There are desk jobs, there are chef jobs, there are jobs where you get paid to be in the air or on the sea.
Then there are jobs where you get to spend all day with marine life in an aquarium. Sabine Tartarin is an aquarium assistant at Macduff Marine Aquarium and has worked there for two and a half years after starting in 2014 as a seasonal worker.
Sabine, who is from the small town of Bourges in France, has a masters degree in earth sciences from Paris University and also has some training in science communication. She wanted a job that would combine her scientific background, her experience in the tourist industry and give her more experience in using the English language.
Sabine is involved with delivering the educational program at the aquarium, which ranges from nursery level to Higher Biology qualifications.
She said: “This is a very diverse role which always keeps me on the pulse and I am always learning something new. A nine to five desk job has never been appealing to me – I would not be able to sit for very long.”
No two days are the same in Sabine’s role at Macduff Marine Aquarium. After opening she works with a team of people to meet visitors, provide talks, keep the gift shop in order and look after the animals. She can be involved with guiding school groups or taking them rock pooling on the beach. Every day there are feedings and talks about the displays and animals so she is talking to a wide variety of people and giving them information about sea life.
Sabine said: “I also assist in the displays team to ensure the animals’ welfare. This involves checking the aquarium’s water systems and the animals themselves before preparing the food.
“I also need to clean the tanks and make sure these are in tip top condition before the visitors arrive. We usually do that in the morning.”
Another part of the job involves assembling the equipment for the divers, including setting up the tanks, the buoyance jackets and breathing regulators. The divers feed the fish three times a week and visitors come to see the popular dive shows.
“I am currently in training to dive in the tank myself and I’m working on my qualifications. At the moment I can supervise the dives from the aquarium’s platform, ensuring diver safety and assisting with their needs.
“We have a great view over the sea from the platform and sometimes I can see the Bottlenose dolphins feeding or passing by the aquarium.”
One of the best bits about her day is sparking an interest and awareness of the local marine life to people of all ages and backgrounds. The team all have to be able to work with people and children, so it is an important skill to develop.
“In a larger team, you may be able to specialise either in the retail and reception work, or the guiding or the animal husbandry, but if you love meeting new people and have a passion for the sea that’s already a good start,” said Sabine.
Her previous work experiences range from scientific research to editorial, working for Visit Scotland and the National Trust of Scotland. One of her biggest challenges was learning the name of each animal in English, and in the local dialect.
“Also in Doric and Buckie – I did not ken (you see I am learning) about the local dialect before I moved up here three years ago”, said Sabine.
MacDuff Marine Aquarium is owned and operated by Aberdeenshire Council and welcomes over 45,000 visitors per year. It opened in 1997 and promotes awareness and enjoyment of the Moray Firth marine environment while also encouraging and educating people on how to look after the marine life.
Sabine said: “I have been working towards more dive qualifications in the last year in order to dive in our Kelp Tank and feed the fish during our popular dive shows. My next step is to train as a Rescue diver. Learning to dive in Scotland is fabulous as the sea is thriving with life.
“I suppose I am very lucky to speak about what I love on a daily basis.”