Trust the Process

Tory Pritchard from Canada. Studying a Master of Marine Biology with James Cook University (JCU), Townsville Campus.

I completed my bachelor’s degree in general biology back in 2017, in land-locked Calgary, Alberta. It was during the last semester of this degree that I discovered my love for marine biology. I took field courses on Vancouver Island, at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre (BMSC) and even got to conduct my own experiment and write a report. My love for BMSC brought me back just over a year later with a position as a Marine Sciences Educator for the field trips program. I didn’t plan on staying for more than a couple seasons because I was accepted to begin my master’s degree at JCU in marine biology, and I was eager to go back to school and learn everything I could about marine biology!

At first, I chose James Cook University’s Master of Marine Biology in Townsville because it was a course-based master’s with a professional placement option. The chance for me to choose courses and tailor my education to what I wanted to learn more about AND gain skills in the professional field – let’s just say, the shoe fit. I was eager to begin this next step in my marine biology journey, however, COVID deferred my plans. I panicked, thinking I needed to get my master’s done right away, otherwise wouldn’t I end up behind everyone else and too old to begin my masters?

This delay ended up being a blessing in disguise for me. I was able to gain more work experience at the BMSC and in all different departments as an animal care technician, research assistant, and diving assistant. I was working at an organization that I loved and was in my desired field, acquiring many hard and soft skills in the field as well as on the administrative side of things. Working both hands-on and behind the scenes creating and updating documents, such as standard operating procedures for animal care and ethics, opened my eyes to a path I could direct my career as a marine biologist – in conservation, policy, and management – which I previously had not considered. Before this, I was all about working in the field and how “I could never have a desk job”. But I found that drafting those documents, managing meetings, leading multiple projects – it was not just a desk job; this was how I could make a difference in my career.

The vision of my marine biology career path then evolved, and JCU’s Master of Marine Biology became the perfect fit. This degree has streams, that is, areas one can choose to focus. One of which is Marine Conservation and Management, and after having the chance to gain insights into the administrative side at the BMSC, I realized that this stream was exactly what I was looking for. I have enjoyed every single one of my courses so far and the various assessments that came with them. I have even taken courses I didn’t expect I would be doing such as Environmental Economics, given this is a marine biology degree, but having the option to choose courses has allowed this.

If the last few years has taught me anything, it is to trust the process. You are where you are meant to be now, and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing – you do what you want to do! What ever decision you make, or whatever road you choose to follow, and whatever roadblocks you may face, know that it will all take you to where you are meant to go. Plus, you can always turn down another road if you change your mind or discover another passion like I did. There are no dead ends, simply ends that lead you to new beginnings. So long as you keep an open mind.

Trust the process.