A LOVE of wildlife and scuba diving have seen a De Aston student became a marine medic.
Having passed her British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) Ocean Diver course at the age of 13, Poppy Smith decided to follow her passion for wildlife.
The 14-year-old travelled to Sunderland for her medic course, which will now see her part of the network of trained and professional Marine Mammal Medics who respond to call outs from the general public, HM Coastguard, Police and RSPCA – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
After a morning of theoretical elements – the anatomy and behaviours of marine mammals, rescue and care techniques, dealing with the general public and emergency services – the afternoon was a practical session on the beach, which included re-floating a stranded dolphin and whale.
These were actually extremely lifelike water-filled models, and some members of the public even went down to have a look at the stranded mammals.
“I’ll never forget the dread that filled me when I was told to tow a two-tonne whale model further into the sea by myself,” said Poppy.
“This was to prove that if the youngest and smallest person on the course could move the replica whale then anyone could!
“Despite being up to my neck in the freezing North Sea, training to become a Marine Mammal Medic was one of the most amazing, thrilling and unforgettable things I have ever done.
“I’m looking forward to helping the other volunteers if a whale, dolphin or seal is ever stranded in our area.”
Poppy is now keen to progress to qualifying as a BSAC Sport Diver and to gain as much experience from marine mammal rescues as possible to help her achieve her ultimate goal of becoming a Marine Biologist.