Studying Reef Soundscapes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Ben Williams

Hello all you cool catfish and kittens!

My name is Ben Williams and I am a member of the marine bioacoustics group led by Professor Steve Simpson in Exeter. I’ve recently finished my Masters by Research thesis and I’m now fortunate enough to be working at Centre de Recherches Insulaires et Observatoire de l’Environnement (CRIOBE) on the island of Moorea, French Polynesia. I primarily study tropical reef soundscapes, which operates around the concept that we can learn about coral reef ecosystems simply by listening to the life on these surprisingly noisy habitats. My colleague, Isla Hely, who I’m working with here in Moorea, recently shared a blog post on the events that led up to this expedition, navigating fieldwork prep in a global pandemic, and what we’re working on. In this blog post, I’ll share a few more details on my journey over the past 18 months that led up to where we are now!

Jumping back to September 2019, I had finished my undergraduate degree, an internship with the Exeter bioacoustics group in Indonesia and a second with PhD student Lauren Henly. I was just a few days away from starting my MRes when I got a call from Steve asking if I was interested in changing my plans and joining the team for two months at Lizard Island Research Station on the Great Barrier Reef, just three weeks before departing. Needless to say, I didn’t turn this down! During this fantastic opportunity, I was able to assist more senior group members in their research whilst working on the first chapter of my MRes. I learnt so much more about marine fieldwork and gathered some great data exploring the utility of consumer grade recorders to collect soundscape recordings. During this, I of course remember hearing about the events in Wuhan, thinking “Surely this will boil over soon?”, but our naivety to the world was set to change for the foreseeable future.

I experimented with a number of new recording techniques at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef

Once I had returned and commenced the write up of my first chapter, I began putting in grant applications for the second half of my MRes. At this point, Steve made plans for me to join Isla in Mauritius where I would be able to lead a project studying a unique network of artificial reefs whilst reciprocally helping Isla with her research. Our funding bids were successful and I was days away from booking tickets to arrive in late March. However, just like everyone else’s year, these plans were turned on their head by the pandemic. So, Isla returned and we spent the next few months waiting to see if these plans were going to be possible. Sadly, the Wakashio oil spill also occurred in July, which was devastating to many of the reefs around the island and the final nail in the coffin to this expedition.

Research students were one group of many who faced challenges as a result of the pandemic, with months of preparation, work or experiments thrown out the window. I found myself having to go back to the drawing board for my second chapter. I therefore opted to explore some data I had helped the group collect previously in Indonesia. This was recorded at one of the world’s largest reef restoration projects – myself and Ellie May wrote a couple of blog posts for Exeter Marine about this work. Here we wanted to determine whether we could find a difference between healthy and degraded reef soundscapes, and whether this could be used to indicate the progress of restored sites. The project lead, Tim Gordon, had explored some really interesting angles with this data so far, and I was left scratching my head as to how I could build on this. But, through perseverance a eureka moment came when I found we were able to combine computationally generated metrics from these recordings and some complex statistical analysis skills I had learnt during my undergraduate degree. This turned out to be some of my best work to date and I was delighted to have been able to make the best of a bad situation!

Healthy and degraded reefs have very distinct soundscapes that can teach us about what’s happening in these habitats

So, after two awesome fieldwork seasons, countless hours of programming in ‘R’, learning to use new pieces of software such as GraphPad, MATLAB and Audacity, I was able to put together my 27,000 word thesis and polish this off with my supervisors Steve Simpson and Lucille Chapuis.

A prototype AudioMoth recorder that I’m testing here in Moorea

I was then immediately able to move on to work here in Moorea for the next three months, alongside Isla Hely, with the generous support of Exeter Marine, the Fisheries Society of the British Isles, and the Challenger Society for Marine Science. Here, I’m trialling some exciting new recording technology known as AudioMoths, which came about after setting up a collaboration with the developers who are helping us bring AudioMoths to the marine environment. These recorders have a lot of potential to provide an intelligent, open source, and cost effective alternative to our typically £2000+ hydrophones. I’m also studying the impacts of artificial light at night (ALAN) on reef fish as well as one or two other projects we’re keeping quiet for now! It has been brilliant to join long-term collaborators with Exeter, Suzanne Mills and Ricardo Beldade, who are leading the ALAN work here and have played a huge part in making our fieldwork happen. Myself and all involved are also very aware of how fortunate we have been to be able to commence this work, and remain very grateful to all the incredible people at the University of Exeter and CRIOBE who have made this possible!

