World Turtle Day 2022 with ExeterMarine

World Turtle Day was created as a yearly observance to help people celebrate and protect turtles and their habitats across the world. Today, ExeterMarine is celebrating World Turtle Day, by showcasing 8 turtle publications from the last year, from some of our lead academics in the marine science field.  

Publication 1 of 8: Plastic pollution and small juvenile marine turtles: a potential evolutionary trap’ 

Lead author: Dr Emily Duncan 

Photography: Eleanor Church

Plastic pollution could create an “evolutionary trap” for juvenile sea turtles. Stranded turtles (five of the world´s species) found on the east (Pacific) and west (Indian Ocean) coasts of Australia had ingested plastic pieces, mostly hard fragments and fibres. Juvenile turtles travel in currents and develop in the open ocean, but the same currents now accumulate vast quantities of plastic. These turtles show surface and non-selective feeding, therefore are at high risk of ingestion. The next stage of research is to find out if and how plastic ingestion affects the health and survival of these turtles.

Link to paper:  

http://seaturtle.org/library/?v=15583  

Publication 2 of 8:Climate Change and Marine Turtles: Recent Advances and Future Directions’ 

Lead author: Dr Ana Patricio

“Climate change can impact sea turtles at all life stages, being one of the major challenges for conservation managers in the near future. For decades, research was focused on the nesting beach, where turtles are more easily accessible, with recent years seeing more studies extending to the marine realm, using novel approaches and technologies. In the latest literature review on this topic, we summarise main findings, highlight knowledge gains and research gaps, and make a list of research priorities for an improved understanding of how climate change may impact marine turtles, to guide future works.”

Link to paper:  

http://seaturtle.org/library/?v=14385  

Publication 3 of 8:  Green Turtles Highlight Connectivity Across a Regional Marine Protected Area Network in West Africa

Lead author: Dr Ana Patricio

“We investigate the movements of green turtles from the largest Eastern Atlantic population with satellite tracking, to assess the level of protection afforded by the Regional Network of Marine Protected Areas in West Africa. We found that nesting females of this population connect at least five West African nations through their migrations, from Guinea to Mauritania, reinforcing the need of international collaborations for their effective conservation! Turtles stayed mostly within MPAs across the network, underscoring the importance of this sites for this major population. Based on our results we provide recommendations for conservation managers on how they may enhance protection.”

Link to paper:  

http://seaturtle.org/library/?v=16094  

Publication 4 of 8:Marine turtles of the African east coast: current knowledge and priorities for conservation and research 

 Lead author: Casper van de Geer

In this research we worked with a team from across the Western Indian Ocean region to bring together everything that is currently known about turtles along the continental East coast of Africa. Clearly, there is a lot of work left to do, and our findings also highlight the vulnerability of the populations that nest, migrate and forage along the continental coast. Fortunately, there are some great examples of conservation efforts and there is growing recognition of the need to implement effective protection across the region.” 

Link to paper:  

http://seaturtle.org/library/?v=16138 

Publication 5 of 8: Green turtle population recovery at Aldabra Atoll continues after 50 yr of protection 

Lead author: Adam Pritchard

“It’s been an honour to record the inspiring population increase of Aldabra’s green turtles and help deliver a much-needed “good news” conservation message which will hopefully encourage similar programmes. It just goes to show that, given the opportunity, animals have an astonishing capacity to recover from exploitation.”

Link to paper: 

http://seaturtle.org/library/?v=16073 

Publication 6 of 8:Fulfilling global marine commitments; lessons learned from Gabon 

Lead author: Dr Kristian Metcalfe

Link to paper: 

http://seaturtle.org/library/?v=16182 

Publication 7 of 8: Investigating differences in population recovery rates of two sympatrically nesting sea turtle species 

Lead author: Dr Lucy Omeyer

“After 30 years of consistent, intensive monitoring of sea turtles in Cyprus, it is great to see such an increase in green turtles. On the other hand, loggerhead turtles are not doing as well, potentially because of incidental bycatch in fisheries in the Mediterranean region. Understanding the threats faced by juveniles will be important for the effective management of these threatened species.”

