MSc Graduate in Focus: Matt Carter

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 Carter, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2014) and now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of St. Andrews!

Hi Matt! First off, why don’t you tell us a bit about what you are up to now?

I am a postdoctoral research fellow at the Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews. My research entails tracking seals at-sea using animal-borne devices to study their behaviour and habitat requirements.

After my MSc I applied for a PhD studentship at the University of Plymouth to study how grey seal pups develop foraging behaviour. The unique skillset that I had developed at Exeter made me a strong candidate for the role and I was offered the position. I had always wanted to be a professional researcher but had a serious lack of self-confidence. My MSc supervisor was instrumental in giving me the confidence and ambition to undertake this journey. During my PhD I collaborated with the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews. After completing my PhD I was offered a postdoctoral position by my supervisor at SMRU to continue studying seal ecology.

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

Exeter has a great reputation for ecology and conservation, but the thing that really separates it from other top universities is the staff. I chose Exeter because I wanted to learn from exciting people who are leading their field and doing interesting research, making a difference in the world.

A strength of MSc courses is that students typically come from many different backgrounds. There is a strong focus on developing a peer group where you can share ideas and work with each other and get feedback in a friendly collegiate manner. I was nervous at the start of the course that I would not fit in with other students with a more relevant academic background, but I found that the course leaders were great at helping me to recognise my strengths and gain the confidence to be an active part of group discussions.

The academic climate at the Penryn campus is progressive, relaxed and inclusive, and you are encouraged to engage in seminars and research group meetings alongside professional academics. The setting in one of the most beautiful parts of the country means that this is the perfect place for people who are passionate about the environment and the outdoors. The Penryn Campus feels more like a vibrant community than an institution. Having grown up in Falmouth I can say that the campus has breathed new life into the town.

 

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

During the course I developed a number of analytical skills, such as using GIS and R, that have proved to be valuable assets in job applications. Also, being around so many good academic role models made me want to continue a career in scientific research.

The lecturers are an enthusiastic, passionate and creative group of people who will treat you as an equal. The facilities at the Penryn Campus are cutting edge, whether you are interested in laboratory or field techniques. The staff also have a wide network of connections to NGOs and local stakeholder groups that will help you to meet inspiring people and engage with different possible future career paths.

I think when employers see an application from a UofE Penryn Campus alumnus, they know to expect someone who has had world class training from experts in their field. Studying an MSc at Exeter’s Penryn Campus gave me a unique mix of skills from data analysis, to delivering poster and oral presentations, and even grant writing.

Any advice for students who might want to pursue a similar career?

When you choose your student project, think carefully about what you want out of it. Don’t just study something that is familiar to you. Pick a project that will give you a new skillset and take you out of your comfort zone. Often we choose to study certain species because we feel a particular connection to them. It’s good to be passionate, but think beyond the species, think about what transferable skills you can develop that make you a well-rounded scientist. Also, get used to discussing your work and ideas with your peers and be generous with your time if you can offer help to others. Peer review is an important principle in academia and it starts here. Having a strong support network as a student will help you through the tough times, and the people you study with on your MSc may well be colleagues in the future.

Life in academia is not for everyone. Don’t be ashamed if you decide it’s not for you, there are many other options. But, if you do think it’s for you, find a PhD that you really care about. You will be completely invested in this project for years so be sure that it is something that will hold your interest and allow you to grow as a scientist. Take every opportunity to learn from other people’s experiences and make use of the contacts you develop during your MSc. Maintain an open channel of communication with your supervisor and be honest about your ambitions and limitations.

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

If you want world-class education from inspiring researchers in one of the most beautiful corners of the country then you are in the right place…

Thanks Matt!

You can follow Matt  @MattIDCarter  and the Sea Mammal Research Unit @_SMRU_ on Twitter!

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

Developing a New Floating Wind Turbine

Model Tests with a Novel Floating Wind Turbine Concept

Dr Ed Mackay & Prof. Lars Johanning, Offshore Renewable Energy Group

Dr Ed Mackay (Left) and Prof Lars Johanning (Right)

Floating offshore wind energy has been identified as being able to provide a significant contribution to meeting future renewable energy generation targets. Compared to traditional offshore wind turbines, which are fixed to the seabed, floating turbines can access deeper waters and areas with a higher wind resource. Current floating wind turbines are at the pre-commercial stage, with small arrays of up to five turbines being demonstrated. The cost of floating offshore wind turbines is currently significantly higher than fixed offshore wind. One of the main areas identified for reducing the cost of the structure is in the design of the platform. The platform must be designed to withstand large wave loads and keep the wind turbine as stable as possible. Large platform motions lead to reduced energy yield and increased loads on the wind turbine and drive train.