Myself and Isla will be sharing more on our work in the coming weeks, for now you can follow me on twitter (@_ExeBen_) and Instagram (@bwilliams1995) where I’ve been posting updates on our work!


#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!

Call for Entries: The Big Blue Photography Awards 2021

ExeterMarine and Fourth Element have teamed up to bring you The Big Blue Photography Awards 2021. The overall winner will be chosen from six categories and will take home a wetsuit of their choice from the fourth element range, while the runner up will receive a fourth element Storm Poncho.

Following the success of the ExeterMarine Photography Competition in 2019, which received more than 200 entries in just two weeks, the competition is once again open for entries from photographers worldwide. This year the competition has returned with a brand new name and a selection of six new categories, with each category winner receiving a fourth element Drypack, Gulper water bottle and Xerotherm Beanie Hat.

Friendly Fulmar / Lewis Jefferies

The Big Blue Photography Awards aims to showcase the planet’s beautiful maritime landscapes, wondrous marine wildlife and spectacular underwater worlds, as well as the diverse people that depend on coastal and marine ecosystems in its six unique categories:

Clifftop Thrift / Robin Fisher

In celebration of the wonderous marine life and landscapes on our doorstep, the South West Seas category welcomes any images of marine life and landscapes captured in South West England.

Any images of British marine life and landscapes are eligible. This includes the coast of the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly, the Hebrides and the hundreds of other islands around our shores bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel and the North Sea.

Cornish Perfection / Jacob Guy

This category is a celebration of the planet’s wild seascapes and all that live within them. Entries can come from anywhere in the world, whether it be the warm waters of the Indian Ocean or the icy, dark depths of the Arctic.

From food to human health and wellbeing, recreation to livelihoods – the sea provides many vital services for people. This category welcomes images that capture the importance of the sea to people all over the world.

Anemone Crab / Jake Roberts

Humans have had an undeniable impact on our oceans. The Oceans Under Threat category gives photographers a platform to make a statement with their images on how humans are having an impact on the marine environment.

Despite the many threats facing our oceans, there are a huge number of passionate and inspirational marine researchers who have dedicated their lives to improving the state of our oceans. In this category, we welcome images of these researchers in action!

Everyone is welcome to submit up to two photographs to the competition. We will showcase many of the entries on the ExeterMarine Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds throughout the next 4 weeks using the tag #BBPA2021.

The competition will close to entries at 5pm on Friday 2nd April 2021. So what are you waiting for? Submit your images here!

Fourth Element Wetsuits

#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!

Navigating a Masters by Research Amid a Global Pandemic

Isla Hely, Masters by Research student at the University of Exeter

Hello all! My name is Isla Hely and I am a Masters by Research student at the University of Exeter under the supervision of the incredible Professor Steve Simpson.

It’s safe to say that 2020 was a bizarre year for many. I, for one, can attest to this.

My Masters journey has been anything but simple. However, after a year riddled with ups and downs, I am happy to confirm that I am writing this blog post sat in a wonderfully air-conditioned office at le Centre de Recherches Insulaires et Observatoire de l’Environnement. In short, CRIOBE; a French research station nestled between green mountains, located on the idyllic gemstone of an island: Moorea, in French Polynesia. Fieldwork during any period of time, regardless of a pandemic, is hard enough, but with the added hurdles it took to get here, I genuinely feel so fortunate to be here, doing what I love.

Here’s my journey.

January 2020: Mauritius 
My first official field trip for my Masters by Research to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean doth commence. My main focus for this field trip was to explore communication in the reef fishes of Mauritius, with a key focus on UV markings of damselfish and mouth-brooding behaviour and vocalisation in cardinalfish. As a lone researcher and traveller, I was filled with the myriad of feelings that accompany the start of a new major chapter: excitement, nervousness and anticipation to name but a few. I was raring to go, and hungry to learn. The Mauritius expedition presented me with the opportunity not only to advance my dive training, but also to network with inspirational local reef conservation NGO’s and to work alongside the BBC and obverse, first-hand, the process of natural history documentary filmmaking.