Link to paper:  

http://seaturtle.org/library/?v=16183

Publication 8 of 8: ‘Dietary analysis of two sympatric marine turtle species in the eastern Mediterranean 

Lead author: Josie Palmer

“In this study we investigated diet of stranded and bycaught green and loggerhead turtles in North Cyprus. Green turtle diet was dominated by an invasive seagrass from the Red Sea. In other regions where it has invaded, green turtles still prefer native seagrasses which are rapidly being displaced by the Red Sea invasive leading to concerns over their long-term persistence. This paper documented the highest consumption levels of this invasive seagrass in Mediterranean green turtles to date potentially indicating they are better adjusting. Loggerhead turtles were more opportunistic and carnivorous, placing them at risk to different fishing methods such as baited gears in deeper waters, whereas green turtles forage in shallower water where static set nets are more common. As part of my larger PhD study into the impacts of small-scale fisheries on marine turtle populations in the eastern Mediterranean, these data will be combined with satellite tracking of foraging turtles, fisheries monitoring data and habitat modelling to better inform the level of overlap in habitat use with fisheries and highlight key areas of conflict and opportunities for mitigation.”

Link to paper:  

http://seaturtle.org/library/?v=15494  

 

To follow the work of these authors, please see their Twitter handles below: 

Dr Emily Duncan – @EmilyDuncan34 

Dr Rita Patricio – @arcpatricio 

Casper van de Geer – @CasperGeer

Adam Pritchard – @AdamPritchard5

Dr Kristian Metcalfe – @K_METCALFE

Dr Lucy Omeyer – @LucyOmeyer

MSc Graduate in Focus: Steph Trapp

We are looking at the achievements of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine science around the world since studying with us. Today we meet Steph Trapp, MSc Marine Vertebrate Ecology & Conservation graduate (2021) and now undertaking her PhD here at The University of Exeter.

What did you enjoy most about studying at the University of Exeter?  

Having the opportunity to learn from such a wide range of researchers and professionals from all over the world. This was definitely one of the biggest advantages of online learning during the pandemic, also living in Cornwall and being 10 minutes from the beach is pretty sweet. 

What were the best aspects of studying your course?  

I really liked how the course was split between structured, taught modules in the first half of the year and then completely independent project work in the second half. It gave us the chance to learn and develop academic skills like statistical modelling and GIS and then put them into practice for our own projects. The lecturers are all fantastic and super enthusiastic. We were able to explore some of the UK’s marine wildlife, including puffins, basking sharks and Risso’s dolphins. It was the perfect way to round off the taught part of the course. 

What skills and experiences did you gain that will/have been useful for job/internship applications? 

Learning statistical and spatial analysis techniques, using R and GIS software, whilst developing writing concise and logical scientific material have all proved useful. Additionally, gaining practical experience such as seabird and cetacean identification, alongside boat and land-based survey techniques have better prepared me for the industry. The combination of these have given me a good foundation for both practical fieldwork and more academic careers.   

Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter? 

I did my undergraduate degree here too and loved living in Cornwall. Finishing my degree mid-pandemic, the chances of getting a graduate job seemed pretty slim, but conveniently that was also when the new MVEC masters was being launched. I had been taught and supervised by some of the academics involved so knew it would be brilliant, and it seemed like the logical choice!  

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

I think the location of the campus and the whole Biosciences research community make it a very special place. It’s a very welcoming and supportive group to be part of, with so many world-class researchers doing amazing work. Everyone from undergraduate level to professors seems to have a shared love of being outdoors and exploring the Cornish coast. 

What skills and experience have been most useful for your career? And how do you think your programme prepared you for your career/current role? 

The programme gave me a solid academic grounding, especially in effective scientific communication and statistical analysis, which are vital if you want to do any kind of research job. However, for me the key to being offered my PhD was talking to lecturers and taking opportunities as they came up. Much more so than undergrad, the masters degree gave me the chance to get to know the academics and researchers in the department better and find opportunities to help out with fieldwork etc. 

Why did you choose this career? 

I still don’t feel as if I have actually “chosen” a career, although I have always wanted to work in conservation. Different opportunities kept popping up throughout my time at university, none of which I could have foreseen, which in turn led to other opportunities. I volunteered on a local wildlife tour boat, helping with dolphin and penguin research during my study abroad year. I also spent a summer on a seabird island as a research assistant. My idea for a career seems to change every few months depending on what I’m doing at that moment in time, which I personally find really exciting as I never know what might come up next! 

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

Be open to every opportunity, even if it’s not exactly what you thought you would be doing. I think having your career plans really set in stone means you could miss out on a whole load of great experiences. In the same vein, try to make the most of everything you do – I got my first paid research assistant job through working as a cleaner in a hostel. Just being enthusiastic and keen can work wonders!  

What are your plans for the future? 

I don’t have too many plans for now. I’d like to do some more fieldwork, probably with seabirds, possibly somewhere cool like the Subantarctic, and get my bird ringing license. Other than that, I’ll wait and see what opportunities pop up during the PhD. 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying to the University of Exeter? 

