Thinking of becoming a marine naturalist? You’ve come to the right place.
Let's start with understanding what a marine naturalist is. You can typically find positions on tour boats, research vessels, and museums. While duties vary by job, the main responsibilities of the naturalist is to educate and collect information about marine life. The majority of marine naturalists work on a boat and are part of the crew so on top of being the “face” of the tour, you can also expect to perform deckhand duties and insure passenger safety. In an emergency situation you would most likely be the liaison between crew and guests and therefore must be able to remain calm under pressure, or at least give the illusion of calm.
Formal education is not required to obtain a naturalist position, but you must be knowledgeable about marine life because you have to be able to identify the many species you encounter in nature. The key to becoming a great naturalist is to study. There is always something new to learn and the more you know, the better you can educate and share with your audience.
Part of being a great naturalist means being lively and entertaining your tour group so public speaking skills is another must for this position. We have all had a boring tour guide and that's the last thing you want to be remembered as. Some ways to better your skills are to give a tour to people you trust and then ask for their critique. You can also film yourself then watch it back- if it starts to bore you then you’re most likely boring your guests. If you can handle the harsh criticism of the internet, consider making some educational content. The point is, the more practice you get the better you’ll become.
If the last paragraph started to discourage you, you are not alone. My advice to you is to find a tour position. My first official marine naturalist position was on a whale watching tour boat and I had proper training with reading materials provided to me. During training, I was working with someone and didn’t have to work alone, at least not until I was ready. Having someone there to help you and share their knowledge is fundamental. On a tour, you also become more comfortable talking in front of an audience. Once you gain experience, you can apply to more research related opportunities if you choose.
On a research team a naturalist’s position is typically species identification and activity documentation. These are usually short-term positions as you are hired for the data collecting portion of the research which tends to be fairly short. However with proper planning and connections this can be a constant career.
If you enjoy sharing your love & knowledge of the ocean then becoming a marine naturalist might be for you.