MSc Graduate in Focus: Haley Dolton

This year we are launching not one, but two new MSc courses! We have a new MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation and an MSc in Marine Environmental Management! Applications to both courses 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 Haley Dolton, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2018) and now a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin funded by the Irish Research Council!

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

After finishing my studies at the Penryn campus, I was lucky enough to work on a couple of short-term projects with researchers from ExeterMarine. I conducted a literature review on Arctic biodiversity for Prof Brendan Godley and Dr Kristian Metcalfe and I analysed video footage from towed cameras deployed on basking sharks for Dr Lucy Hawkes and Dr Matthew Witt. During this employment, I recorded behaviours displayed by basking sharks and their interactions with each other and the marine environment.

I then worked in the teaching lab setting up experiments and demonstrating in practicals, which taught me a variety of new skills! I also continued to volunteer for local marine groups such as Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust and the postmortem team in the ESI who try to figure out why some marine animals have stranded along the Cornish coastline.

Now, I am a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin. My research focuses on the thermal biology and ecology of Atlantic blue fin tuna, sixgill sharks and basking sharks. I collect data from wild, free swimming individuals by attaching devices that record a variety of different things such as body movements and external temperature. From this data, I hope to find out more about each species and how this new information could potentially inform conservation and policy.

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

The best aspect for me about studying at the CEC, were the supportive lecturers, researchers and students. There really was a great community feel and if someone could help you out in any way, they would! Their support obviously covered all things academic, but they also supported me as a person, wanted the best for me and really encouraged me in areas where I felt under-confident. For example, before coming to the University of Exeter, I would never show anyone any artwork I would do, but thanks to their encouragement I started to share things I had created with people which resulted in people requesting drawings, purchasing drawings and designing infographics for marine research groups – all things that I would not have come about without the encouragement of people at ExeterMarine!

The lifestyle the Cornish coast could offer was also amazing and I spent many an hour kayaking, on a SUP or snorkeling! As I mentioned above, I also got in contact with a variety of different marine research groups in Cornwall and volunteered for them – this is something I’d highly recommend to any new student to expand your skill set and to meet some great people!

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

My research project for my masters came about in a slightly unusual way. I had worked in practical marine biology for several years before coming back to education to do my masters degree. I came back to study to learn how to best analyse the data I had been collecting, with one of my main aims being to learn how to use R and GIS (spatial analysis software). Those connections I had made during work with Manx Basking Shark Watch, kindly supplied basking shark location data and allowed me to gain those skills I needed in R and GIS, with great support from my supervisor, Dr Matthew Witt. It was these skills, which helped me to gain employment at the University when I finished my masters.

I also made use of the help offered by the careers service who taught me the skills I needed to gain interviews and through programmes such as the Exeter Award.

Any advice for someone looking to follow a similar career?

Work hard, be kind and be patient. Some of the best job offers I’ve had have come from connections or the unexpected and left field. Take advantage of any opportunity if you are able to and seek out your own opportunities. The opportunity to attend seminars from guest speakers and to network afterwards, were very useful skills to gain. In fact, it was from networking that I knew of the PhD position I am currently in!

As corny as it sounds, the biggest highlight was meeting and getting to know my fellow students. I have met some of my favourite people from doing my masters and have some truly wonderful memories with them. There’s something very special about living somewhere as beautiful as Cornwall and getting to explore and share all it has to offer with your friends!

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

Go for it! It’ll be hard at times, but you won’t regret it!

Thanks Haley!

You can follow Haley 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: Tammy Davies

This year we are launching not one, but two new MSc courses! We have a new MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation and an MSc in Marine Environmental Management! Applications to both courses 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 Tammy Davies, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2008) and now a marine science officer at Birdlife International!

Hi Tammy! First off, why don’t you tell us a bit about what you have done since graduating from your MSc in 2008?

After finishing my MSc, I worked as a research assistant on a human-elephant conflict mitigation project in NE India, supported by Chester Zoo. I then went on to complete a PhD at the University of St Andrews and ZSL, researching the impacts of land use change on biodiversity and people in the Solomon Islands. After finished my PhD I undertook a postdoctoral position at the University of Victoria (BC, Canada) on the social and ecological effectiveness of large marine protected areas – a global meta-analysis, and moved to BirdLife International as a Marine Science Officer almost 3 years ago.

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

The highlight was having a longer period of time dedicated to a research project, and this was what first attracted me to the course. It was great to have an intense teaching period, and then a good amount of time to focus on a research project, and use new skills learnt during the previous few months.

The best part was the enthusiasm of the staff for what they do – it was such a change from my undergraduate degree, and a great environment to be a part of. I found the course really well structured and balanced between taught modules, external speakers, field trip, and longer research project.