PADI Rescue Diver Training in Mauritius

February-March 2020: COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 hits the UK, followed swiftly by Mauritius. Being 6000 miles away, I definitely felt a bit detached from my motherland. I was loosely following the progress of COVID from China to the UK, feeling rather safe and protected on my little island in the Indian Ocean. However, on the 18th March 2020, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth confirmed that there were 3 cases of COVID-19 in Mauritius. Over the next few weeks, like in many countries, the situation worsened and after discussions with my supervisor and advice from the University, I was emergency repatriated back to the UK on the 23rd March.

March-May 2020: Interruption
March to May was an incredibly tough period personally for me, resulting in me deciding to interrupt my Masters with the full support of Exeter University and my supervisor. In short, a very close family member was taken seriously ill with COVID-19. At times like these, illnesses such as COVID-19 can feel like a distant threat and humans can falsely believe that we are untouchable. This period of my life made me realise that we are quite the opposite – a fact that in its intensity is both terrifying, but simultaneously motivating. It made me think: we have one life! Following the miraculous recovery of this incredibly resilient and brave family member, I had a new drive to seize the day and jumped straight back on the bandwagon of marine research. This started with myself and my supervisor rethinking the direction of my Masters project.

May-October 2020: Collaboration & Clownfish
I truly believe that collaboration is one of the key pillars maintaining the balance in the world of science; connecting with scientists from all around the world takes what can be achieved in science to the next level. I was fortunate enough to collaborate with two brilliant, bubbly, bonkers Marine Biologists on my next venture: Dr Suzanne Mills and Dr Ricardo Beldade. This period of time involved me, sat at my desk, cup of coffee in hand, watching and analysing 100’s of hours of videos of French Polynesian clownfish, captured previously by Suzie and Ricardo. This analysis allowed me to highlight the complexities of clownish vocalisation, showing vocalisations to be highly linked with behaviour, and proving that these charismatic fish are in fact a whole lot more tuneful than suggested by the current literature.

French Polynesian clownfish

November-December 2020: The Next Step – French Polynesia
Following the exciting discoveries of my first chapter, I was looking to the horizon and thinking ‘what’s next?’. This is where Dr Mills and Dr Beldade saved the day (AGAIN!). I was very kindly invited to join them in French Polynesia on an Artificial Light At Night (ALAN) project, working with the same tuneful heroes from my first chapter: the orange-fin anemone fish (Amphiprion chrysopterus). Understanding the impacts we, as humans, have on our surrounding natural environment and the species we coexist with, is what drives me in my journey in science. In understanding the impacts we have, we can alter the course of these impacts and mitigate against them to better improve our environment. My aim with this project is to comprehend that first step of understanding the impact we have, with a focus on light as the anthropogenic stressor in question.

Setting up cameras to record Orange-fin anemonefish behaviour

My next few months here will be a busy old time. Throughout my three month field season here, my time will be split up with many a day in the field (or ‘sur le terrain’ as they say here!) come sunshine or rain, many a day in the workshop learning how to use various tools and thinking creatively about how to optimise GOPRO positioning to effectively capture clownfish behaviour, as well as many hours spent talking and networking with my fellow researchers at the station and learning about the innovative and inspiring projects that are going on here. I honestly just can’t wait to get stuck in.

I hope you will join me on my French Polynesian scientific adventures, if you are keen, please follow me on Twitter: helyyy_i for all updates from tropical Moorea.

Mauururu (thank you in Polynesian!)


#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!