Do it, there’s nothing to lose! Come and see the campus and explore the area, have a good look at the course descriptions, and don’t be afraid to contact lecturers and staff, or even ex-students on social media, with any questions. 

MSc Graduate in Focus: Rachael Thomson

We are looking back on some of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine science around the world since studying with us. Today we meet Rachael Thomson, MSc Marine Vertebrate Ecology & Conservation graduate (2021) and now a Marine Wildlife Analyst for APEM which is an environmental and geospatial ecology company based in the UK.

What did you enjoy most about studying at the University of Exeter? 

One of the things I enjoyed the most about studying at the University of Exeter was hearing about the careers and experiences of other scientists who had previously studied here or have some sort of affiliation with Exeter. They do a lot of great research, taking a global collaborative approach which, I think is exciting. 

What were the best aspects of studying your course? 

Going on the boat trips around Cornwall and spotting basking sharks, seeing Risso’s dolphins and gannets were one of the highlights of studying my course. It was made even better that we were able to share these experiences with lecturers and other key staff in the department, giving us the chance to learn from them. We were also given a great range of research projects to choose from. My research project assessed whether marine turtles nesting in Panama may be somehow buffered from the effects of climate change, as research is suggesting higher temperatures produce more female hatchlings. I really hope to further collaborate with the Sea Turtle Conservancy which is based in Costa Rica and Panama to publish my project.

What skills and experiences did you gain that will/have been useful for job/internship applications? 

We were able to learn about the variety of technology that can be used to help solve conservation issues, which was something I found very fascinating and innovative. For example, the use of drones, baited remote underwater video (BRUVS), biologging tags, temperature loggers and aerial survey photography. Learning about these technologies and how to analyse the outputs was a great skill to have in the field of conservation. One bonus of doing my MSc in the pandemic was that it enabled me to spend more time improving my technical skills.  

Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter? 

A lot of skills and experiences offered on the Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation MSc seemed practical and useful for the current job market and I really wanted to take advantage of the opportunities. Additionally, I admired a lot of the staff and research that came from the university. Especially their involvement in working with sea turtles, marine mammals, basking sharks, and tuna. There is also a focus on international collaborations, and I enjoy travelling and understanding conservation issues on a global scale. 

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

Studying at the Cornwall campus and living in here has been essential to my enjoyment and wellbeing. Choosing where you study is an important part of any undergraduate, postgraduate or PhD decision. Since living here, I have found a new appreciation for UK wildlife and the coastline, with some great opportunities to get out on the water via boat, paddleboard, surfboard or even going for a refreshing cold-water snorkel. I even got the chance to see bioluminescence which I would have never thought was possible in the UK. 

What skills and experience have been most useful for your career? And how do you think your programme prepared you for your career/current role? 

I think the MSc programmes at Exeter provide excellent networking opportunities and the chance to see what your career could truly look like if you want it enough. Most importantly, the programme encourages independent learning and gives you the confidence to trust your knowledge and skills.  

Why did you choose this career? 

I have had a natural curiosity for as long as I remember and as soon as I realised science could give me answers, (or answers that lead to more questions), I knew it was for me. As well as collecting anything small and living – from woodlice to limpets. Choosing to pursue conservation began when I volunteered at my first sea turtle project in Kefalonia in Greece where I gained an understanding of the many ways we as humans negatively impact wildlife. After that, I wanted to help be part of the solution.  

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

Always make time for people and be approachable and friendly, as conservation needs people to work collaboratively. I would say to take advantage of the opportunities you are given and be open to working with different species or in different locations that might put you out of your comfort zone. Lastly, although easier said than done, don’t spend energy obsessing over how well others are doing in the field as you devalue your own achievements, and you deserve to be proud of those.

What are your plans for the future? 

I don’t like to plan too much but the most important thing to me is working with passionate people and working towards conservation that aims to solve one or multiple conservation issues. And hopefully improving the conservation of marine vertebrates such as turtles, sharks, marine mammals, and seabirds.  If this opportunity doesn’t exist, I will just have to create it!  

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying to the University of Exeter? 

Don’t even hesitate! Reach out to staff at the university or to people like myself who are very accessible on social media platforms like Twitter.  

 

MSc Graduate in Focus: Sian Woollard

We are looking back on some of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine science around the world since studying with us. Today we meet Sian Woollard, MSc Marine Environmental Management graduate (2021) and now a Protected Sites Advisor for Natural England. 

What did you enjoy most about studying at the University of Exeter?  

