Guest Post – Tabitha Pearman: How the online MOOC ‘Exploring Our Oceans’ led me to do a PhD at NOCS

Understanding our oceans is the key to ensuring we learn to protect them. Through education and increased awareness the hope is we can inspire more people to want to study our oceans. Tabitha is a second year PhD student based in the School of Ocean and Earth Science at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton,  modelling deep-sea canyon habitats, and she is here to tell you how she ended up doing a PhD…..


As the daughter of a fisherman I grew up to the rhythm of the tides with hours spent rock pooling, snorkelling and sea watching. My close association with the marine environment led me to study for a BSc in Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology at The University of Plymouth and then a MSc in Advanced Techniques in Taxonomy and Biodiversity at Imperial College London and The British Natural History Museum. Before and throughout this time I volunteered on a variety of conservation projects and undertook an internship at the University of Florida studying the West Indian Manatee. The day after I finished my MSc I started my first paid job in marine biology, working for the environmental department of FUGRO. For eight years, I travelled the world surveying marine habitats. Then I went freelance. It was at this time that I came across the online MOOCs and with the extra time on my hands, (when not at sea) I decided to enrol on the ‘Exploring out oceans’ course. I thought it would be a good ‘refresher’. Well, it did more than ‘refresh’; it rekindled a desire to go back into academia. I had seen many interesting habitats whilst working in industry but never had the opportunity to ask why? Then a few months after completing the MOOC I saw a PhD advertised at The University of Southampton looking at cold-water corals in submarine canyons and I thought to myself, why not? Applying for a PhD whilst at sea, with intermittent internet is not easy!

I remember receiving my interview invite whilst transferring between vessels in the Bengal Sea and having the interview the day after I got back! Now I am in my second year of the PhD and I can safely say that it was the MOOC that started this new chapter in my life. I would highly recommend MOOCs to anyone, but be careful you never know where it might lead!

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