Women in Science: 30 Inspirational Women in ExeterMarine

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

Professor Annette Broderick 

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

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

Jennifer Finlay 

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

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

Image result for dr xiaoya maDr Xiaoya Ma

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

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

Jiaxin Chen

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

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

Dr Sarah Nelms

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

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

Hind Al Ameri 

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

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




Dr Sophie Nedelec

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

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

Dr Joanna Alfaro

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

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



Dr Louisa Evans  Dr Louisa Evans 

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

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


Image result for dr emily duncanDr Emily Duncan

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

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

Catherine Lee Hing

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

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






Dr Rita Patricio

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

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

Dr Ana Nuno

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

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

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

Dr Krista Sherman

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

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





Jen Jones

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

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

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

Dr Katy Sheen 

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

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

Prof Lora FlemingProfessor Lora Fleming

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

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

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

Dr Lucy Hawkes

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

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

Professor Heather Koldewey

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

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

Dr Beth O’Leary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Jo Browse

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

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

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

Dr Lucy Omeyer

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

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





Dr Tessa Gordelier

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

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

Dr Ruth Thurstan

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

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

Veronica Zuccolo

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

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






Dr Rachel Turner 

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

Dr Liliana Colman

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

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

Lowenna Jones

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

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

Dr Eva Jimenez-Guri Dr Eva Jimenez-Guri

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

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

Dr Sylvia Earle

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

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


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

MSc Graduate in Focus: Claire Tanner

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 marine conservation around the world since studying with us.

Today we meet Claire Tanner, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2016) and now a PhD student in shorebird behaviour and evolution at the University of Bath!

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

Before I joined the MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity programme in 2015, I had already worked as a sea turtle biologist, a research assistant and a programme director in conservation organisations in Costa Rica, Cape Verde and Ghana. I decided that I wanted to develop a career in research, which was why I chose to undertake an MSc, and then to apply for PhDs. My MSc dissertation was focused on how climate change affected the sex ratios of sea turtles, and for my PhD at the University of Bath, I am currently investigating how sex ratios in adult shorebirds could potentially affect the mating system.

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

Cornwall is such an amazing place to live, with many different habitats to explore during local field trips, the beach nearby to relax with friends, and so many different watersports and outdoor sports to do!

Penryn Campus has such inspiring lecturers that are completing cutting-edge research, and there are many opportunities within modules and extra-curricular talks to hear and meet guest speakers from different career fields. The community of doctoral students and lecturers at Penryn Campus are so enthusiastic about their research, and really supportive of students developing themselves for their chosen careers. It was great to be able to discuss research with lecturers and research staff, especially when the research being conducted is always so current, interesting and progressive.

The lecturers at the CEC were always really supportive and approachable, which made it a very comfortable environment in which to study and enabled me to develop as a scientist and improve my research skills. I really loved the field trip module, which further developed my field work and collaborative skills. It was amazing to be able to visit Kenya to study conservation and learn from conservation managers on the ground, comparing different conservation methods, and discussing future research projects.

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

During my Masters course, I gained many transferrable skills which have been essential for my PhD, including developing my academic writing, improving my ability to make and present posters for presentations and social media, data analysis, and public speaking. It has also given me the confidence to develop as an independent researcher. Before coming to University of Exeter, I had never used R. The statistics module taught me R within 3 months (which is amazing as it’s a whole new coding language), to the extent that I could use it competently for my dissertation results. I now use R extensively for my statistical analyses. It is a skill that I will continue to develop as I use different analyses and models throughout my career.

Do you think there are any factors that make the University of Exeter a unique place to study?

It is the perfect place for students who love the outdoors as there are so many opportunities to take part in outdoor activities. The course is unique and offered so many opportunities to develop my skills for my future career.

I loved that Penryn Campus was a green campus. It was very environmentally friendly with electric campus vehicles, recycling schemes and the “Turn on the Tap” scheme. I was able to start a “Ban the Bottle” campaign with peers to reduce the use of single use plastic bottles on campus. This was then continued with the next cohort and created the water-bar on campus! It was great to be part of a change of behaviours amongst students.

The University of Exeter has also achieved Silver Athena SWAN status. This really inspired me by seeing more women in research and science. Having visited other Universities without such a high Athena SWAN status, it has made me realize just how unique and important this was during my studies.

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

Keep persevering. I applied for PhDs for 2 years while working in an office. It could get disheartening at times, but PhDs are so competitive now for behavioural and evolutionary topics, that it’s very important to keep going, get feedback, and improve applications. Don’t lose hope!

Thanks Claire!

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: Josie Palmer

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 marine conservation around the world since studying with us.

Today we meet Josie Palmer, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2018) and now a PhD student at University of Exeter!

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

I am a first year PhD student entitled, “Assessing the Impact of Small-Scale Fisheries on Sea Turtle Populations in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin”, with the University of Exeter.

