Women in Science: 30 Inspirational Women in ExeterMarine

Today is International Day Of Women and Girls in Science! To celebrate, we have created a series of profiles highlighting 30 ExeterMarine women leading the way in health, science, engineering and technology.

Professor Annette Broderick 

Annette’s research focuses on the exploitation and status of marine vertebrate populations, in particular marine turtles, utilising satellite tracking and mark and recapture to understand the thermal ecology, sex ratios, habitat use, navigational abilities, growth rates and fecundity of individuals. Annette also runs a long-term field study of the marine turtle populations in Cyprus, on which many of our undergraduate students volunteer.

“Annette was the best PhD supervisor I could have wished for. She inspired me, pushed me, supported me, and made me laugh throughout. Alongside running research and projects around the the world, Annette supports a huge range of students, staff and volunteers, not only in science but with care and support. She will forever be my science matriarch.”

Jennifer Finlay 

Jennifer is on a 4 year BBSRC SWBio DTP studentship in partnership with Ocean Matters Ltd., looking to optimize the production of lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus), a cleaner fish used to reduce sea lice prevalence in salmon farms. She is looking at how the water chemistry in which lumpfish are raised affects their physiology and behaviour, and how farmers could manipulate water chemistry to improve growth and welfare, and their effectiveness as a solution to the sea lice problem in salmon farms.

“Jennifer is the Biosciences PGR rep, a great source of energy and positivity in our community at Exeter, and a great friend – which in the past 12 months has been especially appreciated and valued. While also completing a PhD relating to aquaculture of lumpfish, she has been at the forefront of helping to foster a healthier community in Biosciences, which is just as significant a contribution to the productivity of our group!”

Image result for dr xiaoya maDr Xiaoya Ma

Dr Xiaoya Ma is a Chinese Palaeontologist working on exceptionally preserved Cambrian fossils. A Senior Research Fellow, her primary research interest is to understand the origin and early evolution of animal life.

“Xiaoya is amazing. Despite the challenges of balancing the pandemic, family life, online educating, and researching in both the UK and China, she continues to astound all with the amazing insights into ancient marine life forms from the fossil record. This she does with an infectiously, positive verve, second to none.”

Jiaxin Chen

Jiaxin Chen is a PhD student in the Renewable Energy department working under the supervision of Dr Ian Ashton and Professor Lars Johnanning. Her PhD thesis refers to developing met-ocean modelling alongside algorithms for predicting the navigation and operation of autonomous offshore marine systems. Her research will explore methods to integrate measured data into wider spatial data from met-ocean models and satellite earth observation for the management of autonomous systems offshore, and the met-ocean model will also be studied in exploring the autonomous systems to be more intelligent.

“Jiaxin has continually applied models, re-assessed and improved her approach. Even when results appear good, she never hesitates in trying to achieve better. With this enthusiasm and application, she is finding effective methods to improve how we think of marine data and how it can be provided. This has real potential to improve safety and reduce costs for offshore wind farms as well as opening new possibilities for autonomous marine systems.”

Dr Sarah Nelms

Sarah is a Postdoctoral Research Associate within the University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation. Her research focuses on the issue of plastic pollution within marine and coastal environments, and its impacts on marine vertebrates such as turtles, seabirds and marine mammals.

“Recently, Sarah led a large team of researchers from around the world in reviewing the scientific literature on the conservation of marine mammals, producing an article that will guide marine mammal conservation for years to come. I am continually inspired by Sarah’s dedication to communicate her science to the public, and her commitment to always giving her best. Her high standards and dependable leadership sets a great example for researchers of all career stages; both women and men alike.”

Hind Al Ameri 

Hind Al Ameri is a PhD Researcher, mainly looking at the impacts of climate change on hawksbill turtles in Abu Dhabi.

“Hind is a shining light for marine conservation in the Arabian Gulf. A committed government scientist for her home government of Abu Dhabi, she is formalising much of her work over the last few years into a PhD study. In doing so, she is working very hard to share scientific information across her region as well as raising environmental awareness with a dedicated approach to outreach activities.”

