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Salt Water Stories with Finn van der Aar

At Damsons, we want to champion women who excel in their chosen fields and highlight the skills and passion that they pour into the world. These female pioneers are willing to try something new and set their own rules and we’re proud to shine a light on their stories...

In our first Pioneers article, we had the pleasure of interviewing Finn, a Marine Scientist, Author and Speaker. We’ve followed her on Instagram for a while and her love of connecting with nature, ethical living and her interesting career meant she had to be our first pioneer!


You've been selected as a Pioneer for Damsons - What's your definition of the word Pioneer?   

Definitely, someone who paves the way - like an explorer or someone paving the way in their field - it was meeting female environmental scientists at a university open day that made me realise that that was what I wanted to study.   


What made you want to start a career in Marine Biology and how has your work evolved? Tell us your story…  

Starting out it was two things really that brought me to earth & ocean science - my dad already had a keen interest in environmental issues (he was building an ecolodge at the time and running workshops on things like wind turbine construction) and wanted to work in the outdoors and at sea. During my undergrad, I worked as an aquarist in the Irish national aquarium and that’s where I really fell in love with learning about and working with marine animals, so then went on to a marine biology masters. Since then, I’ve worked in different roles that combine my marine and environmental backgrounds - from research at sea to working as a marine mammal observer in the marine construction industry.   


You work in a male-dominated industry, have you come across any difficulties and how did you overcome them?   

I did in the early days out of college, but I must say things have really improved. I think it’s frustrating that the way science (especially marine/environmental science) is portrayed as typically male-dominated in tv and movies, is very different from what I’ve personally experienced.

I’ve worked on many research teams that were 50% or more female staff, with female chief scientists and my undergrad supervisor was a woman too! Though it is definitely still more male-dominated in the industry sector (much fewer women when I’ve worked in marine construction).   

What three words best describes you?   

Grit. Playful. Optimistic. 

- Finn van der Aar

Who are your heroes / who inspires you?  

The freediver Kimi Werner has a wonderful TEDx talk and it was hearing her speak for the first time that helped me realise that it's possible to be more than just one thing (she’s a freediver, chef and artist).

At the time I was struggling to express the different parts of me and the different ways I wanted my career to go. I’d never thought of combining it all together. Since hearing her words I’m happy to say I’ve managed to flow between my different interests depending on what calls at the time - from working in marine construction and conservation to opening a sustainable bakery and publishing a cookbook!  

"We don’t have to squeeze into just one version of ourselves"

In your work, what values do you cherish the most?   

Good teamwork. Though I’ve technically been self-employed for the last 7 years, I truly believe all the most rewarding things I’ve done have been completed as part of a team!

When I wrote my first book I worked with an amazing team of editors, graphic designers and photographers, to hosting on the podcast with the production team and all the amazing guests. And then most clearly is something like a wildlife rescue - seals or seabirds - in my marine work.

It’s physically impossible for me to do it alone and it's usually a team, or possibly even volunteers, working together tirelessly in rough conditions to make it happen. 

What do you do when you hit a creative block?  

Pivot. I don’t like to feel like I’m plugging away at something that’s not working. I like to take a step back and try to look at (whatever it is) from a different perspective. If that doesn’t work I’ll move on to something less creative (yes even as boring as doing taxes!) and come back to it again later.

I find getting something else accomplished gives me a sense of achievement and renewed energy to get back to my more creative work.   


How do you express your individuality within your style?  

I think the way I dress is fairly paired back. I love well-cut denim, simple t-shirts with no slogans and a nice leather jacket!

I guess my individuality comes out in little things - simple shell jewellery that shows my connection to the sea or my beloved (and a bit battered) vintage cowboy boots, a love letter to my passion for country music!   


What is your favourite piece from the Damsons collection?   

Hands down it's the Hanten Quilted Jacket. It’s such a versatile piece - I love that it’s reversible (so basically two jackets!) and that it can be your jacket in summer, but also layered up all year round. Picking up unique wardrobe pieces is one of my favourite things to bring home from my travels, so I also think it's very cool that it’s inspired by haori jackets from Japan.   

What are your tricks for boosting confidence?   

I think to myself, “sure I’ll just give it a go”. Some of the best things I’ve done in my life were things I didn’t feel fully ready for - from surfing new spots I was nervous about, to travelling solo or publishing my first book. By approaching it from a more playful angle I feel it takes the pressure off and means you’re less likely to be self-critical (and therefore more confident!).   

What is your favourite Album, Artist or Spotify Playlist?   

The album Nachtdieren by Jules FK. My husband is Dutch and I’ve found one of the most wonderful ways to pick up the language is through music. This is actually a friend of ours who currently lives in Amsterdam, but moving to Ireland. I love that each song is a story!  


Any recommendations on the best podcast to listen to?   

Well, shameless plug on this one, but I was so proud to host the Oceans of Learning Podcast with Ireland’s Marine Institute.

I got to chat with so many amazing researchers, policymakers and naval officers (even Ireland's first female commander and first navy diver) taking massive strides in their respective fields. A great listen if you are interested in marine and climate science! 

Shop Finn's Look

Damsons Hanten Quilted Jacket IndigoDamsons Hanten Quilted Jacket Indigo


Damsons Hanten Quilted Jacket Indigo

Damsons The Work Pant TanDamsons The Work Pant Tan


Damsons The Work Pant Tan

Damsons Rock T-Shirt Dusty BlueDamsons Rock T-Shirt Dusty Blue


Damsons Rock T-Shirt Dusty Blue


If you've enjoyed this blog post don't forget to share it on your socials!

Stay up to date with Finn on her Instagram @saltwaterstories.me

and check out her podcast Oceans of Learning

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