MSc Graduate in Focus: Phil Doherty

This year we are launching a new MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation and applications are open now for 2020 start. We are looking back on some of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine vertebrate ecology and conservation around the world since studying with us.

Today we meet Phil Doherty, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2011) and now a Post Doctoral Research Associate with the University of Exeter!

 

Hi Phil! First off, why don’t you tell us what you are up to now and how you got there?

Upon finishing my MSc I was offered a short-term contract (3 months) in Penryn as a field assistant analysing video data captured from Baited Remote Underwater Videos (BRUVs) at renewable energy testing sites. This turned into a longer contract (18 months) continuing to develop methodology and analysis of the BRUV project. During this time I was part of applying for funding with the Scottish Government to satellite track basking sharks with the aim of designating a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Scottish waters. This bid was successful and became my PhD. I completed my PhD in 2017 and worked short-term on a few ongoing projects within the wider ExeterMarine group as a research assistant before acquiring my current postdoctoral position. I have been very lucky in being given the chance to work on a wide range of projects and to be supported in roles within the research group.

It’s lovely to have you with us! What do you enjoy most about studying and working with us at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus?

The location itself is a massive draw. The campus and surrounding towns are very close to many beautiful beaches. I think the fact that the CEC is actively involved in cutting edge research is a huge plus in terms of conducting a masters within the department. This access to research groups and data makes for exciting projects from which to write your thesis. It can also provide opportunities to work on real data that may contribute to ongoing research projects on the whole. For me this was the best part of my MSc, conducting fieldwork with a NGO.

I was looking to broaden my skillset, but also be exposed to academic research. I was unsure of the exact route I wanted to take in the sector and so experience in different facets of research and research groups, NGO’s, consultancies etc. sounded like a good opportunity to find out which aspects suited me to pursue further.

The staff’s openness and willingness to engage and help throughout the course was great, it felt like they cared and wanted you to succeed. The fieldcourse to Kenya was an obvious highlight. It was great to learn about current conservation issues and how those working in the field are attempting to manage and mitigate these issues.

How did the MSc help you in your career, and do you have any advice for students looking to pursue a similar career?

It turns out research was the element I enjoyed most, and so the time to be able to conduct a thesis was the highlight of the course for me, but also the part which best set me up to pursue the next phase of my career. I was lucky enough to get a position with a NGO working on various aspects of applied marine conservation. Using a long-term dataset and ground-truthing results in the field provided me with many skills in which I would need to progress.

I chose to pursue applied marine ecology and conservation as a career as I’ve always been fascinated with the ocean and the animals living within it – especially when and where animals move to/from. I also feel the knowledge gained on species should be used to some extent to help update or inform other knowledge gaps and this is a great avenue for that.

 

Finally, Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of applying to any of our programmes at the University of Exeter?

I would think about what you would like to get out of obtaining a masters, and how it might shape the next move you make. Do some research, contact members of staff to enquire about ongoing research and opportunities. Treat it like a job and make the most of the expertise and experience on offer.

 

Thanks Phil!

You can see what Phil gets up to at the University of Exeter at his Profile and you can follow him on Twitter!

If you want to find out more about any of our suite of #ExeterMarine Masters and Undergraduate courses use the links below!

MSc Graduate in Focus: Sarah Nelms

This year we are launching a new MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation and applications are open now for 2020 start. We are looking back on some of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine vertebrate ecology and conservation around the world since studying with us.

Today we meet Sarah Nelms, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2014) and now a Post Doctoral Research Associate with the University of Exeter!

Sarah Nelms in Svalbard during her PhD Credit: Rachel Coppock

Hi Sarah! First off, why don’t you tell us what you are up to now and how you got there?

After completing my MSc I immediately began a graduate role with my master’s thesis supervisor which then led to me getting a PhD scholarship at Plymouth Marine Lab and University of Exeter. Upon completing my PhD earlier this year, I was offered a postdoc position back the UoE Penryn campus.

 

It’s lovely to have you back with us! What do you enjoy most about studying and working with us at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus?

I loved everything about studying in Cornwall! The campus is beautiful and Falmouth and the surrounding areas are friendly and relaxed. The beaches and countryside are fantastic for an outdoorsy person like myself. The department is very welcoming and I felt like a member of a community that celebrates the achievements of staff and students alike.