 

 

 

Dr Sophie Nedelec

Dr Sophie Nedelec is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with an interest in sensory ecology and human impacts on the environment. Much of her work has focused on the impacts of anthropogenic noise on the reproduction and survival of fish.

“Sophie is a highly creative ExeterMarine scientist, leading ground-breaking research into impacts of noise in the oceans, offering outstanding support to undergraduate and postgraduate students, managing an international industry-funded initiative to revolutionise how we measure underwater acoustics, and delivering a wonderful module on how we communicate science to the public, all the while home-schooling her two amazing kids and lighting up Zoom meetings with her infectious sense of fun.”

Dr Joanna Alfaro

Dr Joanna Alfaro is a Peruvian conservation biologist, Director of the Peruvian NGO Pro Delphinus, and an Associate Researcher with the University of Exeter. She and her team conduct important research focused on small-scale fisheries. 

“Joanna is unflappable, resourceful, tenacious and always open to new challenges and new collaborations. She has become a recognised leader in marine conservation in Peru and has fostered the careers of many young marine biologists. Joanna is equally at home working alongside fisherman, conducting field research, or promoting conservation on the world stage.”

 

 

Dr Louisa Evans  Dr Louisa Evans 

Louisa is an interdisciplinary social scientist with interests in environmental governance and international development, primarily but not exclusively in coastal and marine systems.

“Louisa is an excellent scientist who’s always at the forefront of the really important questions in marine social science, she is great at bringing together interdisciplinary teams, and in her research she finds creative ways to elevate the voices of people in coastal communities.”

 

Image result for dr emily duncanDr Emily Duncan

Dr Emily Duncan is a Postdoctoral Researcher within the University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation. Emily studies the impacts of plastic pollution on marine life including sea turtles. Her work has taken her all over the globe, from Cyprus to the Ganges River to Australia.

“Emily is contributing to excellent, crucial research on the effects of plastic pollution on marine vertebrates around the world, as recognised by the Queen’s Anniversary Prize awarded the University in 2019. Extremely hard-working but also very supportive and kind-hearted, Emily has been a role model for me and many others through her progression from undergraduate to post-doc.”

Catherine Lee Hing

Catherine Lee Hing is a talented MSc student, exploring the potential effects of climate change and plastic pollution on marine megafauna.

“In 2020, Catherine was awarded the Sir Geoffrey Holland Prize for holding a Women in Conservation Symposium, celebrating equality and diversity in conservation. Catherine inspires others to overcome societal obstacles and demonstrates great passion and enthusiasm to translate science-based results into marine conservation and policy.”

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Rita Patricio

Rita is a marine ecologist and her research focuses on several aspects of marine turtle ecology, including understanding migratory paths and connectivity, prevalence and impacts of Fibropapillomatosis disease, population dynamics and trends, and also on investigating climate change impacts on nesting populations. Her recent work in West Africa has also a strong focus on conservation and community engagement and capacity building.

“Rita is a force of nature and is truly a joy to work with. Fiercely intelligent and rigorous in her approach to work but kind and joyous with all that work with her in the field, laboratory or the office. Sea turtles and marine conservation have a truly wonderful champion in Dr Rita Patricio.”

Dr Ana Nuno

Dr Ana Nuno is an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter. Ana conducts interdisciplinary research at the interface of social and natural science for addressing sustainability challenges, with a focus on better understanding social dimensions of resource use to inform conservation initiatives. She specializes in delivering collaborative research (e.g. with resource users, local and international NGOs, governmental agencies) with on-the-ground impact.

Ana is particularly interested in the application of tools from multiple disciplines to conservation and in developing novel techniques to achieve a better understanding of the dynamics of social-ecological systems. Her work focuses on bringing together ecological and social data into unified frameworks, as an essential way of fully understanding and addressing conservation issues.

“Ana is truly inspirational in her commitment to true interdisciplinary methods to afford insights into effective conservation. In addition, her commitment to capacity building and mentorship is remarkable. This she effects with quiet, understated charisma that inspires confidence and trust in community members, natural resource managers and academics around her.”

