Visualising Loss interactive documentary

Marine Exeter Blog, Tanya Venture

My name is Tanya Venture and I’m a collaborative doctoral partnership (CDP) PhD student with the University of Exeter and Historic England.

My PhD is focusing on understanding and communicating what heritage loss on the coast means to the people who live, work and visit and care for these important places. The loss of coastal heritage is a highly emotive and difficult process to manage, but unfortunately one that will become more and more necessary as the effects of climate change become more acute.

My work looks at understanding and communicating what that loss actually means including what opportunity may come about from a change coast which can include new discoveries and ways to engage with the past.

To do this I’ve created an interactive documentary (i-doc) called Visualising Loss to help open dialogues between heritage professionals and the wider public through engaging with the conversations around loss in a different way. The interactive documentary (i-doc) is like a chose your own adventure novel where you – the audience – can navigate your way around fragments of conversations filmed with 39  participants around four key case study sites in the south west all undergoing some form of loss or change.

It may be confusing at first, the i-doc is meant to challenge you to create a narrative base on the stories that you’ve heard and the people you’ve managed to interact with. The aim is to help create a dialogue between heritage professionals and the wider public about what loss really means to them personally and the places that they love.

Information about the project as well as a link to engage with the i-doc and optional questionnaire can be found at

Feedback via the questionnaire will feed directly into my research and will give you the chance to win one of 3 amazon vouchers.

If you would be interested in getting in contact with me directly to hear more about my research or to organise a workshop please email me at

Tracking the Movements of Montserrat’s Marine Turtles

Authors – Dr Nicola Weber (Project Leader) and Jack Wiggins (Graduate Research Assistant)

In 2019, a team of researchers from the University of Exeter, Government of Montserrat and Marine Conservation Society were awarded a Darwin Initiative grant to create and implement a Marine Turtle Action Plan on the UK Overseas Territory of Montserrat. The global pandemic delayed a number of the outputs, but we are now excited to bring you our first update from the field!

Lead researchers Dr Sam Weber and Graduate Research Assistant Jack Wiggins from the University of Exeter arrived in Montserrat in June to work alongside staff from the Government of Montserrat and members of the Marine Conservation Society during the turtle nesting season. The project funded by Darwin Initiative will collate both social and biological data to help conserve and manage marine turtle populations around Montserrat. The island supports regionally important populations of green and hawksbill turtles and also gets occasional visits from loggerhead and leatherback turtles.

Graduate Research Assistant, Jack Wiggins provides an update from the island:

Arrival in Montserrat

“It’s nearly over a month since we arrived in Montserrat, and what a month it has been. Twenty minutes after departing Antigua in a tiny six-seater aircraft we arrived in Montserrat and were picked up by Montserrat’s Chief Fisheries Officer, Alwyn Ponteen, and taken to our quarantine villa. From here, we looked over the calm, clear and turquoise waters of Isles Bay – a key mating and nesting site for green sea turtles. We would sit on the balcony, binoculars glued to our faces looking out over the bay watching mating turtles, pelicans diving bombing into the water for food and frigate birds tracking shoals of bait fish further offshore itching to get out and explore the island. After five days of mandatory quarantine and receiving our negative PCR test results we were free to explore “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean”. On the first day, our host, Chief Fisheries Officer at the Government of Montserrat, Mr Alwyn Ponteen, took us on an island tour where we visited a dozen of the islands’ turtle nesting beaches and tried out some of the local delicacies Montserrat has to offer. The next day we would start our night-time beach surveys with local legend Mr John Jeffers who has been monitoring turtle nesting activities in Montserrat for over 30 years.”

Night-time nesting surveys

“Over the past few weeks, we have been conducting night-time nesting surveys to help understand how many individuals are nesting along the coast of Montserrat. To do this, any nesting female turtles we have encountered laying, we have inserted a PIT tag – a small microchip like those used for cats and dogs – into the right shoulder of the turtle and also attached two flipper tags. Each tag has a unique number so if a researcher, fisher or member of the public encounters a tagged turtle in the future (be it on Montserrat or further afield) and can record the tag number we will know exactly which turtle was encountered and where. Tagging nesting females can help us to understand how many adult females there are in a population which can also help us to keep track of whether the population is growing or shrinking over time.”