The small and friendly campus is what makes UoE Penryn so special. It’s easy to meet people and connect and there are plenty of spots around campus to inspire you.

A Microplastics Survey, Credit: Emily Duncan

How did the MSc help you in your career, and do you have any advice for students looking to pursue a similar career?

One of the most important things I gained during the MSc was confidence. The support I received was hugely influential in helping me realise my potential as a scientist and I thrived in that environmentThe network of friends and peers I was able to build has also benefitted me since finishing my course. 

Additionally, the practical skills I learnt during the MSc, such as science communication, statistical analysis, time-management, were essential during my PhD.

I’d advise anyone looking to follow a career in academia to gain as much practical experience as possible and try lots of things so you can make an informed decision about what direction you want to head in.

Finally, Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of applying to any of our programmes at the University of Exeter?

Work really hard but take quality time off, meet lots of people, be organized and enjoy it!

You won’t regret it! 

Thanks Sarah!

Analysing seal scat for microplastics

If you want to find out more about any of our suite of #ExeterMarine Masters and Undergraduate courses use the links below!

The Underwater Film Festival comes to Falmouth and ExeterMarine Photo Competition!

We are super excited to announce that the Underwater Film Festival is coming to the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus! To celebrate here at ExeterMarine, we have decided to launch a photography competition!

On Friday 22nd November, together with Fourth Element, Falmouth University and the University of Exeter, we will host the Underwater Film Festival at the Penryn Campus. Doors open from 7.30pm. So clear your diaries and come and spend an evening with us delving in to the wonderful underwater world with some awe inspiring films. Be swept away, be inspired by the stories told, and be immersed in a world beneath the surface. Featuring films from greats such as Kelvin Murray, Shark Bay Films, Behind the Mask and Howard Hall as well as shorts made by students and recent graduates of both the University of Exeter and Falmouth University, it surely a night not to be missed! You can grab your tickets here, tickets start at just £5!

We will also be announcing the winners of our photography competition at the event! Prizes kindly donated by Fourth Element are as follows:

1st Place: £250 Fourth Element Voucher
1st Runner Up: £100 Fourth Element Voucher
2nd Runner Up: £50 Fourth Element Voucher

The competition is open to everyone to showcase the wonderful coastal and marine worlds here in Cornwall and Devon, but be quick! You only have 2 weeks to send us your submissions as applications will close at 23:59 on Sunday 17th November.  We are looking for images that showcase the beautiful maritime landscapes, wonderful marine wildlife, awesome underwater worlds and the diverse people that depend on the coastal and marine world in Cornwall and Devon. Everyone is welcome to submit up to two photographs to the competition. We will showcase all entries on the ExeterMarine Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds and all entries will be shown at the Underwater Film Festival on Friday 22nd November. So what are you waiting for? Submit your images here!

We look forward to seeing all of your brilliant entries and we’ll see you at the Underwater Film Festival on Friday 22nd November!

 

MSc Graduate in Focus: Ana Veiga

This year we are launching a new MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation and applications are open now for 2020 start. We are looking back on some of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine vertebrate ecology and conservation around the world since studying with us.

Today we meet Ana Veiga, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2009) and now Vice President of NGO Lantuna and coordinating a seabird project with BirdLife International in Cabo Verde!

Hi Ana! First off, why don’t you tell us a bit about what you have been up to since studying your MSc with us in 2009?

After graduating from Exeter, I came back to Cabo Verde and worked during six years at the National Directorate of Environment. My role was to follow up the management plans of protected areas and species conservation, I was also the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Political Focal Point and Ramsar Convention Focal Point. Since I did noonly want to work in the office, I left the government and founded an NGO called LantunaI have been implementing biodiversity conservation projects in Cabo Verde and I also do consultancies services. At the present, I am coordinating the Cabo Verde seabirds project for BirdLife International. 

 

Such amazing work! How do you think the MSc helped to prepare you for your career?

It was a key milestone in my career to broaden my view on biodiversity conservation and ecotourism. It also encouraged me to return to my country (after living 7 years in Europe) to contribute on biodiversity conservation. The conservation action planning skills gained through several subjects of the MSc Conservation and Biodiversity helped prepare me for a career in conservation project management. The program allowed me to have a cross-sectional view on conservation actions. 

The lecturers were very dynamic and the several field trips allowed students to gain a significant experience. The University support for overseas students (e.g, English class, support in english correction for the essays, etc) was very useful. 