Dr Krista Sherman

Dr Krista Sherman is a marine scientist with more than 10 years of research and conservation experience. She completed a PhD in Biological Sciences at the University of Exeter and is the first Bahamian female with a PhD in the marine sciences.

“Krista has made it her mission to defend and conserve the overfished Nassau grouper across The Bahamas. Krista came to Exeter for her PhD to train in a range of techniques to better understand the ecology of the Nassau grouper. She has since taken her substantial scientific expertise back to the Bahamas, and now drives a range of public engagement, fisheries and conservation initiatives.”

 

 

 

 

Jen Jones

Jen Jones is a marine biologist, conservationist and marine iguana fanatic researching the impact of plastic pollution on the Galapagos Islands. University of Exeter PhD student and Galapagos Conservation Trust Project Manager; she is a wonder multitasker!

“The most impressive thing about Jen is her strength. She never gives up and always knows what her goals are for any given project. From helping to write multi-million dollar grant applications to sieving sand for hours in 35 degree heat, she works tirelessly to fight for better for the Galapagos Islands, their conservation and for the people there too. She’s a great scientist, passionate conservationist, and a wonderful person.”

“Jen is an all-round awesome person. Always there to have a laugh with when the going gets tough and simply the best fieldwork buddy there is out there. She’s an incredible researcher and has been a mentor to so many of us in the Galloway/Lewis lab group. We’re incredibly lucky to have her.”

Dr Katy Sheen 

Dr Katy Sheen is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography. Using both observations and models, she is interested in how the physical processes within our Earths climate system  work, and how they may respond to a changing climate.

“A lot of Katy’s work has focussed on the Southern Ocean and more recently on the Sahel region of Africa, but whether she’s in the field collecting data, or teaching students here in Cornwall, she never fails to inspire others with her dedication, positive energy and inquisitive mind.”

Prof Lora FlemingProfessor Lora Fleming

Professor Lora Fleming is a Physician and Epidemiologist. She is the Director of the ECEHH, Chair of Oceans, Epidemiology and Human Health for the University of Exeter and also the principle investigator for the Seas, Oceans and Public Health in Europe project (SOPHIE).

BlueHealth initiatives and SOPHIE are funded by Horizon 2020, involving communities of interdisciplinary experts. After many years working in a public health department as a physician and epidemiologist, becoming increasingly interested in health interactions with the environment, Lora was key in bringing oceans and human health together as a field in America with the aim of focusing on potential benefits, rather than just risks that the natural environment can offer to human health. This then brought her to the UK with European funding presenting the opportunity to start the ECEHH within the medical school in Truro.

“Lora leads a thriving centre which has an amazing supportive culture. She pushes for interdisciplinary working, linking the environment and human health, and has been instrumental in pushing forward the Oceans and Human Health agenda in Europe.”

Dr Lucy Hawkes

Lucy is a physiological ecologist, whose work focuses on the costs and drivers of migration in animals (vertebrates and invertebrates) using emergent technologies such as satellite telemetry, heart rate logging, accelerometry and metabolic rate measurements. Lucy uses technical approaches including biologging, spatial ecology, remote sensing and respirometry to make empirical measurements that help in the understanding of amazing migratory performances. Her work has also investigated the impact of external forcing factors, such as climate change and disease ecology on migration and breeding ecology.

“Lucy is a beacon of how to mentor people in science to do the very best they can. Through the highs and lows that science, academia and fieldwork can bring to all of us, Lucy sees through the challenges and recognises what is important – the quality of science and the emotional and physical welfare of her team. No challenge is too much to undertake, she is fearless in her fieldwork, a dedicated mentor and an amazing scientist.”

Professor Heather Koldewey

Professor Heather Koldewey is a marine biologist and conservationist who has done inspirational work to help protect vulnerable marine species and reduce plastic pollution in ocean habitats.

