International Day of Women and Girls in Science

To mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, we are shining a spotlight on some of our dedicated female employees who use science in their day-to-day activities and have thrived in their roles at Cooke Scotland. This annual event is an opportunity to recognise the critical role women and girls play in science and technology and to promote full and equal access to science. Diversity in research expands the pool of talented researchers, bringing in fresh perspectives, talent and creativity.

As an equal opportunities employer, we firmly believe in appointing the best candidate into the role, regardless of their gender. We employ around 380 people across around 40 salmon farms in Orkney and Shetland, several freshwater hatcheries in Scotland and the north of England, and various office sites throughout the UK.

To learn more about what career opportunities we have on offer, visit our Careers Page.








Name: Rhona Robertson
Job Title: Lab Co-ordinator

How did you become a Lab Co-ordinator with Cooke Scotland?

After graduating with a degree in Biological Sciences from Glasgow Caledonian University, I worked for several years gaining skills and experience working for a contract research company in Stirling. I started working for Cooke Scotland in April 2014.

What are some of your typical duties?

Day-to-day I am scheduling and running Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests in the lab and doing site visits to perform health checks on our freshwater farms.

I have also taken part in school visits to educate pupils and I recently went to the Inveraray Primary School which is local to where our lab is. The class were already starting to look at inherited genetics and the teacher reached out to ask if I could help them with an introduction to DNA.

What would you say to any of the female students hoping to pursue a career in a science-based profession?

Go for it!

When did you know you wanted to be a Lab Co-ordinator and why? What inspired you?

Not a Lab Co-ordinator as such but I wanted to do hands-on work in a laboratory of some description. I loved biology at school. My former biology teacher – Mrs Maisie – probably did more than most to nurture an interest in science and encourage me to pursue a science-based career.

What are the best or most rewarding parts of your job?

I enjoy setting up and validating new assays to be used as a tool for our health team. I also like getting out and about on the freshwater farms to see the fish and building good relationships with farm staff and managers.

Are there certain skills or characteristics that a Lab Co-ordinator must have?

A Lab Co-ordinator should be able to work independently and with others. Being organised is essential in this role as well as having good time management. You need to be up for testing and trying different methods and techniques, as well as looking into new innovative technologies.

Name: Sarah Cowie
Job Title: Fish Health Assistant

How did you become a Fish Health Assistant with Cooke Scotland?

I started working in aquaculture in 2019 as a site assistant with no previous experience in the sector. I decided to apply because I love to work outdoors, enjoy being on the sea and I’m passionate about animal welfare. Part of my job as a site assistant was to train to be the fish health specialist for the specific site. This included learning about plankton and zooplankton. I really enjoyed the fish health side of my job and wanted to expand my knowledge within fish health so I started working for Cooke Scotland in April 2023 and now I cover all of the sites in the Orkney region along with my manager.

What are some of your typical duties?

I carry out regular visits to all of our Orkney sea sites to check the health and welfare of our stock. I take fish health samples when required, carry out regular water sampling to look for phytoplankton and zooplankton around our sites and I report everything to the Fish Health managers.

When did you know you wanted to be a Fish Health Assistant and why? What inspired you?

I don’t think it was very long after I started in the industry that I knew I wanted to be a part of fish health full-time. I found it very interesting. For me, the welfare of the fish is the most important aspect of the job and I wanted to be part of ensuring the fish have the best quality of life in a growing and sustainable industry whilst learning on the job.

What are the best or most rewarding parts of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job would be that I help our team to ensure our fish have the highest quality of life. Knowing that what we do is part of one of the most sustainable ways of farming is a great feeling. I get to work with a supportive and friendly team who are very knowledgeable and I also get to travel to different islands every week where I sometimes get to see lots of wildlife whilst out on the water.

Are there certain skills or characteristics that a Fish Health Assistant must have?

Good communication is a key skill that a Fish Health Assistant should have as well as being able to work well with others. We work in a small team but also work closely with site teams. Being sympathetic and caring about the welfare of animals is another key characteristic of a person in this profession. You have to be willing to work outdoors and at sea as the majority of the job includes going out to sea sites on small work boats all year round. Being keen to learn new things is also important, as there is always new research going on and lots to learn.

Name: Stephanie Sinclair
Job Title: Environmental Officer

How did you become an Environmental Officer with Cooke Scotland?

In 2021, I got a job as a technician at a hatchery in Shetland, while studying a part-time Open University degree in Environmental Science. I had no aquaculture experience when I started but got all the training I needed on the job and my employer was supportive of my interest in the scientific aspects of the hatchery, like water quality and fish health. Eighteen  months later, I got the opportunity for a 12-month secondment to the Environment team which I gladly took, and which gave me the experience needed to be successful in my application to be a permanent Environmental Officer at Cooke Scotland.

What are some of your typical duties?

The main part of my job is to carry out seabed surveys – taking sediment samples to make sure that our farms are complying with environmental regulations. I also carry out surveys with specialised equipment to measure ocean currents and waves and spend time in the office analysing data and working on other exciting projects.

When did you know you wanted to be an Environmental Officer and why? What inspired you?

I was drawn to an environmental career because it feels important in the face of everything going on in the world today. At the start, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, but around the same time I started my Environmental Science degree, I saw an environment role advertised by an aquaculture company and realised there was a potential career there. I have always been interested in the marine environment, so becoming an Environmental Officer in aquaculture seemed like a great way to combine my passion and skills.

What are the best or most rewarding parts of your job?

I’ve been lucky enough to see whales and dolphins many times while out surveying, which is always an amazing experience. The balance of field and office work is also satisfying and keeps things interesting – being out on a survey in the summer hardly feels like work at all – but of course, surveys also happen in winter!

Are there certain skills or characteristics that an Environmental Officer must have?

An Environmental Officer must have a keen eye for detail and be very organised. Preparation and accurate record-keeping are key to success in survey work. Good computer skills are desirable in any scientific field, and some knowledge of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) goes a long way in my role.

What advice would you give women looking to start a career in the aquaculture sector, or progress their existing career?

My advice would be to just apply for a role that interests you. Aquaculture is a global industry with a wide range of required skills from science and engineering to IT, finance, and farming – there is something for everyone. In my experience, there’s a lot of flexibility to get involved in the things that interest you and there are always opportunities to pick up skills and knowledge that you can use to progress your career.