The University offers a diversity of study programsexcellent campus facilities and continuous innovation. 

What are you plans for the future?

I chose this path due to my passion for the environment. What I most enjoy in my work is the opportunity to improve communities’ life through sustainable conservation practices.  My plans are to make Lantuna grow and keep implementing biodiversity conservation projects in Cabo Verde. I am working to promote the legalization of more protected areas. I would also like to do a PhD related with marine biodiversity. 

Finally, Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of applying to any of our programmes at the University of Exeter and pursuing a career in conservation?

My advice would be: do it for passion! Try to strengthen the relationship with the university researchers and always try to keep a close contact with them when you leave university, it might help you on your future projects. 

The University of Exeter is an excellent university and for sure it will allow you to significantly improve your skills. I’d definitely recommend this University to anyone. 

Thanks Ana!  

 

If you want to find out more about any of our suite of #ExeterMarine Masters and Undergraduate courses use the links below!

MSc Graduate in Focus: Tommy Clay

This year we are launching a new MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation and applications are open now for 2020 start. We are looking back on some of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine vertebrate ecology and conservation around the world since studying with us.

Today we meet Tommy Clay, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2012) and now working as a post doc investigating the environmental drivers of sea bird movements at the University of Liverpool!

Hi Tommy! First off, why don’t you tell us what attracted you to study your MSc at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus?

I was attracted specifically to the course and the location, but the University has really risen up the league tables in the last decade, in part due to the recognition that high student satisfaction is important for a University to flourish. The CEC has really become an international hub for behavior, ecology and conservation science, and has attracted a dynamic group of staff and students. The courses are lively and varied with a mixture of lectures, practicals, field courses, presentations and group discussions, which facilitates learning.

The dynamic interactions between staff and students at the University, local industry and NGOs make it a global center for marine research. This is demonstrated by the fact that ExeterMarine has been a great success.

Penryn is well set-up to host students and has great facilities and decent transport links. Falmouth, where most of the students live, is a pretty fishing town turned student village, so has a good array of bars and pubs (and when I was there, one club!).

So, what did you enjoy most about studying your MSc?

I have many fond memories from my year at the University of Exeter Penryn Campus. Cornwall is one of my favorite places and a fantastic place to live, especially if you enjoy being near the sea and surrounded by nature. Plus, I was lucky to have a fun cohort of course mates.

For me, there were two standout highlights. The field course to Kenya was great fun – to be able to learn about conservation issues while going on safari every day was really special. For my research project, I spent three months in Peru as a research assistant for the marine conservation NGO ProDelphinus, who work with local communities to promote sustainability of Peruvian small-scale fisheries. The hosts were extremely hospitable and I got to see how a conservation NGO is run, both from the office and in the field. It was an invaluable experience, and one which cemented my passion for marine ecology and conservation.

How did the MSc help prepare you for your career in research?

The course gave me a good overview of topics in conservation, potential career paths, and skills for a career in research or management of wildlife. In particular, skills in programming and statistics are increasingly important for ecological research and the course provides a great opportunity for students to develop these skills.

Carrying out literature reviews and presentations helped develop skills in processing large amounts of information and presenting it to audiences in a clear manner, something which is useful for a wide range of jobs. More specifically, developing proficiencies both in GIS and statistics in R (a programming software) are incredibly useful for a career in environmental management, whether directly involved in research or not.

To pursue a career in research or academia, I think the most important thing is to have an inquisitive nature. A PhD is hard work and requires a lot of perseverance, so it’s important to choose a topic you’re really passionate about and can get regular enjoyment out of.

Don’t be afraid of rejection and try and put yourself out there. If you want to work with someone, send them an email detailing your skills and interests, as they may have opportunities going that are not advertised. It’s a competitive field and a lot of success is based on luck. However, if you can create opportunities for yourself you’re more likely to get that lucky break.

Finally, Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of applying to any of our programmes at the University of Exeter?

Go for it!

Thanks Tommy

 

If you want to find out more about any of our suite of #ExeterMarine Masters and Undergraduate courses use the links below!

International Day for Climate Action: How I attended a conference remotely

To celebrate the International Day for Climate Action, and the 10 year anniversary of its creators 350.org, we have been chatting to Louise Rutterford, a PhD student studying the response of marine systems to climate change at the University of Exeter. Louise recently presented a poster at conference remotely, from the comfort of her own home. 

