Graduation success for Biosciences student Will Kay

Patagonia, penguins, and pioneering research: Tracking marine biologist William’s successful ascent

Will Kay graduation successIt was a day of celebration (Friday, July 12) for 21-year-old William Kay, who received a First Class BSc (Hons) Marine Biology degree from Swansea University.

William, from Penrhyn Isaf Road, Penrhyn Bay, Llandudno, received his degree at a Degree and Award Congregation for the University’s College of Science, held in the City and County of Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall, Guildhall, cheered on by his very proud parents, mum Shelley and dad Frank.

In 2012, during the final year of his studies, William was selected to take part in the Global Graduate Challenges programme, run by Swansea Employability Academy at the University, which aim to take students out of their comfort zone and give them an experience that would challenge them on a life-changing scale. The awards are given to students who show the highest level of motivation, passion and interest in their chosen degree.

Winning the award enabled William to further his research for his final year dissertation into animal movement during a month-long research trip to Peninsula Valdes in Patagonia, Argentina, with staff from Swansea University’s Swansea Laboratory for Animal Movement (SLAM) research centre.

William, a former pupil of Ysgol Bryn Elian in Colwyn Bay, said: “I got a ‘hands on’ experience with real life research and worked with some of the most impressive animals on the planet, including imperial cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) and magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus). I was able to work in the same way researchers did, while having the privilege to learn and work alongside them.

“The fieldwork gave me the opportunity to tag animals with Daily Diary devices, developed within Swansea University’s Biosciences Department. This involved attaching electronic tracking devices to the study animals’ backs in order to then study their movements with GPS and barometric pressure analysis, whilst monitoring the environmental conditions.

“Learning about the statistical analysis that goes behind it all and tracking the animal’s dive – distinguishing between which part is the ascent, descent and bottom phases – was truly remarkable.”

William also made the most of his spare time as a student at Swansea – he was Diving Officer for Swansea University’s Sub Aqua Club (SUSAC); a Bioscience Ambassador in the College of Science, where he spoke to potential students at open days and visit days about studying on the Bioscience degree scheme; the Undergraduate Representative for all College of Science undergraduate students; and a member of the UK's Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

"My time at Swansea University has been truly momentous and the best three years of my life,” added William.

“My Marine Biology degree has been everything I had hoped for and more; I have developed extensive knowledge in a wide variety of areas in the subject, and I have also acquired a wide range of practical marine skills, through the field courses I have undertaken locally, and whilst during my research trip to Patagonia.

“During my time at Swansea I also had the opportunity to get involved in numerous sports and other activities outside of my degree work. And my involvement with Swansea University Sub Aqua Club allowed me to SCUBA dive all over the UK – something which is particularly important to me, considering my degree.”

William’s graduation marks the successful completion of his undergraduate studies, which he completed in June. But he has not left the moss grow under his feet in the meantime!

Only last week he returned from Mingulay, an uninhabited island in the Outer Hebrides, where he undertook seabird research for the National Trust for Scotland, and he is now working as crew and a marine guide for Gower Coast Adventures in Mumbles, as part of a Go Wales placement scheme.

William hopes to return to Swansea University this September, to undertake a postgraduate course, an MSc by Research in Animal Movement Science, which will involve examining seal movement data, under the supervision of Professor Rory Wilson, Head of the Department of Biosciences in the College of Science, who leads the work of the SLAM research team.

He also recently became President of the newly-established Marine Biology Society at Swansea University, for which he has ambitious plans – so watch this space!

Story by Bethan Evans - Public Relations