After completing my MSc, I applied for A NERC funded PhD at the University of Exeter, where I reached the final round of the selection process but was unfortunately unsuccessful. I spent 8 months working for the Marine Turtle Conservation Project (MTCP) in North Cyprus from February-October 2019 as an Onboard Fisheries Observer, Stranding and Lab Manager and Team Leader for the Cyprus Bycatch Project and MTCP turtle nesting season. I then applied for the same PhD I was unsuccessful for during Spring 2019 in November 2019 which was advertised with a different type of funding this time and was successful, starting my PhD in January 2020.

What drew you to studying at the University of Exeter after completing your BSc?

I started looking for an MSc in the final year of my undergraduate, and had spoken to a number of my lecturers about courses they would recommend, including my project supervisor and personal tutor, and was highly recommended the MSc at UoE by all of them. The only other course I was looking at was with Imperial College London, but I decided that the research focuses and atmosphere of UoE more closely aligned with what I wanted to do and the experience I wanted to have.

The Penryn Campus is a hub for marine conservation, and I knew I would get a wide variety of opportunities to engage with this as well as receive some of the best lecturing from experts in their field. The coastal lifestyle is definitely one of the main draws for the campus, and definitely took the edge of the stress you can experience while studying.

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

The support from staff is truly unprecedented. I never felt like I couldn’t ask for help or that I was asking a stupid question. You’re not just a student, you’re an individual to the university.

There was a heavy emphasis on the research project aspect of the degree and this is what really started to get me to think more in depth about my work and prepare me for further study and research.

Practicing interview scenarios was incredibly helpful to see how I might be interviewed for future jobs and how to prepare for them. I have gained a whole suite of analytical skills that will be transferable to a wide range of jobs, not just in conservation. There were and still are so many opportunities to practice communicating your research in a friendly and non-judgmental atmosphere, which is something I used to be terrified of doing but have definitely relaxed more with because of these opportunities.


Any advice for someone looking to follow a similar career?

I think there is a tendency for people to assume that the best way into this field is to get as much practical experience as possible. Usually it’s assumed this means volunteering abroad to gain fieldwork experience of a particular groups of animals or species. These are definitely core skills you need but there are many other skills that are often overlooked. Some of the best advice I’ve been given is that it’s not about the animal or plant or system that you study, its about having the skills behind the scenes to be able to say something meaningful from your research. Once you have the skills in a particular area of research you can transfer these to many others.

After I complete my PhD, I’d like to continue to work in scientific research but in what capacity I’m not sure yet. One thing I’ve learnt throughout my academic career so far is that you can only do so much planning, and the best decisions I’ve made so far have been through taking things one step at a time and seeing what’s out there and what appeals to you the most when it’s time for your next move!

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

There is something for everyone at the University of Exeter, so if you’re looking for a relaxed and friendly and professional atmosphere to study in, then you’ve found it!

Thanks Josie!

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: Kieran McCloskey

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

Today we meet Kieran McCloskey, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2017) and now a PhD student at the University of Exeter studying impacts of anthropogenic noise on fish reproduction and populations.

Hi Kieran! We’re glad you’ve continued your studies with us at the University of Exeter, what do you think makes the University a great place to study?

I chose this university because the programme on offer was a good fit for my interests/needs to transition into ecology from the biomedical field. The MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity offered a broad range of taught courses, field experience and an opportunity to conduct independent research through a project towards the end of the programme. As someone who needed to experience as much as possible to fully immerse myself in ecology and conservation, this programme turned out to be a perfect fit.

The Centre for Ecology and Conservation has a great balance of professionalism and approachability. While studying at the CEC, I felt that I was receiving high-calibre instruction and was participating in cutting-edge research. At the same time, lecturers, academics and visiting professionals were made available in a way that I always felt comfortable to start a discussion about ideas, interests or potential opportunities for research or job-placement.

We’re glad you have enjoyed your time with us. How have you found studying at both our Cornwall, Penryn Campus and Exeter, Streatham Campus?

Personally, as a new international student from the US, I felt that the Penryn Campus was a warm and friendly environment for someone so far away from home. I’m currently based at the larger Streatham Campus, and I am glad I was able to experience the satellite campus before moving to Devon.

Cornwall is a wonderful place to live and study. While the program itself was a good fit for me and my interests, the most enjoyable aspect of studying at the Penryn campus would have to be the scenery and surrounding areas. There are plenty of beautiful beaches and coastal walks that offer stunning views, especially at sunset. Cornwall itself is filled with community spirit and pride and has a rich history and culture. During my master’s program, I lived in Falmouth, which is a charming fishing town 30 minutes away from campus that has great restaurants, shops and pubs. Having lived in the UK now for over three years, Cornwall is still my favourite destination to visit.