Here she shares her experiences:

In early September I presented a poster at the annual International Council for the Exploration of the Sea in Gothenburg virtually (by skype). The session was a great success, not least due to the great support from the ICES team and hosting venue. I caught up with existing colleagues, met some new faces, found a new team working on similar projects to me and received the all-important constructive criticism of, and advice about, my work – so all the great bits conferences offer in a snapshot!

The session worked really well because the host organisation were keen to test this as a way to reduce travel and were totally on board with the set up. And I was kept busy as colleagues highlighted relevant parts of my work to each other and encouraged people to come and find me.

The session felt pretty intense from my end as I was tied to the screen, so no forays to the bar to absorb ideas and pointers for me! But everyone who spoke to me was incredibly supportive and, as usual at conferences, open to discussion, providing advice and helping to explain challenging concepts.

The set up at the conference venue.

I chose to attend the conference remotely for 2 reasons.

Primarily, I, Exeter and Bristol universities know that we need to radically reduce our impacts on the environment, especially our emissions. By not travelling to the conference I have conservatively reduced my research-based emissions by about 326kg [1] and [gwr.com] and saved about £900 of project funds in total.

Secondly, I have 2 young children and work part-time – it wasn’t realistic for me to travel to the conference and support my family during my sons first week at school. Attending the conference remotely meant I didn’t have to choose between work and family at this important time.

I do appreciate that by not attending the conference in person I missed hearing about new research from others as I couldn’t see the presentation sessions (something the event hosts hope to do in future) and developing relationships and projects with colleague over several days. However, I do feel that I was able to benefit from the conference experience as a remote attendee due to the openness and enthusiasm of colleagues in engaging and sharing ideas with me. Thank you ICES!

 

So, on to the practicalities!

Initially I planned to attend the conference and submitted my abstract as normal, through the web portal.

Once I had been accepted to present my poster I notified the conference hosts that I was keen to trial remote attendance, well before the application deadline. The hosts responded promptly and positively. As I was a guinea pig and the only link was for the poster session they agreed to waive the conference attendance fee in full.

The session relied on the openness of the hosts to set up a remote link and provide equipment. Next to my poster they supplied a laptop, high table and headset with a speaker. And on the day we tested the technology was working before the session started. I was set up in a quiet and well lit room with a strong internet connection (See above image).

To encourage people to come and talk to me I used the event #hashtag on Twitter to share my research and to encourage people to come and find me (on-screen!). In addition to this my presence and the relevance of my work was shared with appropriate people by word of mouth during the session (my thanks to the pushers!).

Louise used social media and the conference hashtag to encourage people to visit her and her poster

 

At the end of the session the team from ICES came and had a debrief chat which saved me from waiting for more delegates when they’d all headed out to the pub…!

I was busy talking to people for most of the poster session and alongside meeting people outside of my specialism, who provided a novel perspective on my work, I also connected with at least 5 people who are well equipped to critique and help to develop my work alongside theirs, some of whom I am in touch with, and picking the brains of, still.

#greatfortheplanet #greatforfamily #stillgoodforscience

Louise was still able connect with other delegates while attending remotely

For future opportunities like this it would be good to:

  • Make sure the internet connection is really strong as a few times the screen froze and conversation was disjointed.
  • Provide sound cancelling headphones with a speaker at the conference end to ensure delegates could hear over the hubbub.
  • Use a reliable courier service for the poster to be sent (Post Office failed me this time… but the venue (Gothia Towers) team pulled it out of the bag – THANK YOU!)
  • Include sign-posting to highlight the presenter on the screen so that people know where to look (mine was lost with the poster…)
  • Encourage use of the text messaging facility of the call service – this was a great way to get accurate spelling of names and links to papers etc. You can’t see past the shiny reflections on name tags.
  • Possibly host remotely presented posters in a small, low echo space so that people at the conference end can hear – as long as delegates are encouraged to use the space and engage.

Thanks Louise! 

You can keep up to date with Louise’s work on Twitter @LouRutters

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, biological,  medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields.

Find us on: Facebook : Twitter : Instagram : LinkedIn  

If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

 

References:

  1. Eco passenger. 2019 [cited 2019 14.10.19]; Available from: http://www.ecopassenger.org/bin/query.exe/en?ld=uic-eco&L=vs_uic&seqnr=3&ident=33.0267491.1571047646&OK#focus.

