What’s it like to Volunteer at the NLH! – Elsa Domoney tells her story!

Meet Elsa Domoney!

This week we caught up with one of our past volunteers and incredible work colleagues Elsa, to find out what it was like to volunteer at the National Lobster Hatchery (NLH) and to see where she is now! Elsa worked so hard when she was here, starting as a volunteer hatchery technician to becoming a full time member of our research team for our Lobster Grower 2 project! We want to say a huge thank you to Elsa for all her work over the time she was with us, she was an amazing asset to the team and we're excited to learn more about what she's up to now! So, let's hear more about Elsa's Story!

Tell us a little bit about your time volunteering at the National Lobster Hatchery -

I joined the National Lobster Hatchery (NLH) in summer 2017 as a volunteer hatchery technician keen to learn more about the charity and to apply my interests in aquaculture and fisheries sustainability. During my time volunteering, I learned about lobster biology (e.g. life cycle, physiology, conservation status) and strengthened my experience of maintaining life support systems whilst helping with the day to day running of the hatchery. After a year of part-time volunteering, I obtained a full-time research assistant position working on NLH’s Lobster Grower 2 project. My role within the research team primarily focussed on planning, conducting and analysing scientific trials assessing potential ongrowing techniques of hatchery reared juveniles in sea-based containers on a local mussel farm. This fed into the project aim to assess the viability of the European lobster (Homarus gammarus) as a novel aquaculture species.

What are you doing now and what does your work involve?

I am now working as a Fish Health Inspector at Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas)
After my contract working on the Lobster Grower 2 project finished, I went on to study for a masters in Sustainable Aquaculture Systems at the University of Plymouth. Soon after finishing, I started working in my current role as a Fish Health Inspector within the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) at Cefas, Weymouth. The FHI is responsible for maintaining the high aquatic animal health status of both wild and aquaculture reared finfish, molluscs and crustaceans across England and Wales. This is achieved through surveillance programs of notifiable diseases, legislative compliance inspections and disease investigations following observed clinical signs of disease or unexpected mortality events.
I am also involved in trade controls of live fish from a disease perspective, including import sampling and producing health certificate declarations for live fish exports. My role also involves enforcement work where legislation has been breached, working on behalf of the Veterinary Medicine Directorate examining use of medicines and controlled substances, and working to develop and authorise new aquaculture enterprises both in the UK and overseas.

What skills did you gain from volunteering at NLH and how have they helped you get where you are today?

Having hands-on industry experience in the aquaculture sector has been invaluable in terms of understanding the aquaculture facilities I inspect, as well as how to communicate and build rapports with fish farmers during site visits. Maintaining production systems, implementing appropriate biosecurity measures and good husbandry techniques are key to disease prevention in all aquaculture systems. These were all areas I gained an understanding of whilst at NLH and I find myself discussing and advising on these areas in my current job. I now enjoy working with a variety of species from Brown trout to European oysters but staying true to my lobster roots, I am looking forward to taking on more responsibility in the FHI’s crustacean work – particularly exciting as it’s a relatively new and expanding sector of UK aquaculture!

Once again a huge thank you to Elsa for all her hard work and we are so proud of her to move on into such a fantastic position with Cefas! It really goes to show how wonderful volunteering can be as a gateway into the industry, and with hard work and dedication, it can help you work towards your dreams! Good luck for the future Elsa!

Finally, if you have felt inspired by Elsa's story and would like to have a go volunteering, be sure to check our Volunteering page on a regular basis for positions and opportunities!