My Weekend: Snorkelling is my favourite hobby... I love all things outdoors

Shazia Waheed is a marine biologist at the Lifetime Lab in Cork, here she features in our My Weekend Series. Shazia will be taking part in the Cork Science Festival
My Weekend: Snorkelling is my favourite hobby... I love all things outdoors

Pictured at the launch of Cork Science Festival is Shazia Waheed, Marine Biologist at the Lifetime Lab in Cork. Picture: Clare Keogh

TELL us about yourself:

I was born in Cork and grew up in the outskirts of the city. I have one brother and we shared much of our childhood with a number of beloved pets, especially our cat Sooty and goldfish Benji.

My love of all things outdoors gave me the foundation to complete a degree in Zoology at UCC, which led on to a masters in marine biology.

I built up a lot of teaching and fieldwork experience which led to my role with the primary science and maths team at Lifetime Lab based at Old Cork Waterworks Experience.

I’ve been there about four years now and one of the things I like most is that there is something new each season — different workshops to deliver, fun science festivals to be involved in and we’re always engaging with new people.

Currently, we have converted our Explorers marine science program to be delivered online. I’m really excited to be using new platforms to deliver primary science workshops to classrooms all over Cork city and county.We can still be in front of the students and encourage interest and uptake in STEM in the future. We are also looking forward to the Cork Science Festival which takes place at the start of November.

How do you spend Friday nights?

At the moment I prefer to relax and watch some tv, usually documentaries or a good film, and I’m typically joined on the couch by the neighbour’s cat (after four years we still don’t know who he belongs to!). When the evenings are bright, I prefer a quiet walk in the countryside.

Recently, I’ve been spending quite a few evenings birdwatching at Harper’s Island Wetlands in Glountaune. It’s a really tranquil spot to just sit, watch and listen to nature and has the added benefit of shelter from the elements in the hides.

Lie ins or Up with the Lark?

I like to lie in on a day off, although I often tend to wake around 9am.

Does work creep into your weekend?

Yes you could say it does. If I’m not delivering workshops I can be found by the seashore recording new footage, collecting seashells and other specimens. Any chance I get I’m gathering information and exploring our seashores. It’s the stuff you find by accident that tends to be the most interesting for sharing with our future ocean champions.

My roster changes throughout the year and even week to week and I often work weekends either as a tour guide at the Old Cork Waterworks Experience or when there is a science festival happening. I don’t mind though as I enjoy the work and I’m looking forward to Cork Science Festival which is coming up soon.

Where would you like to go on a weekend/city break?

I’m not really into city breaks but if I were to choose somewhere I think it would be Venice as I would love the novelty of getting around by boat, and to admire the beautiful architecture too of course. I would therefore have to bring my mom as she loves Italy and all its history but hasn’t been to that part of it yet.

Closer to home where do you like to go?

One of my favourite places to go is the marine reserve at Lough Hyne in Skibbereen. The snorkelling is amazing there with so much diversity in clear and calm water. I’m hoping to get down there again before the winter sets in. Last time I spotted two grey triggerfish, an unusual looking species more often associated with warmer waters further south.

Do you catch up with family and friends at the weekend?

Most of my college friends are living abroad now, but I am fortunate that one of my school friends lives just down the road from me. We regularly meet for coffee but more often go for a drive and find somewhere nice to go for a scenic walk and a picnic.

Hobbies:

Snorkelling is definitely my favourite hobby. I did learn to SCUBA dive in my late teens but I find it is very expensive and takes a lot of organising beforehand. I really enjoy the freedom of snorkelling and the great thing about that is you can access more secluded coastal locations to explore that you can’t while diving. Just recently I have started using a weightbelt so I can try “snorkel diving” and though I can only breath hold for a minute at best, it allows me to regularly see species I had only seen while diving before, like lobsters, sea cucumbers and conger eels to name a few. I’m a keen amateur photographer too, so I always have a camera on hand, whether it’s my Panasonic Lumix bridge camera or waterproof compact camera.

Do you like to entertain or be entertained?

I’m not the best cook to be honest, so it has to be the latter! I’m not a fussy eater either and am more of a takeaway person, I only tend to eat out when on holiday. I do like a good film or two though.

Where do you like to eat out in Cork?

I have always loved the O’Conaill chocolate shop, they definitely make the best hot chocolates. Myself and my friends have a tradition of meeting there on St Patrick’s Day each year.

Other than that, as I mentioned I don’t eat out much, but Cafe Mexicana has lovely food and a great atmosphere.

How do you spend Sunday night?

I spend it much the same as a Friday night, relaxing and watching tv or going for a walk, even after dark with my headtorch to have a look for the local hedgehog and fox when the weather is nice.

What time does your alarm go off on a Monday morning?

7.20am.

Shazia will be taking part in the Cork Science Festival which runs from November 8 to 14.

For more information on all Cork Science Festival events available see: www.CorkScienceFestival.ie

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