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: Owen Exeter

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thanks Owen!

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

Scientists at Sea Podcast – Microplastics and Sharks with Kristian Parton

Show Notes – Mircoplastics and Sharks with Kristian Parton


Of all the pollutants impacting the environment, plastics are perhaps among the most talked about and campaigned against in recent years. We’ve had members of Sail Against Plastic on the podcast before to discuss the presence of plastics in some of the most remote areas of ocean, but in this episode we take a look into how some plastics penetrate further – the invasion of food web ecology by microplastics.



Kristian Parton 

As an undergraduate with the University of Exeter, Kristian developed a strong interest in

marine conservation, specifically elasmobranch (shark and ray) ecology and biology. After being involved in several shark conservation projects around the world, from Mozambique to the Philippines, Kristian went on to start his current research as a Master by Research post-graduate investigating plastic ingestion in several North-East Atlantic shark species; Tope, Dogfish, Smooth-hound, Bull huss and Spurdog. The project aims to investigate whether diet and foraging behaviour has an influence on the consumption of micro plastic, and its accumulation within the digestive tracts of these species.



Is it a dog? Is it a fish? No, it’s a shark…

Kristian’s research has a broad focus on several small to moderate shark species found in the waters of the UK and North-East Atlantic, most of which are unknown to the wider public – all too often over-shadowed by larger, more cinematic species. The most common species that Kristian works with is the Lesser Spotted Dogfish…or the Small Spotted Catshark…or some may say the Murgey (Scyliorhinus canicula). Whatever you wish to call it, this species exhibit beautiful spotted patterns on a pale body, and are a delight to see in the wild for those lucky enough to spot them among the kelp beds. Though regularly caught in numerous trawl and gill net fisheries, they are not often eaten among Cornwall, though are put to use as bait while Kristian claims a few from local fishermen for science. The exact status of their stocks is unknown though they are thought to be fairly numerous and common. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many of the other sharks that Kristian samples.

For more information on the fisheries of S. caniculla, and other shark and/or marine species click here.



Fake Plastic Seas 

With so much plastic floating around, there is no surprise that it finds its way into the food webs of marine ecosystems. Our news feeds are battered by reports of stranded marine animals whose stomachs are littered with plastics, clips of animals mistaking plastic bags for their primary food sources, and new studies quantifying the presence of micro-plastics in almost all areas of nature. The problem is more than just full bellies of unnatural content, which in of itself is a great concern. Studies have shown that plastics may contain chemical traces that can disrupt systems by which organisms regulate and produce hormones, leading to further and exacerbated biological implications.

To find out more, have a listen to the episode.



If you wish to keep up to date with Kris’s research, give his ever lively twitter a follow @Kjparton

If you want to learn more about LAMAVE – the organisation with which Kristian helped with whale shark research in the Philippines – you can read more here:

You can also view Kristian’s award-winning film here: The Southern Continent: A Journey to Antarctica



Hosted by Ethan Wrigglesworth

Episode and show notes produced by Ben Toulson and Ethan Wrigglesworth

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 Michael Hanley or visit our website!

Scientists at Sea Podcast – ICEBERGS with Dr. Alejandro Roman Gonzalez

Show Notes – ICEBERGS

In this episode Ethan and Ben talk to Dr. Alejandro Roman Gonzalez about ICEBERGS, a research voyage aboard the RRS James Clark Ross to the West Antarctic Peninsula. Alejandro is part of a team of scientists, technicians and crew that are collecting data to help understand how marine life in this region is responding and adapting to climate change.



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Take a look some of Alejandro’s stunning images from the first expedition. You can see these, and more on his photoblog.



At the time of writing, they are currently mid-voyage on their second of three annual expeditions. Luckily for us, this means there’s already plenty to look at from the first expedition in the winter of 2017/18. Below we have linked articles from the official ICEBERGS blog, be sure to check back there for more in the future!



Some of the key locations for the voyage.



Some background on ICEBERGS and the West Antarctic Peninsula.


Crossing the Drake Passage

Recounting the voyage across one of the roughest seas on Earth.





Sunset over the pancake ice at Marguerite Bay.

Sea ice!

Something the team had to contend with on a regular basis.

Borgen Bay

An update from a stunning location.


Read about some of the techniques employed by the team in the following articles:

Mud, mud, glorious mud!


Grabbing for mud

Antarctic Plankton Pigments




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Some more of Alejandro’s fantastic photographs from the 2017/18 expedition. You can see these, and more on his photoblog.



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Underwater photographs from the 2017-18 voyage.



About our guest: Dr. Alejandro Roman Gonzalez 

Alejandro is a Research at the University of Exeter, his research focuses on the use of Antarctic coastal mollusc bivalves as recorders of climate variability in marine ecosystems, otherwise known as Sclerochronology (you might remember Paul Butler talking about this in a previous episode). Alongside his academic work, Alejandro is also a talented landscape and nature photography (which is evident as he’s provided all the fantastic  photos for these show notes). Be sure to check out his photoblog.




Useful Links

You can take a virtual tour of the RRS James Clark Ross here

Find out about the British Antarctic Survey here.

You can follow the ICEBERGS team on twitter – @ICEBERGS_JCR.

Take a look at Alejandro’s photoblog here.

Find the latest ICEBERGS blog here.



Hosted by Ethan Wrigglesworth

Episode and show notes produced by Ben Toulson and Ethan Wrigglesworth

#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 Michael Hanley or visit our website!