 

My ExeterMarine PhD: Carbon dioxide – an unexpected ally for fish faced with low oxygen?

Many of us know how climate change is causing an increase in ocean acidification, warming sea water temperatures and coral bleaching, but did you also know it causes an increase in the number and severity of ‘hypoxic’ or low oxygen events? Understanding how this decrease in oxygen (and its reciprocal increase in carbon dioxide) impacts species dependent on oxygen is important if we are to effectively predict and manage the impacts of future climate change on marine life.

University of Exeter PhD student Dan Montgomery tells us about his new paper, working to understand the tolerance of European Sea Bass to hypoxic events.

Words by Dan Montgomery, PhD Student, University of Exeter

Key message: During periods of low oxygen in the oceans fish are also faced with high CO2 levels. Previous research investigating responses to hypoxia by fish hasn’t considered this change in CO2. We found that including realistic changes in CO2 during hypoxia tolerance tests increase hypoxia tolerance of European seabass by 20 %. This has important implications for assessing impacts of hypoxia on fish species and predicting potential effects of climate change.

Oxygen is key to most animals found on earth and a lack of oxygen has large consequences, potentially including death. For animals that live on land or in the air low amounts of oxygen (otherwise known as hypoxia) are relatively rare, however for animals that live in water (like fish) hypoxia is much more common 1. In order to determine the impacts of low oxygen on these animals we need to know how tolerant they are to these low oxygen conditions. Scientists have been conducting research to discover the tolerance of fish species to hypoxia for over 50 years but crucially these experiments are carried out in laboratories and aquariums where oxygen is reduced in water by bubbling them with nitrogen (or a mix of nitrogen and air). Whilst this reduces the oxygen levels in the water it does not account for changes in another key gas, carbon dioxide!

European Sea bass in Exeter University’s aquarium

Low oxygen levels in the world’s oceans are usually caused by respiration of bacteria. As a by-product of this respiration carbon dioxide is produced. This means that whenever oxygen levels are reduced carbon dioxide levels increase. The reciprocal relationship between carbon dioxide and oxygen is well known and has been recorded many times in oceanographic surveys 2,3. Our research, using European sea bass, aimed to understand if this increase in CO2 during a hypoxic event changed the hypoxia tolerance of fish when compared to normal experimental techniques which induce hypoxia without changing CO2.

Working in the lab to measure blood chemistry of sea bass

We found that sea bass which experienced environmentally realistic increases in CO2 during a hypoxia challenge were 20 % more tolerant to hypoxia than fish exposed to a hypoxia challenge with no CO2 change. We believe this increase in tolerance is related to changes in the chemistry of the sea bass’s blood which increase the affinity of haemoglobin for oxygen in their red blood cells. This means that as O2 levels drop in water the bass can maintain transport of oxygen in their blood for longer! This result may mean that previous research investigating hypoxia has miscalculated the true tolerance of fish in the wild.

Juvenile seabass in the holding tanks in the Aquatic Resources Centre at the University of Exeter

Improving our understanding of how hypoxia impacts fish species is crucial as climate change is causing an increase in both the prevalence and severity of hypoxic events. If calculations of hypoxia tolerance are incorrect this could affect our ability to predict impacts of climate change on fish. Our aim is to now investigate whether this response is common in marine fish or if individual species have differing responses.

The study, published by Scientific Reports, is freely available at here.

You can follow Dan on Twitter @DanWMont

References:

  1. Breitburg, D. et al. Declining oxygen in the global ocean and coastal waters. Science (80-. ). 359, (2018).
  2. Melzner, F. et al. Future ocean acidification will be amplified by hypoxia in coastal habitats. Mar. Biol. 160, 1875–1888 (2013).
  3. Sunda, W. G. & Cai, W.-J. Eutrophication Induced CO2-Acidification of Subsurface Coastal Waters: Interactive Effects of Temperature, Salinity, and Atmospheric PCO2. Environ. Sci. Technol. 46, 10651–10659 (2012).

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, biological,  medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields.

Find us on: Facebook : Twitter : Instagram : LinkedIn  

If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

MSc Graduate in Focus: Kelly Atkins

This year we are launching a new MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation and applications are open now for 2020 start. We are looking back on some of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine vertebrate ecology and conservation around the world since studying with us.

