From Restaurants to Oceans to Caves – a Zoologist’s Journey to Bat Ecology
An Interview with Éinne Ó Cathasaigh by Paula Klavina
Éinne Ó Cathasaigh graduated from Zoology in Trinity in 2019. Having grown up by the sea, he has always had a passion for animals and marine life. Currently Éinne works as a bat ecologist, after completing his Master’s in UCC in marine biology. Éinne is very laid back and likes to take life as it comes, but on his way, he has acquired some useful tips he was happy to share with anyone stressed about their future.
Communication is key if you are trying to find a job in any sector, and this includes zoology. Éinne landed his current job in quite the unusual way. He had been working as a waiter in a restaurant ever since his 2nd year of college. The manager of this restaurant has degrees in ecology and zoology but had never put them to use until recently. Éinne’s manager decided to become a bat ecologist and after 3 weeks on the job he convinced Éinne to do the same. Since then, Éinne has started his own company and works as a subcontractor for larger ecological contracting groups. This comes with many perks since he is his own boss and can enjoy a lot of freedom, while still being able to provide for himself and work outside in nature.
Éinne’s ultimate goal is to become a lecturer, which he laughs at himself considering he skipped his fair bit of lectures while in college. The journey to becoming a lecturer is long and Éinne thinks the best thing to do is to constantly aim to upskill yourself. He highly recommends applying to the Marine Institute Bursary Programme, which he himself undertook in the summer after 4th year. This is a paid 8 to 12 week placement in Galway or surrounding areas and is a great experience which will set you apart from others. Upskilling was also part of the reason why he chose to do a Master’s. The topic of his dissertation was porpoises and bottle-nosed dolphins which he found really interesting but one of the main perks of this degree was the certification that came with it. There are 4 certificates required for working out at sea – First Aid, Sea Survival (the most fun to do, you get put into a weather-controllable pool!), Boat Handling and Sea Radio Operator – all of which are included in the UCC Marine Biology Master’s Programme. This is an important thing to consider if you aspire to have a marine-related career.
Apart from doing more degrees and placements to make yourself stand out, Éinne stresses how important it is to learn how to use a field book. If you are undertaking voluntary work or even just going for a walk and find something that intrigues you, write it down! It is important to keep track of what you are doing and have a record of your ongoing endeavours in zoology. Employers will rarely ask you for this, but if they do, it is a piece of work you have continuously been doing and shows your genuine passion for the field. If you are looking to work in Ireland, Éinne says the Glendalough field trip at the end of 3rd year will teach you a lot about the type of animals you’d be expected to know about. Two that he recommends, and thinks are very underrated are bats and birds of prey. But he may or may not be slightly biased. Attending conferences and workshops is another great way to get a grasp of the work that is available while also making valuable contacts. Éinne insists that you follow up on people, connect with them on LinkedIn and don’t be scared to email them if you’re interested in their work. People are very likely to answer if someone is showing real interest and the worst they can say is no!
If you find all of this intimidating and feel stuck in zoology without having a true passion for it, do not worry. Quizzing Éinne on what his course mates went on to do after college resulted in very diverse answers. Some followed a similar path to his but took a year out to work to later pursue a zoology-related degree in UCD, Queens, UCC and more. Many others did the complete opposite and currently work in companies such as EY and PwC. These companies often look for STEM graduates due to their data analysis skills. If this is something that interests you, Éinne recommends keeping on top of your coding. It is also possible to pursue a completely different career after a zoology degree, for example graduate entry pharmacy which someone in his course went on to do. All of the options are just a quick google search and email away, so don’t feel discouraged and keep your eyes open - your next job could come from the most unexpected place like it did for Éinne.