Cornwall is an incredibly beautiful part of the UK – I loved being so close to the sea, and having opportunities to take part in basking shark surveys, try surfing, and general outdoorsy-ness, which is so much easier when the sea is on your doorstop.

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

The course was applied and focused, and was great training for my career. In particular, the focus on writing all assignments as scientific papers, and learning R, were the two skills that have definitely been the most beneficial for my subsequent work.

As an added bonus, it also provided a network of people within the conservation field, both peers and alumni. It’s incredible how many people I have met around my current work place who are fellow Penryn conservation alumni!

Thanks Tammy!

You can follow Tammy 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

MSc Graduate in Focus: Chris Kerry

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 Chris Kerry, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2018) and now completing his PhD at the University of Exeter!

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

I used my time during the MSc to develop skills in marine spatial ecology. After graduating, I remained in contact with my research project tutor turning my MSc thesis into a publishable piece and gaining fixed term contract work to conduct spatial analysis for other lecturers and connected organizations. I was then written into a grant proposal as a research assistant which led to me being accepted as a funded PhD student based on these experiences.

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

I enjoyed being welcomed into a vibrant research community and participating in projects at the forefront of conservation efforts which were producing real world benefits.

The lecturers are enthusiastic about their research, they welcome student input and are keen to share their experiences and expertise. It is a supportive environment, from the accessibility of lecturers and research staff to having a designated space where MSc students can study and share knowledge and ideas.

I believe the rate of new research in conservation science coming out of Exeter is unparalleled, which makes the content of the courses more relevant and exciting.

Chris Kerry (front right) with (clockwise) Jess Rudd, Dr Lucy Hawkes, Dr Matt Witt and Owen Exeter on field work tracking 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?

One of the most useful things was attending one to one sessions with advisors at the career zone who helped restructure my CV to be more appealing to employers and advise on interview techniques.

The sense of accomplishment at the end of the research project has to be one of my biggest highlights. The process of collecting and analyzing data and producing a thesis which informs conservation efforts is extremely rewarding.

Chris Kerry on field work. Photo courtesy of Dr Lucy Hawkes

 

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

Firstly, approach members of staff to see if they have any projects that you could assist with. Volunteering with ZSL during my MSc led to them offering me paid work afterwards. Likewise, undertaking an internship with Dr Matthew Witt led to us developing an MSc research project together and then being recruited as a research assistant.

Secondly, Cornwall has a wealth of people and groups outside the university working in Marine Conservation. During my MSc, I volunteered with Cornwall Wildlife Trust, ERCCIS, British Diver’s Marine Life Rescue, ORCA and Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust but there are also many others. Volunteering with these organisations, other than assisting in incredibly important work, provide valuable additional experience, networking opportunities and demonstrate a real desire to work in this sector which helps you to stand out.

Put yourself out there but do your research. Attending conferences and symposiums with speakers whose research genuinely aligns with your interests and skills is a great way to make connections. Being able to discuss their research with them in an informed way will help you to stick in their minds.

Thanks Chris!

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

Academics Join to Wish Happy 30th Birthday to Surfers Against Sewage

Words by Professor Brendan Godley

Last Friday, I was pleased to attend  Surfers Against Sewage 30th Anniversary celebrations where they announced their new patron, the Duke of Cornwall, His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales. SAS is a greatly admired NGO with whom we, and other universities committed to ocean conservation,  work very closely. They really are a force for positive change.

Prof Annette Broderick  and Dr Anne Leonard also represented ExeterMarine alongside colleagues from Plymouth University, Edinburgh University and the Environment Agency.  Other groups included a range of other stakeholders that work with the charity and, of course, SAS staff and trustees. It was a very warm and engaged event and HRH signed a sustainable surfboard made by local company Otter Surfboards to mark the event. University of Exeter alumnus, and SAS CEO, Hugo Tagholm gave a very thoughtful address and I asked him for it and paraphrase it below, as it resonated so very well, particularly with those of us from Cornwall.

Happy Birthday to SAS!

HRH Prince Charles signs a sustainable surfboard made by James Otter (Right) with SAS Chief Executive Hugo Tagholm (Left)

 

For more than four decades The Prince has used his unique position to champion action for a sustainable future. In the context of global challenges that include climate change, deforestation, and ocean pollution, The Prince has promoted sustainability to ensure that the natural assets upon which we all depend among other things soil, water, forests, a stable climate and fish stocks endure for future generations. 

Cornwall’s is the UK’s Ocean County, our very own California, with its outstanding coastline, world-class waves, wildlife, beaches, tourism industry, and an unrivalled grassroots community of ocean activists.

People really do live and breathe the ocean in Cornwall. 

