Sea life centre marine biologist’s living the underwater dream
- Credit: Archant
His 'day at the office' can involve swimming with sharks and cleaning inside a piranha tank.
But it is a dream job for a man whose passion for the underwater world was fired as a small boy watching the movie Jaws.
Darren 'Daz' Gook, 32, is a senior marine biologist at the Sea Life Centre in Great Yarmouth and the job has given him the opportunity to have some amazing experiences.
This summer, he spent a week in the Maldives as part of a crew tackling the problem of reef loss through 'coral bleaching' – the phenomenon, also affecting Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Despite it being an idyllic setting, he spent the time 'in a tent, on an uninhabited island, during the worst rain for 10 years.'
The work involved snorkel surveys of man-made metal and resin frames being sunk to replace the stricken reef, and trialling new sustainable ways of fish harvesting in a drive to stop locals damaging stocks using cyanide and dynamite to stun shoals.
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He said: 'It was a real highlight and next year we are adding a Maldives-themed tank at our centre to explain the threats to reefs and Sea Life's role in helping protect them. And I will be on hand to talk to visitors about it.'
Mr Gook gained a degree in marine biology in 2005 and started out as an aquarist (fish keeper).
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He has risen to head the team in a job that has also seen him help rescue stranded seals on the nearby sands, dash to help the storm-ravaged sister centre at Hunstanton, as well as the trip to the Maldives.
His jobs also involve feeding fish to the penguins, putting plankton food into the jellyfish tanks, catching and weighing West African dwarf crocodiles and stepping into the piranha tank for cleaning duties knowing he will not be eaten alive as the group is not big enough.
'It is not a 9 to 5 job. Every day is different. And it can be hard – when the creatures you care for die – but it is so rewarding,' he said.
Film footage showing Darren's role is available on the Great Yarmouth tourism website www.great-yarmouth.co.uk under the media centre and behind the scenes film sections.