Student Perspective | Michael Simmons | Marine Science

The University of Gibraltar could broaden my horizons
16th March 2021
I grew up in London, quite urban. Since I was young I liked to be active and go running, being outside is very important to me. And I was also interested in the sea, maybe because I never had it right on my doorstep in London. Finally, I decided to move down to Plymouth and get my bachelor’s degree in marine biology, I really enjoyed it which made me realize that it is what I want to do with my future.
Originally I was not planning on doing my masters right away, but with the pandemic it was a good next step for my career. I thought Gibraltar would be nice in the sun, it is warm, it looked really open with lots of places to run and exercise and it is still British, which makes it easy for me to adjust. Although it is small, especially if you do a long run you would have to do a couple of laps around Gibraltar, but there is a lot of variety here. You can do flat runs by the beaches or you can also run up the rock. There is so much to see on the runs that they never get boring. I got really nice views here.
I also figured the course at the University of Gibraltar could broaden my horizons. It is not just marine biology, but obviously it is marine science and the climate change aspect of it is very topical. I think that it leads into more opportunities than when you study straight up marine biology. I did my bachelors dissertation on interspecific fights between Anemones, basically looking on the outcome based on size difference, would the bigger ones always win? It was not the case, which was quite interesting, so for the future I would not be closed minded about continuing research in Anemones. But at the same time, I am more interested in behaviour generally.
We get a lot of migration from various species coming through the straits, which is really good. Whether or not I will be able to study that now is a different story but being here puts me into a good position if I want to look at it in the future. I can also do localized behaviour, because there are lots of different species here. Especially with the two different sites, the Mediterranean and Atlantic. I think there is still a lot that needs to be studied here in Gibraltar as well, which makes it a really exciting place to be as a student who wants to do research.

“There is still a lot that needs to be studied here in Gibraltar as well, which makes it a really exciting place to be as a student who wants to do research.”

– Michael Simmons

Before coming to the University, it was easy to get into contact with the lecturer and ask questions. I was still very much in the mindset of going down the marine biology route and was wondering if it is still feasible with this program. And it definitely is: you could go into working for the department of environment, or you can also go into conservation, dive into a PhD or you could do anything with it. I think that should really be highlighted, because they almost undersell themselves a bit with the program description.
Despite its size and the University being rather new, it feels like they are very good connected. There is only a small number of lecturers here, but you have a good range of options, whether you want to do your dissertation with the local industry, like the department of Environment or with lecturers from different universities from around the world. I feel I am at a good position studying here at the edge of Europe.
 I assumed all the assessment would be writing journal articles, essays and laboratory write ups. I did not think there would be videos, infographics and so on. But I think it is really good to mix it up. Do not get me wrong, it is good practice to keep writing essays and articles and I would like to use the opportunities to also improve my scientific writing while I am here. But I think it is also good that we are doing lots of other assessments, because it makes the course more engaging, rather than thinking about all the words you have to write every day.
What I really like here is that we can go snorkeling and get into the sea for the practical. Our lecturer might even be able to make connection for us to get our diving and boat license here. That is something I really want to try this summer, getting my boat license.
So, for the coming year I expect lots of snorkeling and seeing new stuff. I do not have the opportunity back at home, which is why I want to make the most out of being here, while I can. I try to work hard and manage my time well, usually working in the mornings on free days, so I can enjoy the weather and myself here in the afternoons.
Improving my Spanish over the next months is something I would like to do as well. Because everyone here speaks English and Spanish, Gibraltar is a good place for me to practice. Walking into town, just listening to music, while I am on my own is always nice with the weather. And doing the Mediterranean steps, hiking of the rock is a great experience. I also play football with the guys, we watch sunsets all the time and they are always beautiful. And of course, lots of running.
  • MSc

    Master in Marine Science & Climate Change

    Designed and delivered by expert academics and scientists, this full or part-time interdisciplinary programme blends theoretical study with practical, field-based work. You will cover specialist subject areas and gain the skills required to tackle the complex issues associated with the sustainable development of marine ecosystems.[...]

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