HRH Prince Charles lets Dr Meriwether Wilson (Edinburgh) know of his strong commitment to marine protection.

Our proximity to the ocean has helped us grow a unique and charismatic charity that continues to deliver marine conservation progress for the long-term protection for Planet Ocean.

This is no more so exemplified by our recent work on plastic pollution and the water-quality campaigns of the 1990s. These campaigns started in response to the pollution witnessed on the beaches that are so central to the lives, living and wellbeing of our supporters.

Our supporters are often described as the canary in the coalmine of ocean issues – walking across tidelines strewn with plastic pollution, surfing near contaminated rivers, sensitive to biodiversity loss and affected by the impacts of a changing climate. They are also privileged to be a part of the ocean ecosystem. 

And, people really do protect what they love.

HRH Prince Charles shakes hands with Prof Annette Broderick (Exeter). In background Prof Sabine Pahl (Plymouth)

It is this powerful connection with the ocean that continues to inspire our work to tackle plastic pollution, improve coastal and river water quality, raise awareness of global heating and support the call to protect 30% of our ocean over the next decade.

I would like to pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of people who join us across the nation each year – on beaches, in schools, at events and on the campaign trail to deliver a brighter, bluer future.

Our supporters are the salty life-blood of our charity, in every part of the county, country and increasingly around the world. We are proud to empower over 100,000 beach clean volunteers annually; lead 700 Plastic Free Communities nationwide; inspire over a million school children through our Plastic Free Schools programme; and help raise the issues with policymakers through our Ocean Conservation group in Westminster.

I would like to thank my team and trustees who continue to make such a valuable contribution to the UK’s marine conservation effort, in inimitable Surfers Against Sewage style. I’d also like to make a special mention of the former leaders of the charity, Chris Hines, Vicky Garner and Rich Hardy – incredible people without whom we wouldn’t be here today!”

Surfers Against Sewage Chief Executive, Hugo Tagholm greets HRH Prince Charles and highlights the educational work of the charity.

#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: Dr Kristian Metcalfe

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 Dr Kristian Metcalfe, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2008) and now working as a Lecturer at the University of Exeter CEC in Cornwall!

Hi Kristian! First off, why don’t you tell us a bit about your career since studying your MSc with us?

After completing the MSc in Conservation & Biodiversity at the University of Exeter I spent 12 months undertaking various roles from volunteering for local wildlife organisations, to being a paid research assistant. In 2009 I secured a PhD at the Durrell Institute of Conservation & Ecology (DICE) supervised by the wonderful Dr Bob Smith, where I also continued onto my first Post-Doc. In 2013 I returned to the University of Exeter as a Post-doc for Prof Brendan Godley, a role I continued in for 6 years prior to becoming a member of staff within the Centre for Ecology & Conservation in 2019.

What made you choose to study your MSc with us at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus?

I chose to the study at the University of Exeter Penryn Campus because it had many internationally renowned marine academics that had an established reputation of working with industry, policy makers and conservation agencies.

The Centre for Ecology and Conservation hosts a thriving community of staff who are very accessible, supportive and extremely interested in helping you to develop your skills and experiences to enhance your future employment opportunities.

The Penryn campus is situated in beautiful surroundings – a perfect setting for undertaking a MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity with coast and countryside on your doorstep.

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

The research project – this was the point where I realized that I wanted to go onto study a PhD. I really enjoyed working with my supervisor to develop a question, collecting data, analyzing my findings and writing it up in the format of a scientific paper.  With so many academics with interests across marine and terrestrial realms there are so many potential projects to choose from you will not be disappointed.

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

Take every opportunity to develop your skills and experiences there are so many options available to you in the conservation sector – who knows who you will meet at workshops, conferences, meetings, or whilst volunteering and what further opportunities may appear as a result.

Thanks Kristian!

You can follow Kristian on Twitter, @_KMETCALFE

 

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: 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 PhD 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!

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.

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

Find us on: Facebook : Twitter : Instagram : LinkedIn  

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

MSc Graduate in Focus: Phil Doherty

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Thanks Phil!

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

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

MSc Graduate in Focus: Kelly Atkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks Kelly!

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

A Field Season of Basking Shark Research in the Sea of Hebrides 2019

This summer, a team from the University of Exeter have been on field work in the Inner Hebrides tracking and filming basking sharks! Read on to find out why…

Words by Owen Exeter, Christopher Kerry and Jessica Rudd.

Basking sharks are the world’s second largest fish and one of the UK’s most iconic marine species. Understanding the lives of these endangered fish is key to their conservation. Since 2012, researchers from the University of Exeter led by Dr Matthew Witt and Dr Lucy Hawkes in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage’s Dr Suzanne Henderson have been working in the Sea of Hebrides to understand how and why sharks use these coastal waters. This year the team are applying a variety of technologies to investigate the secret life of basking sharks below the surface.

