Staff Spotlight: Tessa Dawson

Volunteer Coordinator


Tess was passionate about wildlife and conservation from a young age and always knew that she wanted to be involved in this field in some way. Following a BSc Degree in Animal Behaviour, she worked as a research assistant for a number of years before transitioning into communications and administrative roles within the conservation sector. Tess joined CCC in 2014 and loves the opportunity it offers to help people gain skills and take action for conservation.

What is your favorite travel memory?

I worked as a research assistant for a project in Australia, Brisbane, studying the mating rituals of Bower Birds. Much of the study relied on the use of cameras, as each assistant had their own route and multiple study subjects, and the male birds were rarely seen during bower checks.

I was in my hide and happened to catch a male bower bird performing for a female for the first time. The bower bird courtship display is very elaborate, and I'm sure to a female bird it's very attractive, but for us it is just very funny to watch. It involves lots of whirring, almost mechanical noises, and stunted up and down movements, like the most jerky, uncomfortable dance that can be imagined. A moment that should have been a beautiful real-life Attenborough-like encounter just had me in fits of giggles trying not to make a noise so as not to interrupt the dance. It still makes me smile when I think of it now.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I hope that I have become much more aware and knowledgeable of marine conservation issues. I had only worked with cetaceans previously and therefore did not have much experience of coral reefs or marine management practices. Although my role is very much administrative and logistical, I love being in a scientific atmosphere, having marine biologists as colleagues make for a really stimulating environment and having the opportunity to share that passion on social media is awesome.

Working in marine biology every day, you become so much more aware of your own footprint on the planet, particularly plastics. I'm pretty certain that I would not be such a recycling advocate if I wasn't working here.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Our Philippines house reef is absolutely beautiful and offers some fantastic night diving. Apparently one of our staff was next to a volunteer when they surfaced. He was a burly man, not given to emotional demonstrations, but surfaced almost in tears saying that the luminescence in the water 'made me feel like a Disney princess'. Best response ever!

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Ah, this is a little hard as we currently only have the one site. However, I have been with CCC through 3 sites in total and I would still choose the Philippines. The house reef is awesome (offering coral cover much higher than is standard for the region), the expedition site is in the middle of nowhere and the community is welcoming. The biodiversity is also high so there is lots to learn; as a proud nerd, it's perfect for me!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

We are invited to undertake our work by communities and local governments, so we always know that we are wanted and needed. The data that our volunteers collect is genuinely vital for the conservation work that we do. Each time that our data is used to create a Marine Protected Area, or is used in an external study, or is incorporated into a region or global-wide policy, this makes me proud.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Staying true to the mission statement. It's really important to take stock regularly and ensure that the work that we are doing at Head Office, plus that our volunteers, staff and scholars efforts on the ground, are having a genuine positive impact. Improving the lives of local communities on a short and long term basis.