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!

Exeter Marine Podcast – Coral Reef Bioacoustics Part I, with Prof. Steve Simpson

 

Show notes

In this episode Professor Steve Simpson talks to us about his research covering a number of topics focusing primarily on his bioacoustics work on coral reefs. He also discusses his work on Blue Planet 2 and recalls an encounter with David Attenborough.

 


 

About our guest: Steve Simpson

Professor Steve Simpson is a marine biologist and fish ecologist. His research focuses on the behaviour of coral reef fishes, bioacoustics, the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems, fisheries, conservation and management. Following a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship Steve has ongoing links with industry and policy on the themes of European Fisheries and Climate Change, and Anthropogenic Noise and Marine Ecosystems. Steve works closely with Cefas and the Met Office, and is an active member of the IQOE Science Committee, he has been an Academic Advisor and featured scientist in Blue Planet 2

Steve’s work combines fieldwork, often through expeditions to remote and challenging environments around the world, with laboratory-based behaviour experiments, data-mining, and computer modelling.

Steve’s research focuses on:

  • The impact of anthropogenic noise on marine ecosystems.
  • The effects of climate change on fish and fisheries.
  • Sensory and orientation behaviour of marine organisms.
  • Dispersal, connectivity and biogeography.
  • Coral reef restoration.
  • Fisheries and Conservation Management.

 


 

 

Topics discussed:

  • Bioacoustics of coral reefs.
  • How underwater sound can reveal animals we rarely observe visually on coral reefs.
  • How fish choose communities to live in by listening.
  • Is the underwater world silent?
  • How do underwater species hear?
  • How do you record an underwater soundscape?
  • Blue Planet 2 and David Attenborough.

 

Resources:

TEDx 2019 Talk: Changing the Soundtrack of the Ocean

BBC Earth Film: Underwater acoustics work

Agile Rabbit Talk: Underwater Sound in Blue Planet II

Facebook Live: Q&A Session

Article: Exeter marine expert awarded prestigious medal for scientific contribution

Twitter

 


 

Episode and show notes produced by Ben Toulson and Katie Finnimore.

Check out other episodes of the podcast here.

You can subscribe on most podcast apps, if you’re feeling kind please leave us a review!

#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, contact Emily Easman or visit our website!

 

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: Catherine Hart

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 Catherine Hart, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2009) and now scientific director for the Red Tortguera (Sea Turtle Network) in Mexico!

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

I moved to Mexico when I was 19 after having been a volunteer on a sea turtle conservation project in Nayarit state and then undertaking an undergraduate degree there. It had always been my intention to go straight back after the master’s course. On arriving back, I began to run the field conservation work for a small NGO and then when it was low sea turtle season taught secondary school science and did a little gardening/child minding on the side. In 2010 I decided that a PhD would be beneficial and allow me to continue my sea turtle conservation and research activities. The PhD was with the Universidad de Guadalajara in Puerto Vallarta and was supported through a scholarship from the Mexican government. During that period, I increased the number of nesting beach conservation projects that I was managing from one to seven and co-founded an NGO “Red Tortuguera” (sea turtle network). After the PhD I was accepted into the Mexican Researchers System (Sistema Nacional de Investigadores) which allows me to continue my research while conducting sea turtle conservation activities.

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

I loved being by the sea. I am from Northampton so that’s about as far from the ocean as you can get in the UK. I loved how dynamic the UK tides are and I even loved the seagulls (which are not that popular).

Everyone on the course were amazing and had all done different conservation and research activities either during their undergraduate degrees or as volunteers. It was a great opportunity to learn about different places and conservation issues. The researchers at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation are world class and very approachable. I always felt that I could ask questions and didn’t have to be embarrassed for having no idea about some things that others knew from their undergraduate degrees in the UK.

What skills and experiences from the MSc have been most useful in your career?

I would say everything I learnt at Exeter has been useful. Firstly, having studied at a university known for its research on sea turtles has opened many doors not to mention that my masters project was on Mexican sea turtles and I was put in contact with some of the top researchers worldwide for East Pacific green sea turtles who I may not have gotten to know so early in my career if it hadn’t been for the introductions made by the Exeter researchers. This is something I am very grateful for as not only has it been great for my research and conservation activities but also for the friendships I have made. On a more academic note the courses on statistics and mapping software have come in very useful! Perhaps the most important thing that I learnt at Exeter is to have the confidence in myself and the experience that I had gained from years of fieldwork in Mexico.

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

It’s great to be able to help study and protect sea turtles and other local wildlife where I live. I like to think that I am making a difference. I have been in the same place long enough to see some of the results of our conservation activities and that is very rewarding.

Never turn down an opportunity to tag along on research trips, learn a second language and perhaps take a course in marketing.

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

Just do it.

Thanks Catherine!!

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: Joana Hanock

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 Joana Hancock, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2011) and now working with the Olive Ridley Project as a Sea Turtle Biologist!