Left: Dr Suzanne Henderson, Dr Lucy Hawkes and Dr Matthew Witt. Right: Image taken by REMUS.

Previously, most of our knowledge of basking shark spatial ecology and behaviour has relied on surface observations limited by daylight and weather conditions. With the recent advances of tracking technologies, we have gained unprecedented insight into their UK distribution, diving behaviour, long distance migration and inter-annual site fidelity. Satellite telemetry data acquired by the Exeter team have confirmed the waters off the Isles of Coll and Tiree as spatially important to the species (Doherty et al. 2017). These findings have directly informed conservation management with the proposed Sea of the Hebrides MPA currently under consultation.

Recently the team’s research has shifted to exploring whether the region has further significance to the species. Little is known about basking shark reproductive behaviour, fine-scale movement or habitat preference. 2017 saw the successful deployment of multichannel tags recording behaviour at the sub-second level (Rudd et al. in prep) and in 2018, custom made cameras designed by MR ROV started elucidating some of these questions. This year we were joined by a team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) and their Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) REMUS, with further towed cameras to deploy and a sonar scanner to attempt to shed further light on the rarely seen secret life of basking sharks.

Field site: Isles of Coll and Tiree, Inner Hebrides, Scotland.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute REMUS

REMUS is an AUV, a two-meter-long submersible vehicle that is designed to record underwater footage without manual controls from the surface. This allowed us to conduct long deployments at distances of over 2km from our control boat. Developed by Amy Kukuyla and her team at WHOI, REMUS has previously been deployed to film white sharks, bull sharks and leatherback turtles at depth.

As REMUS relies upon a tracking beacon tag being attached to the sharks half our team set off early from Tobermory harbour to locate and deploy tags aboard vessel Bold Ranger. The control team, including WHOI staff, followed on Etive Explorer. We successfully deployed beacons on multiple sharks across several days. Once tagged, we launched REMUS which followed the sharks at predetermined distances for up to four hours each mission. REMUS has 5 frontal cameras with an optional rear camera allowing near 360 views to be captured and up to 24 hours of footage generated per mission. Members of the team are currently stitching these different camera views together for each mission to allow further processing and analysis of the footage.

Left: REMUS. Right: MR ROV towed camera.

Towed camera deployment

Last summer, the towed cameras revealed new and exciting footage, including the very first shark aggregation observed on the seabed. While basking sharks may aggregate at the surface to feed, it remains unclear why they may do so at depth. Wanting to build upon these initial findings and hope to uncover more novel behaviour, this year we set out to re-deploy three cameras for a longer duration. These tags encase a temperature-depth recorder tracking the shark’s movement throughout the water column while filming it with a rear and front facing camera attached just below the dorsal fin by a 1.5 m tether. A vital component to the tag package is the Programmed Time Release which enables us to set the time at which we wish the camera to pop off the shark after a desired period and an integrated satellite tag, allowing us to track the camera remotely once its antennae breaks the surface by relaying its position every hour.

Footage acquired from 2018 MR ROV towed cameras.

This season the team was again successful in deploying all three camera tags. Upon release we deployed a range of tech to help us successfully hone into the position of the cameras. Once arrived at its last known coordinates, we used a goniometer which gave an idea of the bearing of the camera in relation to the boat. Within a certain range a handheld VHF radio (above the surface) as well as a VEMCO acoustic pinger (underwater) provide extra confidence in the directionality and distance to our prized tags.

While two of the sharks remained close to Coll, the third shark swum towards the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, nearly 150km north of it’s initial attachment. After a stroke of luck, a skipper and boat were found to help locate the last tag, known as Mr ROV Green, but required us to leave Mull, cross the mainland and drive across Skye before being picked up by a rib to find the camera. With the final mission successfully completed and all three camera tags found, now comes the exciting part of reviewing footage from both the cameras and REMUS to discover what new behaviours may have been recorded, along with answering biologically important questions such as estimating feeding rates and tail beat frequencies, as well as possible interactions with other basking sharks.

Finally, we would like to say a big thank you to Matt, Lucy and Suz for their knowledge and support during this field season. Interacting with a range of field technologies and seeing our data feed directly into policy and management is an invaluable experience for early career researchers. This work wouldn’t be possible without their hard work and dedication. We would also like to extend our thanks to Sky Ocean Rescue, WWF and Scottish Natural Heritage for their support of the project.

If you would like to updates on the basking shark project and our team’s other research please follow via twitter: Owen @OExeter,  Chris @chriskerry1989  and Jess @jlrudd.

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

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