Interns Spotlight: Giulia Cortinovis & Hollie French

Marine Science Program interns Hollie and Giulia contributed to BCSS for four weeks, diving into the world of marine science through lectures, scuba diving the Bazaruto Archipelago, assisting with megafauna observations and participating in marine debris collections. As Giulia is currently studying for a master’s degree in marine sciences and Hollie is a medical lab assistant with a BsC in Human Bioscience, their CVs stood out to the BCSS team as they have the right type of qualifications, which they used to contribute to BCSS greatly. They very much enjoyed the professional training BCSS provides, and to learn more about their experience we interviewed the interns to find out more about what they’ve learnt, and what motivated them to apply for the Marine Science Program.

After a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences, Giulia is currently studying a Master’s in Marine Sciences at the University of Milan, Italy. 

After obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree with first-class honours in Human Bioscience, Hollie now works as a Medical Laboratory Assistant.

What motivated you to apply for the Marine Science Program at BCSS?

Giulia: “When we were looking for an internship as part of our master’s degree, many people typically chose to go to Thailand, Indonesia or the Caribbean. Coming somewhere like BCSS in Africa, is typically far less common and was one of the reasons it appealed to me. Going to a remote island in Mozambique is something very different. I really liked that the BCSS Marine Science Program has many different themes, not just focusing on one aspect, allowing me to gain experience in many different areas and help me to understand what I might like to do going forward.”

“I really liked that the BCSS Marine Science Program has many different themes, not just focusing on one aspect, allowing me to gain experience in many different areas and help me to understand what I might like to do going forward.”

Hollie: “I’ve always had a love for the ocean and scuba diving, and it had been a goal of mine to take part in an ocean conservation project for a while. BCSS stood out as somewhere I could make a meaningful contribution, even without having background in marine science. Besides, the stunning location in the heart of the Bazaruto Archipelago, with incredible coral reefs and an extensive range of megafauna, made it an easy decision for me. 

What parts of your time spent at BCSS stand out to you?

Giulia: “One of my main highlights has been the people. Being surrounded by people who have the same passion for the ocean and who all want to do their bit. Seeing my first turtle here whilst on my first open water dive was magical and another huge highlight! Also, seeing humpback whales was really special and something which takes your heart.”

Hollie: “There are so many! Every day brings something new. A moment I’ll never forget was seeing a large group of humpback whales during our diving surface interval. We didn’t expect to see them, as it was late June, but they came so close to the boat – it was a magical moment. Developing my scuba diving skills and being able to put them to good use has also been a huge highlight of my time here.”

What was it like to be part of the BCSS team?

Giulia: “Lots of fun! Everyone treats you equally no matter what level you’re at and I also loved that we eat together, play games together but then also carry out the work together.”

Hollie: “It was amazing! We’ve become a little family; everyone shares the same passion for the ocean, and we are here for the same reasons. I also learned so much just through having conversations with the other volunteers, interns and staff members here.”

What did you learn during your time at BCSS?

Giulia: “I’ve learned so many things during my time here. On a personal level I have learnt through this experience that if you have a passion for something, you should follow it! It doesn’t matter where your passion takes you in the future – even if it’s very far from home – if you’re doing what you like you will always be happy.”

“From a university internship perspective, I would say that university is very theoretical which can never fully prepare you for research in the field, plus of course university could not prepare me for scuba diving! Also, the identification of species during the sightings, I’ve studied many of them and also how to identify them but when you’re in the field it’s very different and is something that comes with experience. I have also learned a lot on data analysis during my time here thanks to Karen, which I’m sure will be really useful. Also, the knowledge I gained from university, such as being able to understand the YSI parameters, I was able to put into practice here.”

Hollie: “The list is endless! Coming from outside a marine background meant I was learning every day. From data collection techniques and methodologies to marine species identification, plus lots of very interesting facts too!”

“Coming from a non-marine science background meant I was learning every day”

What kind of job are you dreaming of working on as a Marine Scientist?

Giulia: “My goal is to firstly become a marine biologist and then go on to work in marine conservation. For my thesis I will study ecosystems as a whole, not just focusing on one animal, to understand how the ocean works from water molecules to the largest marine creatures. I’d also like to work in management and to help people understand how our lives depend on the ocean, even if you don’t live on a coastal city and improving the relationship between human activity and the health of the ocean.”

A final word from Hollie and Giulia

Giulia: “You should come here because you will never regret it! Every single day has been special, even during my first weeks when it was raining and we couldn’t go out to sea! Just being able to stay here you learn things that will stick with you for life. I also wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who works here, they have really made this experience amazing and unforgettable and a special thanks to Karen and Mauro because they’ve taught us so much and have been friends as well as leaders and it’s been inspiring to see how passionate they both are about their work here.” 

Hollie: “A huge thank you to the whole team at BCSS! From the skippers to the ladies in the kitchen, Karen and Mauro and everyone in-between. They’re an amazing team and everyone has been so welcoming – they’ve really made my time here even more special.”

We still have positions available for the end of this year and early next year. If you’re interested in volunteering or interning at our research station and Ocean Observatory on Benguerra Island, get in touch.

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