As part of the EPSRC funded RESIN project, the University of Exeter has been working with Dalian University of Technology (DUT) in China to investigate the use of porous materials in the floating platform for an offshore wind turbine, as a passive means of reducing platform motions. Porous materials are commonly used in offshore and coastal structures such as breakwaters or offshore oil platforms. As a wave passes through the porous material, energy is dissipated, reducing the wave height and wave-induced forces. The question posed by the RESIN project is: can porous materials be beneficial for floating offshore wind?

Examples of porous structures used in coastal and offshore engineering

The project has investigated this question using a combination of physical and numerical modelling. A range of analytical and numerical models have been developed [1-3] and validated against scale model tests in wave tanks. Two tests campaigns were conducted at the large wave flume at DUT in the summers of 2018 and 2019. The initial tests last year considered simple cases with flat porous plates with various porosities and hole sizes [4] and tests with fixed porous cylinders. These tests were used to validate the numerical predictions in a range of simple scenarios and gain an understanding of the effect of the porosity on the wave-induced loads.

 

A wave interacting with a fixed porous cylinder

Following the successful validation of the numerical models with simple fixed structures, a design was developed for a 1:50 scale model of a floating turbine, which could be tested with and without external porous columns. The model was tested at DUT this summer and further tests were conducted in the FlowWave tank at the University of Edinburgh this autumn. The test results showed that the motion response could be reduced by up to 40% in some sea states by adding a porous outer column to the platform. Work is ongoing to analyse the test results and optimise the design a platform using porous materials. However, initial results indicate that using porous materials in floating offshore wind turbines offers potential for reducing the loading on the turbine and mooring lines and improving energy capture.

1:50 scale model of a floating platform for an offshore wind turbine in various configurations. Left: inner column only. Middle: medium porous outer column. Right: Large porous outer column. The turbine rotor and nacelle are modelled as a lumped mass at the top of the tower.
The scale model installed at the FloWave tank at the Univeristy of Edinburgh

Thanks Ed!

To keep up to date with the Renewable Energy team, give them a follow on Twitter @Renewables_UoE 

For information on the Offshore Renewable Energy research group, check out their webpages.

References

  • Mackay EBL, Feichtner A, Smith R, Thies P, Johanning L. (2018) Verification of a Boundary Element Model for Wave Forces on Structures with Porous Elements, RENEW 2018, 3rd International Conference on Renewable Energies Offshore, Lisbon, Portugal, 8th – 10th Oct 2018.
  • Feichtner A, Mackay EBL, Tabor G, Thies P, Johanning L. (2019) Modelling Wave Interaction with Thin Porous Structures using OpenFOAM, 13th European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference, Napoli, Italy, 1st – 6th Sep 2019.
  • Mackay E, Johanning L, (2019). Comparison of Analytical and Numerical Solutions for Wave Interaction with a Vertical Porous Barrier. Ocean Engineering (submitted)
  • Mackay E, Johanning L, Ning D, Qiao D (2019). Numerical and experimental modelling of wave loads on thin porous sheets. Proc. ASME 2019 38th International Conference on Ocean, Offshore and Arctic Engineering OMAE2019, 2019, pp. 1-10.

#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 Emily Easman or visit our website!

 

MSc Graduate in Focus: Nathalie Swain-Diaz

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 Nathalie Swain-Diaz, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2016) and now a Senior Natural History TV Researcher!

Hi Nathalie! Your job sounds incredibly exciting, why don’t you tell us a bit about your career since studying with us?

Whilst I was completing my Masters, I was offered a job at the BBC in Manchester, working on a new campaign for children which involved designing Science experiments. Whilst there, I did a 2-week placement with the Natural History Unit in Bristol and was offered a job soon after. I’ve never really looked back! Since then I’ve been really lucky to have worked on marine focused programmes such as Blue Planet Live and have most recently been working at an independent production house based in Bristol on an animal behaviour focused series.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t aiming for this career! Natural History TV was a world that seemed completely inaccessible and I thought it was a ridiculous pipe dream to even entertain the idea of it as a viable career, but I am forever thankful that I find myself in an industry that marries my creative and academic interests so perfectly. At the moment there seems to be more demand for (and interest in) natural history programming than ever before, which is hugely exciting and hopefully marks a turning point – I think people are craving a connection to nature that has been lost over the years, and I am really looking forward to seeing how the industry grows and finding more unique stories to tell on screen.