With his award for ‘Best Oral Presentation’ at Reef Conservation UK 2019

What skills did you learn that helped you to develop further in your career?

There has been a lot of carry over in terms of the skills that I developed during my master’s programme that have helped me to be successful in my current role as a PhD student. My course helped me to build confidence in oral presentation and academic writing, gain proficiency in making and presenting academic posters, develop a strong foundation in statistics and data analysis, improve my background research skills and literature reviews, and make strides towards becoming an independent researcher.

The research skills course that was offered during my program was particularly helpful for someone like me who had recently switched into a research role from a previous profession. This course helped me to hone important skills, such as oral presentation, making an academic poster, completing a literature review, building my CV, and participating in public outreach. Similarly, the Career Zone offered advice and guidance on improving CVs and preparing for job/PhD interviews that I utilised. Lastly, my academic tutor and the head of my programme were terrific resources for seeking guidance about furthering my career in the academic world.

Kieran presents a poster of his work at the Society for Experimental Biology’s Annual Meeting


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

I have always been passionate about science. I previously worked in the medical field, but found that it wasn’t the right fit for me as a career. I decided to change paths and started as a volunteer on a conservation project. From there, I went on to pursue a postgraduate degree at the University of Exeter, and it was during my MSc that I was able to build confidence and come to the realisation that ecology and conservation could be my chosen profession. For me, the drive to improve our relationship with the natural world is what I enjoy most about my work. It is a cause I can support fully and have no reservations about. Furthermore, I feel that ecology and conservation are becoming increasingly important topics in science. As a society, we are starting to understand the tremendous negative impact that we have on our planet and the importance of a healthy environment. With climate change now moving to the forefront of public concern and political debate, strong foundations in ecology and conservation will be mandatory for all human activity across the globe.

As with most sectors, learn as much as you can about the industry you’re interested in. Take opportunities to explore your interests and speak with experts about their experiences. Also, it’s best to be patient. No one becomes an expert/professional in their field overnight.

Thank you Kieran!

You can follow Kieran on Twitter, @kieranp_mcc

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 Kylie Scales

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 Kylie Scales, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2010) and now working as a Senior Lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia!

Dr Kylie Scales Photo: USC Australia

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

Immediately after finishing my MSc I secured a Postgraduate research and teaching assistant position at Centre for Ecology & Conservation. I then moved on to a PhD in Marine Science at Plymouth Marine Lab. From there I travelled to the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center Environmental Research Division in Monterey, California as a postdoctoral project assistant. And finally in 2016 I secured a lectureship at USC Australia and became a senior lecturer in Animal Ecology in 2018.

Dr Kylie Scales, Associate Editor at RSEC Journal Photo: RSEC Journal

You’ve worked in some wonderful places! What made you choose to study your MSc with us at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus?

I had been living in Cornwall for a couple of years, working as a secondary school teacher after graduating from an undergraduate degree at the University of Plymouth. When I discovered the potential to study ecology and conservation at the Penryn Campus through an advert for a PhD studentship with Profs. Brendan Godley and Annette Broderick, I couldn’t believe that such opportunity existed in Cornwall. I’ve never looked back.

The facilities at Penryn are first-rate. There are many fantastic people working and studying at the campus, so student life is varied and interesting. Living in Cornwall provides lots of opportunity to get outside and into the ocean. My experiences there were very enjoyable, and I have great memories of that time.

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

 My experiences at Penryn gave me excellent role models and mentors that prepared me for my current role as a lecturer and researcher.

I enjoyed the interaction with the world-leading researchers in ecology and conservation that are based at the Penryn Campus. Studying for an MSc at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation opened my eyes to the possibilities of collaborative research, and I aspired to join the community of inspirational and proactive people that I met there.

The training in data analysis using the statistical software R delivered by Prof. Dave Hodgson has springboarded my career in data science. This was a standout aspect of the MSc, and made me highly competitive for other studentships and research opportunities. I also learnt to write, speak in public, and connect with professional researchers. These learning experiences have proven invaluable since.

