looking forward to watching your career progress!
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