 

What attracted you to study your MSc at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus?

The course was the most aligned to my interests and I loved the variety of subjects and scope for independent research on offer. I was hoping to find a taught Masters that would still give me the freedom to have a healthy work-life balance and live in a place I had never been before where I could explore the outdoors in my downtime.

The Masters course had a great reputation and I had met previous graduates who recommended the course greatly. The lecturers are also at the top of their respective fields and I felt it would be a great place to learn more about a field I really wanted to get into.

 

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

I have to say – Cornwall itself! I grew up in the middle of London but I’ve always been overwhelmingly drawn to the ocean, and having it on my doorstep for a whole year was incredible. It’s such a beautiful part of the country and being able to explore it on the weekends was a huge perk to studying at the Penryn Campus. There are so many nature trails in the area and the wildlife is incredible, even in winter!

The Masters was really well organized and the lecturers were really involved and helpful. I always felt comfortable emailing with questions and they were always keen to help – the support was brilliant. The campus labs and resources were also great and meant that research went smoothly.

The facilities and student life were great and the lecturers were all very supportive throughout the course. The campus itself is gorgeous and there are loads of gardens and open spaces dotted around that are lovely to explore in the sunshine

How did the MSc help prepare you for your career?

The Masters course gave me experience in researching a wide range of topics in depth, as well as presenting them in a range of formats. Each module had very different requirements for coursework, not just writing essays, but designing posters, and the variety meant that I could better adapt information to each. I was also part of a team creating a podcast about current research going on at the University and created content for the social media channels. All of these skills have come in useful in the workplace, especially working in a creative industry where I often use different formats to convey information I have researched. It has also given me more confidence to approach scientists at institutions around the world and to interpret data from published papers. Lecturers and guest speakers at the University have also added to my professional network and it has been really useful in finding stories that could work well on screen.

Finding and synthesizing large amounts of information and factchecking is paramount for my job and I definitely learnt how to do this in a more efficient manner during my Masters course. The course was well geared into focusing on current conservation challenges that are becoming more crucial to understand in depth as our natural world changes at an ever-increasing rate, and learning about the range of threats the natural world is facing has inspired me to research these topics in depth for programme proposals in particular.


What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Don’t sell yourself short! The industry is growing and always looking for new, talented people with a genuine passion for wildlife. I’d watch current wildlife television and have a go at making your own content – it doesn’t have to be videos… it could be a blog or art – anything! Finding a way to showcase your creativity is always great too and shows genuine interest. It’s also useful to keep an eye on careers websites and search for companies offering entry level positions for recent graduates.

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

If your gut is telling you to do it… Do it! My Masters was such a great experience and also loads of fun, you’ll love it!

 

Thanks Nathalie!

You can follow Nathalie on Twitter @Nat_Nature and Instagram @nat.nature or check out her website, Nature Nat!

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

BEng Renewable Energy Engineering

MSc Graduate in Focus: Elizabeth Campbell

This year we are launching a new MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation and applications are open now for September 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 Elizabeth Campbell, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2014) and now an associate researcher with ProDelphinus and PhDl student at the University of Exeter!

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

I grew up close to the ocean, enjoyed it and wanted to have a career that was related to it. I enjoy having a job with a purpose, a job that has a positive impact in the world and that improves it in some measurable way.

The University of Exeter offered a programme that aligned to my interests and the faculty had experience working in areas that were of my interest (small scale fisheries, developing countries, vertebrates). In the MSc at Penryn I found an advisor that was interested in my research topic, and a course that would strengthen my knowledge and future work. The MSc teaches you how to plan a project, to fundraise, implement, present and share your results as well as publish them. You finish your MSc with experience in every project aspect

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

The biggest highlights for me, include the Field Course in Kenya, the wide variety of practical methods classes throughout the degree and being able to complete my thesis on river dolphins!

Cornwall is a fantastic place to study! Everything you need is close. Natural surroundings inspire your work and give you space to relax. University courses take advantage of their natural surroundings as well.