Today we meet Kelly Atkins, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2014) and now completing his PhD at the University of Exeter!

Hi Kelly! First off, why don’t you tell us what you are up to now and how you got there?

I am currently back at University of Exeter pursuing a Bioscience PhD funded by a Global Excellence Studentship. My research examines how food subsidies (discards from commercial fisheries) influence the foraging behaviour and spatial ecology of northern gannets (Morus bassanus), across age classes, during the breeding and non-breeding seasons.

After completing my MSc I returned to the United States where I worked for the National Park Service as a Bear Management Ranger in Yellowstone National Park for three years. In this role I was involved in the research and management of Yellowstone’s population of threatened grizzly bears. Following that, I worked in Olympic National Park where I assisted in the management and removal/translocation of non-native mountain goats. My professional interests have always been focused around the influence of human activities on wildlife behavior and the ecological consequences of human/wildlife interactions on land and at sea. When I decided it was time to further develop my skills through a PhD, I turned back to University of Exeter and CEC because of the small but vibrant research community, world-leading academics, and of course, the lovely location in Cornwall!

It’s lovely to have you back with us! What did you enjoy most about studying your MSc with us at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus?

I liked living in Cornwall and studying at the Penryn Campus enough to come back and do it again for my PhD! The countryside and beaches are really lovely when you need to unwind and the campus is full of friendly and engaging people.

I liked the design and content of the MSc Conservation and Biodiversity Programme. It offered the focus I was looking for in taking the next step in my professional development. The fact that the Penryn campus is relatively small was also appealing; it’s hard to beat the access and quality of interactions one can have with academics in a small campus setting like this.

I think the Penryn Campus of UoE, specifically, is rather unique. Being a small campus in a relatively rural setting that houses world-leading researchers and has the resources of a large University seem to me to be a unique and winning combination.

How did the MSc help you in your career, and do you have any advice for students looking to pursue a similar career?

I had quite a bit of work experience by the time I came to study for my MSc and my wandering career path had left me with a broad set of research skills. The MSc helped me refocus and update those skills in a way that better prepared me to take the next step and pursue a PhD.

I first got into working in wildlife biology through an internship during my undergraduate years. Volunteer experiences and internships are a good way to build a professional network, try things out, and bolster your CV. I think it is important to be open to, and pursue, as many opportunities as you can. Doing so will broaden your way of thinking and give you a sense of what you enjoy most, while building a diverse and transferrable skillset. I’ve dabbled in everything from microbial oceanography to ungulate biology and that diversity of knowledge has opened a lot of doors.

Finally, Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of applying to any of our programmes at the University of Exeter?

Apply! Apply early and often for anything that interests you and worry about deciding what the best fit is once you have real options on the table.

Thanks Kelly!

If you want to find out more about any of our suite of #ExeterMarine Masters and Undergraduate courses use the links below!

MSc Graduate in Focus: Victoria Warwick-Evans

This year we are launching a new MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation and applications are open now for 2020 start. We are looking back on some of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine vertebrate ecology and conservation around the world since studying with us.

Today we meet Victoria Warwick-Evans, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2010) and now working with the British Antarctic Survey as a marine spatial analyst!

Hi Victoria! First off, why don’t you tell us what you are up to now and how you got there?

I am currently a marine spatial analyst postdoc at the British Antarctic Survey. After graduation I was an intern on the Red Sea Dolphin Project, where we surveyed the distribution of dolphins in the red sea. Subsequently, I worked in sea turtle conservation for a company called SAS Tartarugas in Cape Verde. I then volunteered with a group called Southwest Whale Ecology Study, tracking humpback whales using a theodolite in order to understand their migration along southwest Australia. After this, I used the marine mammal observer qualification that I gained whilst completing my masters at Exeter, to work as a marine mammal observer for Gardline. During this position I gained my seabirds at sea qualification, and subsequently went on to complete a PhD in seabird ecology at the University of Liverpool. Finally I accepted a post-doc at the British Antarctic Survey and have been here for 3 years.

What did you enjoy most about studying your MSc with us at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus?

The highlight would have to be the field course to Kenya, but I also enjoyed the marine mammal observer course that qualified me to work as a marine mammal observer, and trained me in the identification of marine mammals. The course was carried out on the ferry to Bilbao, so we had a great opportunity to learn from experience.

