Fishing for Purpose

Ocean science wasn’t always a career choice for Kiley Best. It was at Memorial the Mount Pearl, NL native discovered an interest in a field that has since become her passion. After completing three degrees, and acquiring a broad range of industry experience during her time as a student, Ms. Best is now plying her trade as a Fisheries Technician with the Center for Fisheries Ecosystems Research at the Marine Institute.

What programs did you complete at Memorial?

I first completed a Biology degree at MUN and then continued on to an advanced diploma in sustainable aquaculture at Marine Institute and now my M.Sc. in Aquaculture. I’ve had excellent supervisors, being able to work with Dr. Cynthia McKenzie (DFO St. John’s Science Branch) for my M.Sc. and Cyr Couturier (School of Fisheries MI).

What were some highlights of your experience completing a graduate degree at Memorial?

I think I was fortunate to have many highlights along the way. My academic experience was great, with excellent programs and instructors, but I’ve also had lots of other opportunities that have given me a really broad perspective. I travelled quite a bit over the years, with 2 International Conferences for Marine Bioinvasions in Portland Oregon and Sydney Australia. I also had a student participation invitation to represent MUN at the UArctic Rectors forum in Akureyri Iceland in 2014. On the industry side I was included in many local invasive species advisory meetings dealing with green crab and other species in Newfoundland waters, as well as presenting to mussel farmers at NAIA (Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association) cold harvest conferences about the risks to the mussel farming industry associated with green crab. Doing outreach and education work I’ve been involved with many presentations and projects, including lectures on aquatic invasive species for the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium; developing a field lab in Spanish Rooms with students from Marystown High School; seminars for undergrads and graduate students at Marine Institute. I’ve also had an opportunity to mentor high school students who’ve had great success at regional and national science fairs.

What are you doing now after having graduated with your master’s degree?

I’m working with the Center for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER) with the School of Fisheries at Marine Institute (MI) as a fisheries technician, and I’ve been working here while completing my degree part time. At CFER we concentrate on research and outreach with a mandate to focus on NL fisheries and the sustainability of stocks. In doing that we collaborate with the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and other researchers. In my role I’ve acquired offshore research experience in our waters as well as the Canadian Arctic and more technical training. I’ve also been able to work and travel with Marine Institute International on small projects in Malawi and there are some other upcoming projects that are really exciting. Related to my area but outside the work I’m doing here is my position as co-chair of the board of directors for the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium, along with other local committee work on ocean education. I’m also helping to plan the International Marine Conservation Congress meeting that’s coming to St. John’s this summer.

Were you employed immediately after graduating?

I had a work term with the aquaculture section of Fisheries and Oceans Canada through my aquaculture program and during that work term I was involved with a project that was being run through the department of aquaculture and seafood development. A position related to the same project opened up shortly after my work term and I was hired.

How did your graduate program help prepare you for your current job?

My M.Sc. program prepared me by teaching valuable organizational skills in the field and lab, including the logistics of field work. The technical training I received was tailored to my work and the species I’m focused on, but those skills are transferable and also have a broader application in this field. As a part time student I also learned how to do things on a tight schedule and budget. The many conferences and meetings have helped my presentation, communication and networking skills, as well as create an incredible network of people that I continue to collaborate with. Finally, the outreach work I did with my program has helped me in the same areas that are part of the CFER mandate.

Do you have any advice for current and/or future grad students?

I took me a while to figure out exactly what I wanted to do, but ultimately it was about following my true interest. If you let that be your guide, the process of discovery is natural and I believe you are much more likely to stay engaged and succeed at what you’re doing. Specific to my area, it was timely that I was working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada when the invasive green crab species was discovered in NL for the first time. There was a wealth of new research that needed to be done and I was extremely interested in pursuing it. But in general, there is a lot of opportunity in Newfoundland for ocean sciences because of our location, programs, facilities and the amazing wealth of experience and knowledge at Memorial and the Marine Institute.

As a part time student, the research side has its challenges but there is a wealth of knowledge that comes from working through the logistics, planning and time management requirements. And you need to be confident enough to ask for help. People are very giving of their time and expertise but you need to reach out and build those relationships.


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