“Heather has been at the forefront of numerous pioneering projects such as Net-works, Project Seahorse and One Less as well as a leader of the National Geographic “Sea to Source: Ganges” expedition and Bertarelli Foundation’s BIOT MPA programme. Heather is a wonderful role model for female marine conservationists due to her passion and skill of inclusivity of local communities to solutions. And on top of this she is brilliant fun to work with!”

Dr Beth O’Leary

Beth O’Leary is a Post-doctoral research fellow in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation. She is a talented young scientist who has dedicated her career to undertaking high-quality strategic research to underpin ocean conservation.

“Beth is undertaking a series of ground-breaking studies which are already leading to real world changes in policy. These include:

1) Making the scientific case for protection of half a million square kilometres of the North Atlantic in 2010 in the world’s first (and still only) network of high seas marine protected areas.

2) Revealing the gross mismanagement of European fisheries by politicians. Over the course of 25 years of the Common Fisheries Policy, she found that fisheries ministers set Total Allowable Catches on average a third higher than scientific advice, guaranteeing overfishing and proving their culpability in stock declines.

3) Conducting research which underpinned a motion passed at the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii in 2016, which argues for a new target of 30% of the sea to be protected by 2030 which is now gaining massive political traction.

4) Undertaking pioneering science on the application of marine protected areas to international waters and supporting an ongoing process at the United Nations to amend the Law of the Sea to allow the creation of high seas protected areas. She has given invited presentations to UN delegates about scientific understanding of the high seas on two occasions.”

Dr Jo Browse

Jo is a lecturer in Physical Geography with a background in physics and computational science. She is a climate and atmospheric modeler interested in Arctic atmospheric composition and develops complex models to forecast the evolving Arctic environment.

Jo’s overarching research goal is to understand how different components of the Arctic climate system (ice, ocean, atmosphere, vegetation etc.) will change and interact to accelerate or mitigate Arctic warming through positive and negative ‘climate feedbacks’. She studies the coupled climate system in the Arctic using complex models and an expanding network of Arctic real-world observations to quantify and constrain model uncertainty.

“Jo has been successful in securing NERC and UKRI grants, and recently contributed to a number of high-profile papers, for example, in the journal Science Advances.”

Dr Lucy Omeyer

Lucy is a Post-doctoral research associate within the University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation, working as lead research scientist on two projects focusing on bycatch mitigation strategies.

“Lucy is one of those individuals who quietly works away at something, figuring out how to tackle a problem, learning new methods and always produces excellent work. She is a fantastic scientist, super efficient and very hard-working.”

 

 

 

 

Dr Tessa Gordelier

Tessa’s research interests lie in the development of the marine renewable energy sector. Her research has a particular focus on component reliability assessment and the development of novel solutions for the sector. Much of her work has revolved around mooring systems for highly dynamic floating MRE devices, with her PhD Thesis entitled “Enhancing Wave Energy Developments through Mooring System Reliability Assessment”. This work involved a significant amount of physical testing utilising both the Dynamic Marine Component Test Facility (DMaC) and the South West Mooring Test Facility (SWMTF), in addition to collaboration with IFREMER through the Marinet Programme.

Tessa now works linking businesses in Cornwall with research and innovation in the marine sector. Her recent work has enabled Cornish company, Morek Engineering, to create innovative software to streamline the development of seafastening designs for the offshore renewables market.

Dr Ruth Thurstan

Ruth’s work in the UK and Australia has made use of a variety of sources and techniques to better understand the scale and drivers of ecological change, and the consequences of such change for the users of these ecosystems, with a particular focus on finfish and shellfish fisheries. These include government statistical records, popular media, oral history interviews, maritime charts, and underwater coring and in-situ survey methods.

“Ruth Thurstan is an inspiring leader in a new field: marine historical ecology. Her work is best compared to that of a detective, piecing together how the oceans once looked based on multiple sources of fragmentary evidence. Like the best fictional detectives, to succeed you need keen instincts for where to find the evidence, a polymath’s understanding of many disciplines, and an artist’s sensitivity as to how to fit it all together. Ruth’s hunting grounds take in endless columns of fisheries statistics, dusty and rarely visited library shelves, newspaper archives, oral histories and dog eared photographs among many others.”