I was also particularly impressed with the R course, and how well statistics was made accessible to ecologists. I found the modules on specific skills (such as wildlife photography, website design) really important too.

I loved living in Cornwall, there is such a variety of both marine and terrestrial environments to explore both during university courses, and during my own time. The staff in the department were very helpful and supportive, and easy to approach and chat to both academically, and socially.

Finally, why did you choose your career path and do you have any advice for those looking to pursue something similar?

I chose to study ecology and conservation as I am inspired by the natural world, and think that conservation is vital for its protection. I stayed in academia because I enjoy the research aspect. I particularly like developing an idea, carrying out fieldwork and analysis, and the satisfaction when the work is published.  I think that the statistics course, and public speaking events during the MSc were of significant importance to my career and for job applications.

It is important to get experience, so volunteer wherever you can. Decide which aspect of the work you enjoy the most and try to get experience in that area.

Thanks Victoria!

If you want to find out more about any of our suite of #ExeterMarine Masters and Undergraduate courses use the links below!

MSc Graduate in Focus: Matt Nicholson

This year we are launching a new MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation and applications are open now for 2020 start. We are looking back on some of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine vertebrate ecology and conservation around the world since studying with us.

Today we meet Matt Nicholson, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2014) and now completing his PhD at Arkansas State University!

Hi Matt! First off, why don’t you give us a bit of background about what made you choose to study your MSc with us at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus?

I was having a really tough time finding a program to continue my academic adventure. I had never considered going overseas until I saw a post from Brendan [Godley] on the Coral-List where they were advertising their program. I emailed him and told him my situation and aspirations, he replied saying that I was exactly the kind of student they were looking for. The rest, as they say, is history. It was one of the best and most important decisions I have ever made in my life.

Once I opened myself to the option of studying overseas and realized that the University of Exeter was an option, the decision really made itself. The reputation of the program and the faculty make it a target destination. I consider myself extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to study there.

Coming from Florida, I was unsure how I would adapt to England. You always hear about the overcast days and rainy weather (which I came to refer to as a “constant mist”), but I absolutely loved life there. Cornwall is such a comfortable coastal area, with plenty to offer in the way of coastal walks, coffee shops and restaurants, and pubs. The campus also has a variety of locations to work or socialize. So, wherever you are, there is a place for you that will be exactly what you’re looking for.

 

It must have been quite a change coming from Florida to Cornwall! How did the MSc help prepare you for your next steps to undertake a PhD?

In the time since I graduated, I have always said I grew more as a person and scientist during my time at the University of Exeter than any other time in my life. It was my first time really feeling like a “researcher”. I was able to greatly develop my scientific writing in addition to learning how to build a schedule around research (incorporating things like data analysis and writing alongside other work responsibilities).

It may sound odd but the feeling of “being a researcher”, as in believing that I am actually something of a “scientist” or “researcher”, is something that was so important for my confidence in academia. That happened for me during my time at Exeter, being around my coursemates (who were all brilliant) and around professors who truly treat you like professionals let me feel like I was more than a student.

 

What are your highlights from studying at the University of Exeter?

The vibe all around the campus is so special. There was such a sense of community, which was really vital for me as an international student. I was always comfortable and happy on campus (and in Cornwall in general) which definitely made me more productive.

The lecturers from the CEC go beyond simply being stellar academics, they’re just good people. Everyone was very accessible, down to earth, and a delight to be around. You can’t ask for more than being surrounded by individuals like that.

Both the field course in Kenya and gannet sampling on Grassholm Island were incredible field experiences. However, my highlight was attending our post-Kenya get-together in Cornwall and debuting the video I put together about our trip. I went through hours and hours of footage from our trip, making sure that each and every person made it into the video. Seeing everyone react so positively and enjoy the video was a very special feeling for me and was probably my personal highlight.

I don’t know if any single factor is unique to the University of Exeter, rather it’s the combination of factors that really makes it a special place. You could certainly find institutions that have successful researchers, nice individuals, a good location, or wonderful facilities/resources. But, to string them all together in a single place is something that I find unique and special.

 

 Finally, Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of applying to any of our programmes at the University of Exeter?

Do it, just do it.

Thanks Matt! You can follow Matt and his adventures on his Twitter account @SharkyNichol

If you want to find out more about any of our suite of #ExeterMarine Masters and Undergraduate courses use the links below!