My research project involved tracking sea turtles at a remote coral atoll in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system off Belize. This was an incredible experience, and a privilege that I will never forget. We also published the resultant research in a peer-reviewed journal, which was my first scientific paper,  and this proved helpful in securing further opportunities.

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

Do it now!

Thanks Kylie!

Dr Kylie Scales (back right) and Dr Javier Leon (front left) with Smartfin Users. Photo: Noosa News

You can follow Kylie on Twitter @KylieScales

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

Developing a New Floating Wind Turbine

Model Tests with a Novel Floating Wind Turbine Concept

Dr Ed Mackay & Prof. Lars Johanning, Offshore Renewable Energy Group

Dr Ed Mackay (Left) and Prof Lars Johanning (Right)

Floating offshore wind energy has been identified as being able to provide a significant contribution to meeting future renewable energy generation targets. Compared to traditional offshore wind turbines, which are fixed to the seabed, floating turbines can access deeper waters and areas with a higher wind resource. Current floating wind turbines are at the pre-commercial stage, with small arrays of up to five turbines being demonstrated. The cost of floating offshore wind turbines is currently significantly higher than fixed offshore wind. One of the main areas identified for reducing the cost of the structure is in the design of the platform. The platform must be designed to withstand large wave loads and keep the wind turbine as stable as possible. Large platform motions lead to reduced energy yield and increased loads on the wind turbine and drive train.

As part of the EPSRC funded RESIN project, the University of Exeter has been working with Dalian University of Technology (DUT) in China to investigate the use of porous materials in the floating platform for an offshore wind turbine, as a passive means of reducing platform motions. Porous materials are commonly used in offshore and coastal structures such as breakwaters or offshore oil platforms. As a wave passes through the porous material, energy is dissipated, reducing the wave height and wave-induced forces. The question posed by the RESIN project is: can porous materials be beneficial for floating offshore wind?

Examples of porous structures used in coastal and offshore engineering

The project has investigated this question using a combination of physical and numerical modelling. A range of analytical and numerical models have been developed [1-3] and validated against scale model tests in wave tanks. Two tests campaigns were conducted at the large wave flume at DUT in the summers of 2018 and 2019. The initial tests last year considered simple cases with flat porous plates with various porosities and hole sizes [4] and tests with fixed porous cylinders. These tests were used to validate the numerical predictions in a range of simple scenarios and gain an understanding of the effect of the porosity on the wave-induced loads.


A wave interacting with a fixed porous cylinder

Following the successful validation of the numerical models with simple fixed structures, a design was developed for a 1:50 scale model of a floating turbine, which could be tested with and without external porous columns. The model was tested at DUT this summer and further tests were conducted in the FlowWave tank at the University of Edinburgh this autumn. The test results showed that the motion response could be reduced by up to 40% in some sea states by adding a porous outer column to the platform. Work is ongoing to analyse the test results and optimise the design a platform using porous materials. However, initial results indicate that using porous materials in floating offshore wind turbines offers potential for reducing the loading on the turbine and mooring lines and improving energy capture.

1:50 scale model of a floating platform for an offshore wind turbine in various configurations. Left: inner column only. Middle: medium porous outer column. Right: Large porous outer column. The turbine rotor and nacelle are modelled as a lumped mass at the top of the tower.
The scale model installed at the FloWave tank at the Univeristy of Edinburgh

Thanks Ed!

To keep up to date with the Renewable Energy team, give them a follow on Twitter @Renewables_UoE 

For information on the Offshore Renewable Energy research group, check out their webpages.


  • Mackay EBL, Feichtner A, Smith R, Thies P, Johanning L. (2018) Verification of a Boundary Element Model for Wave Forces on Structures with Porous Elements, RENEW 2018, 3rd International Conference on Renewable Energies Offshore, Lisbon, Portugal, 8th – 10th Oct 2018.
  • Feichtner A, Mackay EBL, Tabor G, Thies P, Johanning L. (2019) Modelling Wave Interaction with Thin Porous Structures using OpenFOAM, 13th European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference, Napoli, Italy, 1st – 6th Sep 2019.
  • Mackay E, Johanning L, (2019). Comparison of Analytical and Numerical Solutions for Wave Interaction with a Vertical Porous Barrier. Ocean Engineering (submitted)
  • Mackay E, Johanning L, Ning D, Qiao D (2019). Numerical and experimental modelling of wave loads on thin porous sheets. Proc. ASME 2019 38th International Conference on Ocean, Offshore and Arctic Engineering OMAE2019, 2019, pp. 1-10.