Veronica Zuccolo

Veronica Zuccolo graduated from the University of Exeter MSc Conservation and Biodiversity programme in 2020 and was awarded an ExeterMarine grant to pursue her passion researching sharks in Latin America.

“Veronica’s passion and interest in shark biology is truly inspiring, and her determination to complete her project, investigating sales of endangered sharks in Brazil – throughout a global pandemic, is amazing!”

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Rachel Turner 

Rachel is an environmental social scientist focusing on marine resource governance and coastal communities. Her research focuses on understanding how socio-economic and environmental contexts drive resource use behaviour and have implications for management and governance systems. She is interested in the dynamics of social-ecological systems and how resource users respond to change, and she is committed to interdisciplinary research addressing challenges of sustainable natural resource management. Recent research has explored marine resource dependence and identification of supportive governance structures for effective Caribbean coral reef management. Her current work in the UK focuses on wellbeing of fishers and fishing communities with a focus on health.

Dr Liliana Colman

Liliana is a marine ecologist and her research focuses on several aspects of marine turtle ecology, including both in-water research and work conducted on nesting beaches. Her current research involves studying the ecology of leatherback sea turtles in Brazil, through the use of diverse techniques such as PIT tagging, stable isotopes, temperature and sex ratios and population dynamics.

“Liliana’s research has contributed greatly to our knowledge of the ecology of marine turtles in Brazil. Lili is an inspiration for her perseverance and hard work, her natural ability to connect with people and her passion for marine conservation. She is a great role model for students and younger researchers pursuing their dream to become an academic conservation scientist.”

Lowenna Jones

Lowenna is a University of Exeter MbyRes graduate, specialising in marine plastic pollution. In addition to conducting her masters by research investigating the source, fate and distribution of microplastics in the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific Ocean basins, she co-organised the Sail Against Plastic expedition – a pioneering scientific research voyage with the aim of  raising awareness and collecting data on plastic contamination in the Arctic.

“Lowenna is incredibly passionate about the conservation of our oceans. Determined, driven and very hard-working, she never fails to rise to new challenges. She is a brilliant role model for young marine conservationists, and I look forward to seeing what else she achieves in her career.”

Dr Eva Jimenez-Guri Dr Eva Jimenez-Guri

Eva is an Evolutionary and Ecological Developmental biologist interested in understanding the effect that plastic contamination can have on embryo development in the marine environment. She looks at the developmental abnormalities derived from this contamination from a morphological and molecular perspective, to understand how this is affecting the survival and fitness of marine organisms.

“Eva is a fiercely passionate researcher, focusing on work at the cross-road of developmental biology and marine plastic pollution. She has inspired, supported and encouraged me through my development from an under-graduate to a post-graduate researcher and I am continually amazed by her compassion, motivation and knowledge as a scientist whilst balancing motherhood and all that it means to be female.”

Dr Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Earle is a marine biologist who has led pioneering research on marine ecosystems.

“Sylvia is a living legend, having spent weeks underwater, including in submarines and underwater living pods. She is currently the National Geographic Researcher in Residence, and has campaigned fearlessly for ocean conservation over many decades. She speaks with authority, passion, wonder and joy, and continues to inspire new generations of marine biologists and conservationists through her magical films and books. Sylvia is a keen advocate of the work in ExeterMarine on coral reef restoration, including the use of acoustic enrichment to accelerate recovery of fish populations.”

 

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, please visit our website!

Juntos podemos? Promover ações para a conservação marinha

Autora – Dr Ana Nuno

Uma pequena ilha remota e pouco conhecida situada no Golfo da Guiné, ao largo da costa da África Central, Príncipe (São Tomé e Príncipe) e a sua população dependem fortemente da pesca artesanal. Quando as comunidades piscatórias da ilha nos dizem que têm de viajar mais longe, passar mais tempo no mar e aumentar a quantidade de equipamento de pesca para obter quantidades semelhantes de peixe que costumavam capturar perto da costa há alguns anos, isto soa muito familiar. Estes problemas são sentidos em muitas zonas costeiras por todo o mundo e podem ser particularmente graves em pequenos estados insulares em desenvolvimento, onde os recursos para a gestão são escassos e as pessoas geralmente têm acesso limitado a outras oportunidades.