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

The Key Skills module has given me many important tools! From delivering presentations, how to network at conferences and branding yourself online to writing a grant and writing and publish a paper.

The staff are approachable and available to answer questions. The course environment is friendly amongst students and teachers.

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

To not hesitate, apply and take advantage of a great course set in a beautiful location

Thanks Elizabeth!

You can follow Elizabeth (@Eliicampbell) and ProDelphinus (@prodelphinus) 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: Victoria Jeffers

This year we are launching a new MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation and applications are open now for September 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 Jeffers, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2014) and now the Head of Implementation – Global Conservation Programmes at Blue Ventures!

Hi Tori! It’s been five years since you studied with us, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your career to date?

Prior to undertaking the masters at Penryn, I worked for seven years in project management roles for not for profit organisations. In 2013, I decided to study for a masters to improve my research and conservation skills. Immediately after completing my masters I was lucky to get a role with Blue Ventures Conservation in Madagascar, coordinating their shark monitoring project which used smartphones to record shark catch. I moved back to the UK as Conservation Programmes Assistant and over the last 4 years have transitioned through a series of roles. I am now responsible for managing Blue Ventures’ conservation programmes in Belize, Timor-Leste and Indonesia, the UK-based Grants Management team, and overseeing progress against our conservation strategy in all of our sites of direct implementation.

You mention you already had several years experience before embarking on an MSc, what made you choose to study with us at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus?

I chose to study at the Penryn campus due to the variety of modules offered, the course content and the location. The course structure and content were appealing as it was diverse and covered a broad range of topics/module choices. I enjoyed the course structure, the friendly lecturers and the campus – being by the sea is great!

I stayed off campus and didn’t have much time to use the full range of facilities and partake in social activities, but there is certainly lots to do. Proximity to the sea expands these opportunities (diving, surfing etc)

Excellent, what skills did you learn that helped you to develop further in your career?

So many. I learnt a lot on the technical side from the field trips, especially the overseas trip to Kenya. I also learnt a lot of softer skills through independent study and particularly my thesis which involved polishing and honing a lot of skills I hadn’t used for a while.

I learnt a lot about basic programming using R which would be super helpful for all jobs in this field.

Finally, why did you choose you career in project management and do you have any advice for anyone looking to pursue a similar career?

I chose this career to have an impact on the future state of the planet.

I enjoy that my role is very varied, involving activities from leading a team to manage the grants that facilitate our work, to designing decision making tools for teams, to trouble-shooting issues with field teams. I spend a lot of time communicating with, supporting and visiting staff all over the world and I enjoy seeing my support efforts being translated into action and impact in the field.

To have an impact in conservation you have to think about and work closely with communities. To be able to do this you need to have strong soft skills and well as technical skills so I recommend you develop good people skills and the abilities to listen, empathise and problem solve.

Get lots of experience, voluntary or otherwise. Approach organisations knowing what your skills and interests are and how you can best help the organisation in question. Study the website and language of the organization you want to work for and emulate it.

Thanks Victoria!

You can follow Victoria (@Tori_FJ) and BlueVentures (@BlueVentures) 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: Owen Exeter

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 Owen Exeter, MSc Conservation Science and Policy graduate (2017) and now working as a Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Exeter!

 

Hi Owen! We’re glad that you are still working with us at the University of Exeter, why don’t you tell us a bit what you’re up to now?

 

I’m now a Graduate research assistant for Dr Rachel Turner and Dr Matthew Witt at the University of Exeter. I really love the possibilities in research. My areas of interest are constantly evolving and there is a lot of variety in the world of marine vertebrates. I spend weekends off Falmouth helping tag tuna, weeks in Scotland with basking sharks then periods working with big data and making maps. It’s a fantastic mix and I am always looking forward to new experiences.  

Shortly after graduating I was contacted by Dr Matthew Witt and asked if I wanted to on one of his new projects the ‘English Marine Spatial Planning and the Ocean Health Index’. I knew Matt from various projects during my MSc and we had stayed in contact after graduation. 

I was incredibly fortunate to spend a week working with Matt and Dr Lucy Hawkes in Scotland deploying high resolution ‘Daily Diary’ tags to basking sharks. It was literally my last couple of weeks when Matt asked if I could come and work as a field assistant. It was an incredible experience and a chance to contribute towards groundbreaking research into the fine-scale movements of these iconic sharks. My research thesis with Matt had been desk based as I had wanted to focus applying and refining the GIS skills I had learnt during the MSc. It might not happen to everyone, but I think it shows that if you work hard, even if you don’t have many field opportunities, you learn more vocational skills and supervisors will recognize your potential. They might just ask you to be more involved in the research group activities if possible.  