Scientists at Sea Podcast – Climate Change, Turtles, and Bivalves

Show Notes

In this episode Ethan and Ben discuss the latest Climate Change Report released by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), with Professor Annette Broderick and Dr. Paul Butler. As well as covering key points of the report, Annette and Paul tell us about how climate change is a significant aspect of their current research.


About our guests:

Annette Broderick – Professor of Marine Conservation


Annette’s research investigates the exploitation of marine vertebrates, with a primary focus on marine turtles. The thermal environment is particularly important for turtles, so the potential effects of climate change could have a big impact on these populations. Listen to the episode to find out more.

If you’re interested in turtle conservation, Annette runs a long-term field study in northern Cyprus which takes on volunteers each year, you can find out more here


“The most biodiverse habitats in the world that we have are on the reefs, we’re going to lost those systems undoubtedly I think by 2040/2050 we’ll be talking about corals reefs and how beautiful they were.”




Dr. Paul Butler – Honorary Senior Research Fellow


Paul’s research is in the field of sclerochronology, focusing in particular on the use of shells from long-lived bivalve molluscs to study the history of the marine environment. Essentially, these molluscs deposit annual increments in their shells (like rings on a tree stump). If a bivalve shell has a known date of death, a timeline of environmental variables can be investigated from that one shell, including seawater temperature and the origin of water masses. This can be of particular interest when studying climate change. Have a listen to the episode and take a look at Paul’s profile for more information.



Want to know more about sclerochronology and some intriguing clam facts? Sarah Holmes, PhD Researcher, wrote an excellent blog about this a few months ago, you can read it in full here.



Arctica islandica, one of Paul’s study species
Photo – Hans Hillewaert



Our longest chronology, which goes for 1300 years, is for waters of the north coast of Iceland… essentially we’ve got a temperature record… over the past 1000 years it shows a declining temperature up to about 150 years ago and then it shows a rapid increase



What is the IPCC?

The IPCC was established 30 years ago by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide a scientific view of climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.

What is the IPCC Climate Change Report?

In December 2015 the Paris climate agreement was signed whereupon countries agreed that they would keep global temperatures “well below two degrees C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees C”. The UN asked the IPCC to produce a special report to assess the feasibility of keeping global temperature rises to a maximum of 1.5C.

Scientists are nominated by governments and international institutions. In this particular report there we 91 lead authors from 40 countries which reviewed 6,000 references. This work is unpaid.

Where do we stand right now?

Currently we are on track to reach 1.5C warming between 2030 and 2052, and 3C by 2100.

If we hit just 2C warming, this could have serious impacts, here are just a handful:

  • Almost all coral reefs will be destroyed.
  • The arctic will have summers with no ice at least once a decade.
  • Huge numbers of animals and plants will become extinct.
  • Low-lying coastal regions, such as Bangladesh, will suffer from sea level rise.


“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I. – IPCC Press Release


There has been extensive coral bleaching already due to sea temperature rise
Photo – Acropora

Can we avoid this?

Yes, but we have just 12 years to turn it around and serious change is required. You can read more about that here.

The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.

“Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III. – IPCC Press Release

You can read the IPCC Climate Change Press Release in full here.


Hosted by Ethan Wrigglesworth

Episode and show notes produced by Ben Toulson

#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 Michael Hanley or visit our website!


Scientists at Sea Podcast: Sail Against Plastic

Show Notes




Guests – Flora Rendell and Lowenna Jones




Sail Against Plastic started as an idea to simply undertake a sailing expedition, over just a few months it developed into an Arctic mission to investigate unseen pollutants, namely microplastics and noise pollution.


“We are a collaborative expedition hoping to unveil and reveal the invisible pollutants of the arctic”


The Sail Against Plastic team. Photo credit – Ben Porter


Why the Arctic?

It is well documented that plastic debris has been circulating around our oceans via 5 ocean gyres. It is now thought there maybe a sixth gyre that carries plastic up into the Arctic circle. Recent discoveries supporting this theory have shown that plastic has been found in sea ice.


“As sea ice melts that could be opening up more microplastics that have been trapped in that sea ice… it shows that we’ve been influencing the world for a long time”


A selection of plastics found on mainland Svalbard. Photo credit – Ben Porter


A view from the Blue Clipper: Photo credit – Ben Porter

These pieces of plastic aren’t necessarily what you would expect, while there plastic bottles and bags found in these areas, there may be an even greater prevalence of microplastics, tiny pieces of plastic debris resulting from the breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste.


“It’s not these big large pieces of plastic, it’s not a floating island that we’re going to find’


At the time of recording, the team, a diverse group of scientists, artists, environmentalists, photographers and videographers, were just a few days away from setting sail on the Barents Sea from Svalbard aboard the Blue Clipper.



The team’s manta trawl, used to collect microplastics. Photo credit – Ben Porter



“I think the main thing is making issues that are so strongly linked to humans… making you feel emotive about them… through art and through film, people will feel emotive about it and will care, we hope”


“And make it relevant to people in the UK and Europe and connect communities that are halfway across the world that have similarities and can work together to find a solution to our crazy plastic addiction”






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Website –

Blog –

Facebook – @amessagefromthearctic

Instagram – @amessagefromthearctic

Twitter – @Sail4seas

Art – Jess Grimsdale & Further info


Hosted by Ethan Wrigglesworth and Molly Meadows

Episode and show notes produced by Ben Toulson


#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 Michael Hanley or visit our website!