Uma comunidade piscatória no Príncipe / Dário Pequeno Paraíso

As comunidades piscatórias são cruciais na abordagem de questões de conservação em todo o mundo. A participação das partes interessadas e a co-gestão das pescas têm sido reconhecidas como abordagens-chave, particularmente quando a execução é um desafio devido à capacidade limitada do Estado. Mas como podemos promover ações individuais e apoiar medidas que melhorem os ecossistemas marinhos? Alguns poderão dizer que precisamos de empoderar as partes interessadas. O empoderamento tornou-se um conceito popular em conservação mas, embora bem intencionado, é muitas vezes utilizado como uma palavra da moda com alegações pouco claras. Como podemos avançar para além desta palavra da moda em conservação?

comerciantes de peixe e pescadores a puxar um barco / Dário Pequeno Paraíso

Centrando-se na conservação marinha e pesca artesanal no Príncipe, o nosso novo artigo científico publicado na revista Conservation Letters identifica os principais determinantes do empoderamento psicológico para a conservação e explora as possíveis implicações para a gestão de recursos. Feito como parte de um projeto financiado pela Darwin Initiative e em parceria com a Fundação Príncipe (uma ONG baseada na ilha), esta investigação incorporou discussões de grupos focais e questionários a agregados familiares (869 pessoas entrevistadas numa ilha com cerca de 8000 residentes!). Recolhemos informações sobre, por exemplo, características individuais e do agregado familiar; utilização de recursos naturais; perceções sobre possíveis intervenções; e múltiplos componentes de empoderamento (por exemplo, governação, liberdade de escolha & ação, participação, controlo e colaboração).

Questionários no Príncipe / Litoney Matos

Constatámos que era mais provável as pessoas acreditarem que poderiam pessoalmente fazer uma diferença na proteção do ambiente marinho na ilha se também: sentissem que a aplicação das leis pelo estado estava a desempenhar um papel ativo, tinham níveis mais elevados de liberdade de escolha e ação individual, e acreditavam que as suas comunidades poderiam, coletivamente, melhorar os resultados. Os entrevistados que responderam “não sei” sobre a atual condição do ambiente marinho na ilha foram menos propensos a acreditar que poderiam fazer a diferença do que aqueles que acreditaram que as condições do ambiente marinho permaneceram as mesmas, piores ou melhores do que antes.

Considerando potenciais intervenções, as pessoas que consideram ter níveis mais elevados de influência sobre a conservação marinha eram as mais propensas a recomendar medidas específicas (por exemplo, criação de áreas de pesca interdita). Isto sugere ligações entre empoderamento e a aceitação social de potenciais intervenções específicas.

Porque é que isto importa? O envolvimento em projetos de conservação pode ser influenciado pela crença nas capacidades individuais para alcançar a mudança. Havendo agora um novo projecto na ilha liderado pela FFI e destinado a estabelecer a primeira rede de áreas marinhas protegidas no país, esta informação é crucial para compreender como envolver significativamente as comunidades locais e outras partes interessadas. Isto é essencial para identificar visões comuns e trabalhar em colaboração para as alcançar. Como esta investigação demonstra, isto pode exigir a abordagem de várias questões diferentes mas que andam de mãos dadas (por exemplo, acesso a oportunidades, sensibilização sobre as condições dos ecossistemas marinhos e reforço da aplicação da lei), para que as pessoas acreditem que a sua contribuição pode realmente fazer a diferença. Embora o envolvimento e a participação sejam definitivamente necessários, são essenciais as condições adequadas para que estes deem frutos.

Se quiser saber mais informações sobre este projeto em Príncipe, consulte o nosso website e veja o nosso vídeo para dar um passeio por esta ilha fantástica!