 

We’re glad you had such great opportunities! What did you enjoy most about studying in Penryn?

 

It took me a little while to work out what career I wanted in life. I studied politics as an undergraduate and years abroad working in hospitality. But traveling exposed me to some incredible places and marine life, so I decided to take a few chances and enroll in the MSc and I am so glad I did!

There aren’t many better places in the UK to study marine conservation science. It has a fantastic mix of world leading researchers and opportunities to volunteer for external conservation organizations. I was able to spend free time surveying for the Cornwall Seal Group which is a fantastic charity. I also helped at the Seal Sanctuary and got further GIS experience at the Cornish Wildlife Trust.

The University is constantly growing and there are more and more opportunities to be involved in cutting-edge research. The marine vertebrate team is especially strong and there are so many incredible researchers to learn from. 

I love living in Cornwall. The Penryn Campus is located with access to beautiful beaches and incredible marine life. Just last week I took a trip not far off offshore in Falmouth bay freediving with blue sharks. On the way out we saw bluefin tuna, minke whales and hundreds of dolphins. If you love marine life it really is a dream location.  

Underwater cameras used this summer by the team to study Basking Sharks

 

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

Field work with basking sharks was incredible, but the analytical skills taught in the MSc are what have really prepared me for my current role. If you have an idea of what you want to do after your studies start looking at positions early. You don’t need to apply for anything, but you can get an idea of the skills you will need for the future. Also make use of the career zone on campus. They are so helpful and transformed my CV when I started applications.  

Have an open mind. My interests have evolved since I began my MSc. You might discover new field of research that interest you. Fisheries also now fascinate me and I have definitely gone from being completely obsessed only with sharks to being obsessed with a huge variety of commercial and conservation concern fish (but mostly sharks).

Also get involved in as many opportunities as possible. Studying gives you a great platform and skill set. But by showing enthusiasm and interest you meet new people and get new ideas. I am only where I am now by reaching out to researchers and asking to help out in my spare time. It gave me an opportunity to learn some basic GIS skills and each project led to more responsibility, ultimately leading to a job.

Clockwise from top left: Dr Lucy Hawkes, Dr Matt Witt, Owen Exeter, Chris Kerry and Jessica Rudd

 

Any advice for anyone thinking of applying to the University of Exeter? 

Just go for it! I wasn’t sure I had enough experience for a science-based MSc but there is plenty of support if you are willing to put the hard work in. I didn’t have a huge scientific background and was worried I would struggle to keep up. The reality was there are so many varied opportunities and I found working with geospatial data just made sense. 

Thanks Owen!

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

IPCC Research Confidence in the field of Coral Reef Futures – Jennifer McWhorter

Research Confidence in the field of Coral Reef Futures

(Based on IPCC 2019 Report, Chapter 5, Changing Ocean, Marine Ecosystems, and Dependent Communities)

Author, Jennifer McWhorter, PhD Candidate QUEX (Universities of Queensland and Exeter)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) consists of a team of top researchers and scientists advising global climate action. Recently, the IPCC wrote a special report updating research findings pertaining to 1.5 ℃ of warming, of particular interest to my field of research is the section on coral reefs. Based on Chapter 5 of the latest IPCC report (Bindoff, N.L et al., 2019), I have highlighted the consensus of scientific research by summarizing key topics of coral reef research by research confidence. In italics are statements summarized from the report.

 

Very High Confidence Overview of Research

Some alarming numbers on the future of coral reefs were confidently stated in the latest IPCC report, “coral reefs are projected to decline by a further 70-90% at 1.5 ℃ with larger losses (>99%) at 2 ℃ ”. Since the industrial revolution in the 19th century, human activities have contributed to approximately 1.0 ℃ of global warming. At our current rate of emissions, global warming is estimated to reach 1.5 ℃ between 2030 and 2052. (IPCC, 2019: Summary for Policymakers). To give you some perspective on those numbers, future generations will have a difficult time finding coral reefs in the state in which we have had the privilege of experiencing them.