#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: Nathalie Swain-Diaz

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 Nathalie Swain-Diaz, MSc Conservation and Biodiversity graduate (2016) and now a Senior Natural History TV Researcher!

Hi Nathalie! Your job sounds incredibly exciting, why don’t you tell us a bit about your career since studying with us?

Whilst I was completing my Masters, I was offered a job at the BBC in Manchester, working on a new campaign for children which involved designing Science experiments. Whilst there, I did a 2-week placement with the Natural History Unit in Bristol and was offered a job soon after. I’ve never really looked back! Since then I’ve been really lucky to have worked on marine focused programmes such as Blue Planet Live and have most recently been working at an independent production house based in Bristol on an animal behaviour focused series.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t aiming for this career! Natural History TV was a world that seemed completely inaccessible and I thought it was a ridiculous pipe dream to even entertain the idea of it as a viable career, but I am forever thankful that I find myself in an industry that marries my creative and academic interests so perfectly. At the moment there seems to be more demand for (and interest in) natural history programming than ever before, which is hugely exciting and hopefully marks a turning point – I think people are craving a connection to nature that has been lost over the years, and I am really looking forward to seeing how the industry grows and finding more unique stories to tell on screen.


What attracted you to study your MSc at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus?

The course was the most aligned to my interests and I loved the variety of subjects and scope for independent research on offer. I was hoping to find a taught Masters that would still give me the freedom to have a healthy work-life balance and live in a place I had never been before where I could explore the outdoors in my downtime.

The Masters course had a great reputation and I had met previous graduates who recommended the course greatly. The lecturers are also at the top of their respective fields and I felt it would be a great place to learn more about a field I really wanted to get into.


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

I have to say – Cornwall itself! I grew up in the middle of London but I’ve always been overwhelmingly drawn to the ocean, and having it on my doorstep for a whole year was incredible. It’s such a beautiful part of the country and being able to explore it on the weekends was a huge perk to studying at the Penryn Campus. There are so many nature trails in the area and the wildlife is incredible, even in winter!

The Masters was really well organized and the lecturers were really involved and helpful. I always felt comfortable emailing with questions and they were always keen to help – the support was brilliant. The campus labs and resources were also great and meant that research went smoothly.

The facilities and student life were great and the lecturers were all very supportive throughout the course. The campus itself is gorgeous and there are loads of gardens and open spaces dotted around that are lovely to explore in the sunshine

How did the MSc help prepare you for your career?

The Masters course gave me experience in researching a wide range of topics in depth, as well as presenting them in a range of formats. Each module had very different requirements for coursework, not just writing essays, but designing posters, and the variety meant that I could better adapt information to each. I was also part of a team creating a podcast about current research going on at the University and created content for the social media channels. All of these skills have come in useful in the workplace, especially working in a creative industry where I often use different formats to convey information I have researched. It has also given me more confidence to approach scientists at institutions around the world and to interpret data from published papers. Lecturers and guest speakers at the University have also added to my professional network and it has been really useful in finding stories that could work well on screen.

Finding and synthesizing large amounts of information and factchecking is paramount for my job and I definitely learnt how to do this in a more efficient manner during my Masters course. The course was well geared into focusing on current conservation challenges that are becoming more crucial to understand in depth as our natural world changes at an ever-increasing rate, and learning about the range of threats the natural world is facing has inspired me to research these topics in depth for programme proposals in particular.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Don’t sell yourself short! The industry is growing and always looking for new, talented people with a genuine passion for wildlife. I’d watch current wildlife television and have a go at making your own content – it doesn’t have to be videos… it could be a blog or art – anything! Finding a way to showcase your creativity is always great too and shows genuine interest. It’s also useful to keep an eye on careers websites and search for companies offering entry level positions for recent graduates.

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

If your gut is telling you to do it… Do it! My Masters was such a great experience and also loads of fun, you’ll love it!


Thanks Nathalie!

You can follow Nathalie on Twitter @Nat_Nature and Instagram @nat.nature or check out her website, Nature Nat!

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

BEng Renewable Energy Engineering