 

Together We Can? Promoting Action for Marine Conservation

AuthorDr Ana Nuno

A remote and poorly known small island located in the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of Central Africa, Príncipe (São Tomé & Príncipe) and its people rely heavily on small scale fisheries. When fishing communities on the island tell us that they have to travel farther away, spend more time at sea and increase the amount of fishing gear to get similar amounts of fish that they used to catch near the coast some years ago, it all sounds too familiar. These problems are felt in many coastal areas all over the world and can be particularly severe in small-island developing states, where resources for management are scarce and people often have limited access to other opportunities.

A fishing community in Príncipe / Dário Pequeno Paraíso

Fishing communities are crucial in addressing conservation issues worldwide. Stakeholder participation and fisheries co-management have been recognised as key approaches, particularly when enforcement is challenging due to limited state capacity. But how can we promote individual action and support for measures that improve marine ecosystems? Some might say we need to empower stakeholders. Empowerment has become a popular concept in conservation but, while well-meant, it is often used as a buzzword with unclear claims. How can we move beyond the conservation buzzword?

Fish traders and fisher pulling a boat / Dário Pequeno Paraíso

Focusing on marine conservation and small-scale fisheries in Príncipe, our new paper published in Conservation Letters identifies key determinants of psychological empowerment towards conservation and explores potential management implications. Done as part of a Darwin Initiative project and in partnership with Fundação Príncipe (an NGO based on the island), this research incorporated focus group discussions and household questionnaires (869 people interviewed on an island with around 8000 residents!). We gathered information on, for example, individual and household characteristics; use of natural resources; perceptions about potential interventions; and multiple components of empowerment (e.g. governance, freedom of choice and action, participation, control and collaboration).

Questionnaires in Príncipe / Litoney Matos

We found that people were more likely to believe they could personally make a difference towards protecting the marine environment on the island if they also: felt state law enforcement was currently playing an active role, had higher levels of individual freedom of choice and action, and believed their communities could, collectively, improve outcomes. Respondents who answered “don’t know” about the current marine environment condition on the island were less likely to believe they could make a difference than those who believed the marine environment conditions had remained the same, worse, or better than before.

Considering potential interventions, people with higher levels of self-perceived influence over marine conservation were more likely to recommend specific measures (e.g. creating no-fishing areas). This suggests linkages between psychological empowerment and social acceptability of specific potential interventions.

Why does this matter? Engagement in conservation projects may be influenced by the belief of one’s own abilities to achieve change. As a follow-up project led by FFI and aimed at establishing the first network of marine protected areas in the country now takes place, this information is crucial for understanding how to meaningfully engage local communities and other stakeholders. This is needed for identifying common visions and collaboratively working towards achieving them. As this research shows, this might require tackling several different issues that go hand-in-hand (e.g. access to opportunities, awareness about condition of marine ecosystems and enhancing enforcement), so that people believe their contributions can actually make a difference. While engagement and participation are definitely needed, suitable conditions are essential for those to bear fruit.

If you’d like to find out more info about this project in Príncipe, check out our website and watch our video to take a stroll through this fantastic island!

 

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, please visit our website!

The BlueHealth Project – Linking Blue Spaces with Human Well-being

AuthorDr Jo Garrett

Over the last four years, researchers from across Europe have been collaborating on a multi-disciplinary project investigating the links between blue spaces and human health and well-being.

The project is now coming to an end and we have produced a BlueHealth Benefits resource which provides a snapshot of the evidence we’ve collected to date, including useful links and the challenges and opportunities urban blue spaces may face in the future.

What are blue spaces?

In the BlueHealth project, we define blue spaces as outdoor environments–either natural or manmade–that prominently feature water and are accessible to people. This can range from an ornamental fountain in an urban park to rivers, lakes and seas. The BlueHealth project also explored the potential uses of virtual blue environments.

Gwithian, Cornwall

Why blue spaces?