 

 

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

Having graduated from an MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity in 2011 well into my career as sea turtle biologist, I decided to slowly move away from previous jobs where I coordinated sea turtle nesting programs, to study and understand other less studied life-stages such as juveniles and males, and their role in sea turtle conservation. For this reason, I initiated my PhD studies in 2014 focusing on sea turtle foraging ecology, genetics and mixed modelling to understand how these life stages link to each other and how we could integrate them in conservation plans. Following on this specific research interest (foraging ecology and genetic connectivity) I am now trying to initiate a research program on Kenya’s south coast coupling sea turtle photo-ID mark-capture-recapture study, habitat mapping and population analyses, focusing on juvenile green turtles in foraging areas.

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

The opportunity to study alongside with students from all areas of conservation and different parts of the world. Lectures from people working in different fields of conservation biology and student seminars provided valuable learning and eye-opening opportunities that were as valuable as the MSc program’s modules.

I really enjoyed the teaching system, it is very relaxed, in such way that it was very easy to interact and learn from the experienced lecturers and their support staff, who were always available and very supportive. The location is great, it is a very special campus and lab equipment as well as lecture theatres are top!

What skills and experiences from the MSc have been most useful in your career?

During the program we learn not only about topics in conservation, but also there are specific modules that teach you how to actually survive in the conservation world: from writing grant proposals, giving oral presentations, writing research papers, attending and preparing job interviews, etc. Extremely important!

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

I choose sea turtle biology and conservation nearly 20 years ago, and there was no turning back. Every day I learn from my interaction with turtles, with people who work with them, and mostly people who live of them. I could not imagine many more careers that can be so inter-disciplinary as working with marine vertebrates such as sea turtles. It can be hard at times, but most of the time it is a pleasure as sea turtle research progresses, turtles become even more fascinating. It is a humbling experience and always extremely rewarding!

This is a career to make your life richer, not necessarily your wallet 😉 With this in mind, keep your expectations low, accept all learning opportunities, but don’t get unmotivated. As you gain more experience things will start falling into place, and it will be a life-changing decision you will never regret!

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

Go for it, it is worth it!

Thanks Joana!

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: 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: Liliana Poggio Colman

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 Liliana Colman, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2013) and now a postdoctoral researcher at projeto TAMAR in Brazil and the University of Exeter!

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

After graduating from my MSc, I returned to Brazil, and whilst working as an environmental consultant there, I applied for a PhD at Exeter to work with TAMAR (the Brazilian Sea Turtle Conservation Programme). I was granted a scholarship from the Brazilian Government through a programme called Science Without Borders, and I went back to the UK to conduct my PhD studies, investigating the ecology and conservation of leatherback sea turtles in Brazil. I have recently finished my PhD and I am currently starting a postdoctoral research to continue the research with the leatherbacks in Brazil.

Photo with thanks from Henrique Filgueras

We’re glad you are still working with us! How did you find the move to Cornwall from Brazil?

It was my first experience living abroad and from the moment I arrived at the University of Exeter to undertake my MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity, I quickly fell in love with the University, the Campus and Cornwall. Discovering all the cutting-edge research being carried out across the University of Exeter has been a definite highlight for me. Being able to continue surfing while conducting my studies was an amazing part of being at the Penryn Campus and I believe it helped me a lot to stay positive and a great way of making new friends.

I had a great experience while living in Cornwall. I loved it so much that I decided to come back and conduct a PhD for four years in Cornwall. I think the University is very committed into ensuring students are well supported. I had English tutors who helped me a lot with the language both in academic and social aspects. The campus surroundings are super calm and easy going. Falmouth has a great student vibe, with lots going on for people to enjoy during their time off.

For me it was a great personal and life experience. I had the chance to live in a different country, experience a new culture and make new friends. I learned how to improve my language skills and be able to communicate in my second language (including making jokes!).

 

We’re glad you had such a great time in Cornwall! How do you think your time here has helped you in your career?

I believe the MSc Conservation and Biodiversity definitely helped me to prepare for my current role. During the MSc I learned I wanted to be a researcher and the programme helped me to gain skills which were key for conducting my PhD. I particularly benefitted from an improved academic English (which is my second language), GIS, statistics and from data analysis during my research project.

The campus is great as it is surrounded by nature. The University has modern facilities (lecture and seminar rooms, laboratories, library). There is a great variety of research being conducted at the University which makes it a place for cutting-edge research with loads of seminars, talks, workshops. And being in Cornwall makes it even better, because it is such a unique place to visit and to live.

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

Do it!

Thanks Lili!

You can follow Lili and Projeto TAMAR on Twitter (@lilipcolman, @Projeto_TAMAR) and Instagram (lilicolman, projeto_tamar_oficial) ! 

 

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

MSc Graduate in Focus: Matt 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!