Jack and Sam prepare the satellite telemetry devices ready for deployment.

The research grant has funded 10 satellite telemetry devices for the researchers to attach to adult female turtles nesting on Montserrat’s beaches. This state of the art technology allows us to gain an understanding of the movements of these turtles both around Montserrat during the nesting season and then during their migration back to their feeding grounds. Identifying patterns of space use provides the evidence base needed for managing and protecting important marine areas, for example by regulating boat traffic and fishing activity in areas where turtles are congregating or mating around during the nesting season. Only one turtle from Montserrat has previously been tracked with a satellite telemetry device so there is much excitement around these recent deployments.

On average, female green and hawksbill turtles will reproduce every 2-3 years and lay over 3 clutches of eggs within a single nesting season. Each clutch can contain between 100-200 eggs and can take between 45- 60 days to incubate. After a female has finished laying for the season, she will migrate back to her foraging grounds where she will remain for 2-3 years until she has built up sufficient energy reserves to reproduce again and repeat the cycle.

The local team, Turtle Project Officer Mr John Jeffers, Chief Fisheries Officer Mr Alwyn Ponteen, Data Collector Mr Gerard Cassell, with female turtle post-satellite tag attachment.

The University of Exeter and Government of Montserrat field team managed to deploy all ten of the satellite transmitters within 2 weeks, which involved many long nights spent waiting on the beaches until females had finished laying and covering their eggs. The turtle was held in a pen while the device was attached to the back of her carapace (shell) using epoxy resin glue, as you can see in the photos. When the turtle comes to the surface to breathe, this device will send a message to a satellite containing data that can be used to determine the location of the turtle. Excitingly, this can be viewed online in real-time here.

A turtle returning to the sea on Isles Bay, Montserrat after having laid her eggs and had a satellite tag attached.

The accuracy of raw locations received from the satellite-based location system can vary depending on the number of messages received from the transmitter, environmental conditions, and the relative positions of the transmitter and satellites. That is why when the turtles are close to shore they can appear to be located on land, but, other than when they are nesting, they definitely are not! Once all of the data have been collected, a range of analytical tools and filters are used to process these locations and produce a ‘clean’ map; but it is very exciting being able to get an idea of their locations in real-time. At the time of writing this blog post, one turtle (Laynakiki) has begun her migration and has passed close by Guadeloupe and Dominica! These tracks will provide us with a fascinating insight into the secret lives of these turtles once they have left Montserrat’s shores.

Jack counting tracks as part of daily monitoring.

What’s next?

Jack will remain on island, based with the local Government of Montserrat team until the end of this turtle nesting season in October. The team is continuing with some night-time surveys and tagging nesting females with flipper and PIT tags if encountered, but will mainly be focusing on conducting day-time beach counts, which is the most efficient method for estimating the nesting population size. During the mornings, Jack alongside local Project Officers, Data Collectors and Youth Trainees will be patrolling the nesting beaches to count how many nesting activities occurred the night before and to take GPS locations of any nests laid. Taking GPS locations of nests helps us to identify nesting hotspots around Montserrat and better understand which beaches are key nesting sites that should be monitored more frequently. The on-island team will also be monitoring nest productivity – counting how many turtles emerge from the nests both routinely in the hatchery and opportunistically on the nesting beaches.

All of these different aspects of biological research will inform the Marine Turtle Action Plan for Montserrat which will be written after another full season of data collection next year. This is also being informed by knowledge and views of the local community through project partners – the social science team at the Marine Conservation Society. You can read more about this at their blog.


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

Juntos podemos? Promover ações para a conservação marinha

Autora – Dr Ana Nuno

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

Uma comunidade piscatória no Príncipe / Dário Pequeno Paraíso

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

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

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

Questionários no Príncipe / Litoney Matos

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

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

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

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


Together We Can? Promoting Action for Marine Conservation

AuthorDr Ana Nuno

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

A fishing community in Príncipe / Dário Pequeno Paraíso

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

Fish traders and fisher pulling a boat / Dário Pequeno Paraíso

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

Questionnaires in Príncipe / Litoney Matos

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

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

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

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


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

MSc Graduate in Focus: Rachael Edwards

This year we are launching two new MSc courses in Marine Environmental Management and 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 conservation around the world since studying with us.