There is growing evidence that living near or visiting natural environments has benefits for health and well-being. These benefits may also be particularly important for people living in towns and cities where exposure to nature can be limited. However, this research tended to focus on green spaces and much less was known about the links between blue spaces and health. The BlueHealth project therefore had a particular focus on blue spaces in urban areas.

Hong Kong

How did we go about the research?

The BlueHealth project had several components utilising a range of methodologies. These included large scale data analyses, linking blue spaces and population level health outcomes; experiments which improved the access and quality of blue spaces; experiments with virtual blue spaces; assessing the qualities of existing urban blue projects around the world and exploring future scenarios of blue spaces. BlueHealth has also produced a range of tools to make comparable assessments of urban blue spaces before and after any proposed changes to help with decision making and management.

BlueHealth carried out a bespoke 18-country survey focused on the recreational use of blue spaces and the relationship with human health. The survey included questions about how often people visit different natural environments including a range of blue and green spaces. We also explored a specific visit to a blue space in detail, asking people about their most recent visit, what the environment was like and a whole range of questions about the visit. We are using this to explore how well-being outcomes from a visit are related to these different aspects.

Wimbleball Lake

BlueHealth has also investigated how a series of small-scale interventions that aimed to improve access to blue spaces have affected recreational use, physical activity and mental wellbeing. In Spain, we found that people living in a more deprived area of Barcelona did more physical activity after public access to a major urban river network was improved. In Plymouth, working in partnership with the local council, we improved facilities and access to an urban beach and found this was associated with higher well-being for people living in the area.

Teats Hill urban beach regeneration site, Plymouth

BlueHealth has also explored how virtual environments might be used in health and social care settings to boost wellbeing for those less able to visit blue spaces. Researchers have designed computer generated interactive virtual blue spaces and also explored the use of 360 video, filmed in Cornwall.

What are the benefits?

Blue spaces can have direct effects on the physical environment, such as providing habitat for wildlife, regulating urban temperatures, which may be particularly important as the climate warms, and regulating water quality. The BlueHealth project was particularly focused on how blue spaces can help to address a broad range of societal challenges such as lack of exercise, poor mental health, and health inequalities. Our large-scale data analyses have found that those living closer to the coast report better general and mental health and more physical activity [1-5] and that the benefits are greater for those on low incomes or in more deprived areas. On a smaller scale, our research has also found that short walks in urban blue spaces from work can have benefits for health and wellbeing [6] and that underwater blue environments can reduce boredom [7].

Blue future

The world is undergoing rapid climatic, environmental and societal change, and our blue spaces face challenges in the future. However, the BlueHealth project has increased the recognition of the importance of blue spaces, the word “BlueHealth” was even considered for addition into the dictionary this year. BlueHealth has developed evidence and tools helping to ensure a healthy blue future.

Sweden

Resources:

BlueHealth Website

BlueHealth Publications

BlueHealth Tools

BlueHealth in the Guardian

References

1. Garrett, J.K., et al., Coastal proximity and mental health among urban adults in England: The moderating effect of household income. Health & Place, 2019: p. 102200.

2. Garrett, J.K., et al., Urban nature and physical activity: Investigating associations using self-reported and accelerometer data and the role of household income. Environmental Research, 2020. 190: p. 109899.

3. Garrett, J.K., et al., Urban blue space and health and wellbeing in Hong Kong: Results from a survey of older adults. Health & Place, 2019. 55: p. 100-110.

4. Pasanen, T.P., et al., Neighbourhood blue space, health and wellbeing: The mediating role of different types of physical activity. Environment International, 2019. 131: p. 105016.

5. Hooyberg, A., et al., General health and residential proximity to the coast in Belgium: Results from a cross-sectional health survey. Environmental Research, 2020: p. 109225.

6. Vert, C., et al., Physical and mental health effects of repeated short walks in a blue space environment: A randomised crossover study. Environmental Research, 2020. 188: p. 109812.

7. Yeo, N.L., et al., What is the best way of delivering virtual nature for improving mood?: An experimental comparison of high definition TV, 360º video, and computer generated virtual reality. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2020: p. 101500.

 

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