The corals in the image above were photographed two months apart showing the effect of the last warming event at Pixie Reef, just north of Cairns, on the Great Barrier Reef. On the left, the corals are healthy and then two months later, the image on the right shows many of the same corals are stressed and near mortality (bleached or white in colour). (Photo credit: Brett Monroe Garner)

 

High Confidence Overview of Research

When the human body has a weakened immune system, such as experiencing chemotherapy from cancer treatment, a common cold or flu can be detrimental, leading to a worsened state or even death. Coral reefs facing multiple disturbances such as warming and ocean acidification, reef dissolution and bioerosion, enhanced storm intensity, enhanced turbidity, and/or enhanced run-off have a lower chance of recovery. In the future, when faced with multiple threats, there will be a shift in species composition and biodiversity. This shift will be towards soft corals and algal dominated reefs as opposed to reef building corals. Albeit, regional differences in levels of reef vulnerability exist on a scale of 100 km or by latitudinal gradients.

The image above portrays an example of the shift in dominance from reef building corals to a dominance of non-coral organisms, such as the pictured ascidian, Didemnum molle and algae in Palau, Micronesia. (Photo credit: Dr. Kennedy Wolfe)

 

Medium Confidence Overview of Research

Record breaking warm water temperatures during 2014-2017 resulted in severe and wide-spread global coral mortality (Eakin et al., 2019). The reefs that have survived this event have a higher thermal threshold resulting in a dominance of species that are not as sensitive and have a high adaptive capacity. Is this a glimmer of hope? Perhaps but, it is important to note that this is the category of medium confidence of an overview of the research.

Branching corals are typically less resilient in warm water conditions than stony, non-branching corals (Hughes et al., 2018). This juvenile Acropora (branching coral) offers hope of recovery on a reef in Palau, Micronesia. (Photo credit: Dr. Kennedy Wolfe)

In a physical world, the ocean is complex, different zones of the ocean experience various conditions in space and time. Coral reef habitats are not uniform. Deeper coral reefs (30-150m) and upwelling zones may serve as a refuge and source of larval supply to disturbed reefs. On the contrary, these reefs could be more at risk than suggested.

Low Confidence Overview of Research

Coral reefs require certain light and temperature conditions in order to grow. The rate of sea level rise may outpace coral growth. Sea level rise would send corals into deeper habitats potentially limiting these ideal light and temperature conditions.

Resilience and adaptation is broadly still unknown, few reefs are showing resilience. Luckily, some of the best in the world are working hard to close this gap.

In Palau, Micronesia, Professor Peter Mumby descends onto the reef. Pete’s Marine Spatial Ecology Lab conducts research into coral reef ecosystems, fisheries, modeling, and socioeconomics. (Photo credit: Dr. Kennedy Wolfe)

Support climate change research initially by learning about it. Thank you for reading.

You can follow Jen on Twitter to keep up to date with her research!

#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:

Bindoff, N.L., W.W.L. Cheung, J.G. Kairo, J. Arístegui, V.A. Guinder, R. Hallberg, N. Hilmi, N. Jiao, M.S. Karim, L. Levin, S. O’Donoghue, S.R. Purca Cuicapusa, B. Rinkevich, T. Suga, A. Tagliabue, and P. Williamson, 2019: Changing Ocean, Marine Ecosystems, and Dependent Communities. In: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, M. Tignor, E. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Nicolai, A. Okem, J. Petzold, B. Rama, N.M. Weyer (eds.)]. In press.

Eakin, C. Mark, Hugh PA Sweatman, and Russel E. Brainard. “The 2014–2017 global-scale coral bleaching event: insights and impacts.” Coral Reefs 38.4 (2019): 539-545.

Hughes, T. P., Kerry, J. T., Baird, A. H., Connolly, S. R., Dietzel, A., Eakin, C. M., … & McWilliam, M. J. (2018). Global warming transforms coral reef assemblages. Nature, 556(7702), 492.

IPCC, 2019: Summary for Policymakers. In: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, M. Tignor, E. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Nicolai, A. Okem, J. Petzold, B. Rama, N.M. Weyer (eds.)]. In press.

My Exeter PhD: Understanding marine citizenship, Pamela Buchan

To make change happen, we need to understand what motivates people to act. Today we hear from Pamela Buchan, PhD student with the University of Exeter who is studying Marine Citizenship.

Words by Pamela Buchan, PhD researcher at University of Exeter and elected councillor with Plymouth City Council.