Today we meet Rachael Edwards, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2016) and now a PhD student at the University of Waterloo, Canada and working as a Community Champions Project Manager and Volunteer Coordinator for Sustainable Merton, UK

Hi Rachael! Why don’t you tell us a bit about what you have been up to since studying with us?

For my Masters at the University of Exeter, I evaluated the outcomes and outputs of the Marine Turtle Conservation Project in North Cyprus. This research was recently published in the Journal for Nature Conservation. After completing my MSc, I went directly into a PhD programme at the University of Waterloo, Canada, where I study cultural diversity in the use of parks and protected areas and methods of fostering connection to nature. I am now in the final year of my degree. Although my PhD is through a Canadian University, my research is U.K. focused and I have returned to England for field work. I also work part time for a sustainability charity in London.


What did you enjoy about studying in Cornwall?

The smaller size of the Penryn campus created a strong sense of community among the students and faculty. I enjoyed always running into people I knew, both on and off campus. It felt like a campus family and am so thankful for the many friendships I formed over the course of my programme. The surrounding scenery was also breathtaking and there were so many unique habitats to explore.

Campus life, and life in Penryn more generally, was vibrant and laid back at the same time. There were so many clubs to get involved with and, because of the smaller campus, it felt like a very tight knit community. I enjoyed meeting people from outside my program and the campus organizations did a great job of putting on events, organizing trips, and keeping us informed on opportunities to get involved with the wider community.

The combination of Penryn’s beautiful scenery and the friendly campus community is something I think you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. You really feel like you are a part of a campus family. There were so many opportunities to meet new people, take up a new skill, explore the outdoors, and learn about the Cornish culture right on your doorstep.


Rachael exploring the English Coast

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

For my PhD, I study outdoor recreation and wellbeing in public open space. The social science research skills I learned while studying at the University of Exeter were invaluable as I began my doctorate and the wide variety of courses and seminars that were offered allowed me to tailor the program to my specific career goals.

The variety of skills and hands-on experiences the course provided were very beneficial as, like many Masters students, I wasn’t exactly sure which direction I wanted to take in my academic journey. This programme exposed us to the many career options that are available, provided the opportunity to learn new research skills, and offered us a wealth of opportunities to contribute to the wider conservation community (I volunteered for the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty during my time in Penryn).

Prior to entering the programme, I didn’t have any experience with social science research methods. Thanks to the numerous courses, lectures, and seminars on human dimensions of conservation offered over the course of my MSc, I left feeling confident in a wide variety of such methods and was inspired to pursue a social science doctorate. Interdisciplinary collaboration is essential for solving complex conservation issues. To promote effective collaboration, it’s important that natural and social scientists are exposed to each other’s research processes and my Masters programme did an exceptional job of this.

I extensively researched Masters programs, and found that the sea turtle conservation work emerging from the University of Exeter’s Marine Turtle Research Group was among the most cited and of a very high standard. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to contribute to this body of research through recently publishing my MSc dissertation in the Journal for Nature Conservation.


On the Kenya Field Course during her MSc

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

I grew up interacting with nature on a daily basis and having quality local green space is still essential for my mental health. Through my doctoral research, I aim to promote equity in the planning and management of public open space to improve community health and wellbeing and foster connection to nature. I enjoy the opportunity to speak with a wide range of people as part of my research and appreciate the challenge and creativity that it takes to design green spaces that meet the needs of such diverse communities. I also enjoy the research and scientific writing process as a whole and having the freedom to immerse myself in new areas of inquiry.

The best advice I can give for someone thinking of starting a PhD is to take initiative over your own studies, embrace opportunities that come your way, and follow your research interests, even if they seem like they are in flux. I think one thing that holds people back is worrying about whether they are making the “right” or “wrong” decision for their career path. What I have learned is that you should stay open minded to new opportunities and it’s never too late to change direction. Chances are things won’t go exactly as expected, but what would be the fun in that?

Thank you Rachael!


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: 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.

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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!