Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Brian Macken from Smart Futures to give some advice for people considering this job:

Brian Macken

Science Communicator

Smart Futures

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Brian Macken

I would strongly advise you to do the Masters in Science Communication in DCU. It really gives you a feel for the different kinds of media and ways of explaining things. And it's a good place to make contacts, which is also useful.

I would also recommend that you read science books. Not textbooks, good popular science books are just as useful for this kind of work, as it's already been broken down into simpler language for you. And only read the ones that you're interested in - it shouldn't be a chore to read them.

But I would recommend reading outside your subject area, so if you're into physics, then read some books on biology and vice versa (everyone should read Stephen J. Gould).  However, the more knowledge you have, the more questions you'll be able to answer.

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The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with clever technology. They will often follow the latest developments in their chosen field, and prefer mentally stimulating environments.
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Dr. Darach Lupton - Botanist

Dr Darach Lupton talks to Smart Futures about his career as the senior botanist at Oman Botanic Gardens.

Oman, an Arab country about twice the size of Ireland, lies on the coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Dr Lupton, a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, is helping to train a team of Omani staff and is leading trips into the Omani wilderness to collect seeds and cuttings for the new gardens.

How did you end up working in Oman?

I was working as a botanist in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin, when I saw a job advertised on the Botanic Gardens Conservation International website. I emailed the director with a cover letter and CV and within a week I got offered the job.

What are the plans for these botanic gardens?

It will be about 430 hectares [compared to 50 hectares in Glasnevin] and will display plants native to Oman. We will build enormous biomes to recreate the habitats in different parts of the country such as the temporary cloud forests of the southern Dhofar region and the high northern mountains. Oman is not all Arabian desert then? Most plant diversity is in Dhofar. It’s on the fringe of the Indian monsoon and the entire area becomes green very quickly in June. The mountains in the north have juniper and olive woodlands at high altitude, and almond, pomegranate and other fruit trees on the agricultural terraces.

What are the some challenges you face?

We’ve found a lot of the common plants, but now we must try to find rarer species. It can be challenging work in the intense summer temperatures, which can touch 50 degrees Celsius. It’s also a challenge to grow plants that have never been collected before.

What counts as success?

We went on a field trip a few weeks ago with a target list of 10 species to collect. We took cuttings and sent them 10 hours back to Muscat [Oman’s capital] in freezer boxes. We ended up with half a dozen boxes, but also two species never found before.

How did you get interested in botany?

I didn’t do botany after school. I travelled and worked in places like Holland. While there, I worked in a massive greenhouse for cut flowers and got interested in growing techniques. When I came home I studied horticulture in Glasnevin before realising I was more interested in the science.I enrolled in science in Trinity as an undergrad and went on to complete a PhD in the botany department there. I also gained some botanic garden experience from Jordan in 2008.

Are there jobs for botanists?

I gave a lecture in Trinity’s botany department last October. It was great to go back and let them know about the opportunities available. My experience is that there are plenty of employment opportunities in botany. More so outside Ireland right now, in places like Australia and Canada, which also offer huge potential.

Article by: Smart Futures