There is a new environmental movement sweeping the world, spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, and carried forward by young people who are demanding a better future. Climate change concern in the UK is polling higher than it ever has before, and even the British government has caught wind of the desire to reduce plastic consumption. The global climate strike saw 7.6 million people around the world take to the streets. People are protesting, signing petitions, switching to electric vehicles, changing their behaviours, and making more sustainable choices to create cleaner seas and a sustainable future for everyone. This is environmental citizenship in action.

School children strike for climate, 20th September 2019. Credit: Pamela Buchan

 

Global climate strike in Plymouth, 20th September 2019. Credit: Pamela Buchan

For three years I’ve been investigating the idea of marine citizenship in a bid to better understand what drives people to become active marine citizens, what it is about the sea that is particularly motivating, and how do policies and legislation work to promote or hinder marine citizenship actions. Actions that benefit the marine environment are likely to benefit the climate also, and this might be a gateway to broader environmental citizenship. As someone who grew up in the middle of the moors with little access to the sea, it was the desire to be near the sea that first took me to Newcastle University to study marine biology and later relocate with my family to Plymouth to benefit from the ocean culture in this city and region. For me, it’s all about the sea, but what about others who are active in marine environmentalism? Does the sea as a place occupy others’ hearts in the same way?

Greta Thunberg departs from Plymouth for the US, aboard the carbon neutral Team Malizia yacht, on 14th August 2019. Credit: Pamela Buchan

Research around creating environmental citizens is often focused on environmental education and awareness raising. If people understand, are aware, and know what to do, then they’ll crack on and do it, right? This leads to lots of research investigating the perceptions, attitudes, and knowledge held by the general public, which then provides the basis of programmes to increase pro-environmental behaviours. See, for example, the list of research informing the DEFRA Framework for Pro-Environmental Behaviours, which probably explains why the goal for reaching the “unengaged and unwilling” is to: “encourage and support more sustainable behaviours through a mix of labelling, incentive and reward, infrastructure provision and capacity building (e.g. through information, education and skills).” (Emphasis mine.)

Research contributing to DEFRA Framework for Pro-Environmental Behaviours, 2007.

Undoubtedly, knowing effective ways to act is an important part of environmental citizenship but clearly it is not the whole solution. If we only ask questions about what people know, then we will only find answers that relate to knowledge. And despite many attempts at environmental education, carbon emissions continue to rise, oceans continue to be exploited and polluted, and even littering and flytipping seem to be on the increase. Knowledge isn’t changing people’s behaviours towards the environment so we need to look more deeply and holistically for other factors.

One field to turn to is environmental psychology and theories around values and identities. Social psychologist, Susan Clayton, has developed a theory that environmental activists share an environmental identity. Other researchers have argued that environmentalism is based on self-transcendent values, such as benevolence and universalism (e.g. Stern et al. 1999 and many since). We must acknowledge that not all people hold strong environmental identities or altruistic values, yet there is a lack of evidence exploring how different kinds of people can be motivated into environmental citizenship. If we are to tackle the environmental problems of today, we need at the very least for all people to be open to policy changes.

Enjoying the sea. Credit: Pamela Buchan

My PhD[1] seeks to fill this gap, specifically for marine citizenship. I set out to create space in my research design that would accommodate all findings relevant to this idea. Though my research design draws on theories from environmental psychology, human geography, and environmental law, my use of mixed methods allows me to piece together these theories with emergent findings. In my research, I surveyed, interviewed and shadowed active marine citizens, using psychological metrics and open ended interviews side by side. I found my population through case study marine groups and the national citizen science programme Capturing Our Coast and, using my survey data, I purposefully selected as broad a range of interview participants as I could. Selecting respondents with low self-transcendent values, higher self-enhancing values, a wide range of demographic variables, and as wide a range of relationships with place as was possible from the survey population.

My goal was to find the stories of people who are different. How do people who don’t fit the existing research models come to be active marine citizens? In my final year, I am still analysing my data and pulling it all together, but I have some surprising and tantalising headline findings emerging. The data has been telling me that marine citizenship is not so much a set of pro-marine environmental behaviours, but rather such behaviours are an expression of a marine identity. This marine identity is triggered, developed, or maintained, through sensory experience of the sea that promotes attachment and dependency. It seems that for marine citizens, as with myself, it is the sea itself which motivates citizenship. But there is diversity in marine identity, with people’s values shaping their motivations and types of actions they participate in. It does seem that people with a range of value sets can and do become active marine citizens via their connection to the sea.

There is already research showing that aligning climate change messaging towards specific values will encourage concern in those who are previously unconcerned (see for example Myers et al., 2012). My research points to the potential of the sea as a means of public engagement, which is arguably exemplified in real time through the ‘Blue Planet effect’ in which people have been spurred to reduce single-use plastics. If the experiential qualities of the sea can help people develop a marine identity and, from that, a willingness to perform pro-marine environmental behaviours, then it may be a valuable pathway towards improved ocean and climate health.

South Milton, Devon. Credit: Pamela Buchan

[1] ESRC funded on the interdisciplinary Environment, Energy and Resilience pathway, now known as Sustainable Futures

Further reading:

Read more about the psychological aspects of marine citizenship in my paper Citizens of the Sea: defining marine citizenship, delivered at the International Conference on Environmental Psychology, 2019.

I’ll be presenting on my PhD research at the Coastal Futures conference in London in January 2020.

Follow Pam on Twitter.

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MSc Graduate in Focus: Jennifer Cruce Horeg

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 Jennifer Cruce Horeg, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2009) and now working for the U.S. Department of Navy in Guam, Micronesia!

 

Hi Jennifer! It’s been 10 years since you studied with us, why don’t you tell us a bit about your career in that time that led you to where you are now?

I now work in Guam for the U.S. Dept of Navy as a Conservation Resource Program Manager.

After I graduated I continued to work under a grant with NOAA-NMFS to monitor the nesting sea turtle population in Ulithi Atoll, Yap, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). In 2011 I accepted a biologist/Deputy Refuge Manager position with the US Fish and Wildlife Service at the Guam National Wildlife Refuge. In 2015, I accepted a position as a Natural Resource Specialist at the Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. After two years I moved to the Joint Region Marianas Office (still on Guam) as the Conservation Resource Program Manager.

Before studying my Masters I had been living and working in Yap, FSM working under a NOAA-NMFS grant to study the nesting sea turtle population in Ulithi Atoll. I spent a year contacting schools who offered relevant masters programme’s. My goal was to continue the research in Ulithi and use the data I was collecting for a master’s thesis. All of the schools in the US stated that they would be unable to accommodate my work overseas. I would have to work on funded projects within their department. Finally, I contacted Dr. Brendan Godley who was very positive and responsive to my inquiry and thought that the MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity programme would be a perfect fit with the research project I was working with in Yap.

We’re glad you chose to study with us! What did you enjoy most about studying in Penryn?

 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Penryn Campus! It was safe, comfortable, and conducive to learning.

Being from the US I was so excited to live and study overseas. The Penryn Campus is in a beautiful location. I walked about 45 minutes from my flat to campus and spent about every day, all day on campus studying and going to class. It was a safe and lovely campus. I felt like the environment helped me be and do my best.

The location is very unique being at the southern end of England in a beautiful location. Other MSc students and I students took weekend trips to tour around Falmouth, Penzance, and other southern towns for fun. The town of Penryn is very low key and quiet. I enjoyed it very much.

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

Through my 10-plus year career since graduating I would say that all of the coursework we studied in the MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity has surfaced at one time or another. I appreciated how practical some of the coursework was. I also gained a group of intelligent, funny, and diverse friends from my programme that I still keep in touch with. This network of colleagues along with our instructors have helped me many times along the way.

Some of the basic skills that are needed but rarely covered in most master’s programmes’ such as: how to design and present oral and poster presentation, preparing a quality CV, writing a grant proposal, etc. I still have the instruction and templates from when I was a student and have referenced them several times during my professional career. Those were very helpful.

The programme itself was solid and fun. I grew and learned so much in my time there.

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

The key to everything is to have no perceptions or expectations – meaning keep an open mind. If possible be willing to travel. Take every opportunity to attend a lecture, presentation, conference, field training, etc. This not only helps you grow in knowledge but widens your network. Also, it helps to be nice and easy to work with. I can say that a lot of my movement up in my career has been because I am a team player and I get along well with just about anyone.

I would highly suggest any programme at Centre for Ecology and Conservation. The instructors and support staff are amazing! I have seen all of my friends from the 2007-08 MSc group go on to have amazing careers.

Thanks Jennifer!

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: 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!