I enjoyed all of the modules we had, the beautiful setting of living in Cornwall, and the opportunities (such as volunteering opportunities) whilst being a part of the University of Exeter. 

What were the best aspects of studying your course? 

I loved the lecturers, I felt I was always supported and looked after throughout my masters degree. I also really enjoyed my research project – it was so fun developing my own project and delivering it to different audiences, I found it so fulfilling. 

What skills and experiences did you gain that will/have been useful for job/internship applications?  

I believe my academic writing improved significantly throughout my masters and has definitely helped me secure my job since finishing at Exeter. Additionally, the knowledge gained is really useful and I’m able to apply that to different aspects, post-Masters. 

Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter?  

The University of Exeter was one of the few universities that offered masters programmes that accepted students without a science background, which I needed as I studied English Language and Linguistics for my undergrad. I had previously worked on a project that is run in partnership with Exeter (SPOT) a turtle project based in Cyprus. It was there that I met different students at Exeter who all spoke positively of their experiences. Both of these reasons were huge influences in my decision. 

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

The University of Exeter has excellent partnerships and collaborations with organisations worldwide, as well as world-leading experts in the field who lecture there. The opportunities for brilliant field trips too were a bonus – I think these reasons make the University of Exeter really unique.  

What skills and experience have been most useful for your career? And how do you think your programme prepared you for your career/current role?  

Learning about designated sites in the Protected Areas module have been the most useful for my career so far. Additionally, the project management aspect of my research project has really refined my timekeeping and improved my communication with different stakeholders. 

Why did you choose this career?  

Natural England are a brilliant organisation who are working towards protecting and improving more of the UK’s natural environments, which is a line of work I’m particularly interested in.  

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

I got this job by sending out emails to people within Natural England just as I was finishing my masters. I would 100% recommend not only applying for roles that interest you but also sending out emails and contacting people within your organisation (even if it results in a job that’s not directly related to what you want), as this shows resilience and initiative. 

What are your plans for the future?  

Currently, I’m on a temporary contract with Natural England so I’m currently in the process of interviewing for a permanent position. If I get this, it means I can continue within this organisation, and if I am not successful this time I’m going to go back to searching for environmental education and outreach positions as that is my dream line of work. 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying to the University of Exeter?  

If you’re unsure, I would contact lecturers beforehand and ask if you can chat about the course and the university, especially with things being so uncertain with lockdown, as this can help so much. Other than that, I would say to just go for it and have fun!

 

MSc Graduate in Focus: Kara Rising

We are looking back on some of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine science around the world since studying with us. Today we meet Kara Rising, an international MSc Marine Environmental Management graduate (2021) from America and now a Research Technician in Coral Biology at the University of Derby. 

 

Can you outline your pathway from graduating to where you are now?  

To be honest, there wasn’t much of a pathway for me. I saw a job post on Twitter from a coral scientist who I followed and was familiar with his work. The job was closely aligned with my prior experience and aspirations to go into research and it would allow me to gain practical experience in aquatic animal husbandry, microbiology, molecular biology and conservation.  I called this scientist that day to discuss the role and a few months, an application and two interviews later I was offered the job and moved to Derby a few days after finishing in person teaching for my masters!  

What did you enjoy most about studying at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus? 

The class discussions that we had as a group of students, alongside Professor Callum Roberts and Dr Julie Hawkins who taught the degree. They did very well to facilitate thought-provoking discussions in class and between ourselves. I think this particularly helped me to dive deeper into the research and ask more questions. This, coupled with the coursework, taught me so much in just one year at Exeter.  

What were the best aspects of studying your course?

I loved doing my research project with Professor Martin Stevens. When I started I had very little confidence in my ability to lead and carry out a full scientific study, however he guided me the right amount which allowed me to really explore, practice, ask questions and gain confidence. It was hard work, for sure, but I loved every second of it.    

What skills and experiences did you gain that will/have been useful for job/internship applications? 

For practical skills, learning statistical modelling and coding in R for data analysis has and will continue to be vital in my current job and for the rest of my career. Also, through doing my research project, undertaking a study through the phases of its concept, experimental design, data collection, analysis and write-up was something that my current job looked for in a successful candidate, as the role is heavily research-focused.  

Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter?  

The research caliber of the lecturers and its overall reputation in ecology made me feel it would be a suitable fit for me. 

Why did you decide that the University of Exeter Penryn Campus was the best place to study your particular subject?  

Coral reef management and restoration was a big passion for me and an MSc in Marine Environmental Management that was based at the Penryn Campus seemed like the best fit for what I wanted to pursue in my career. 

How would you describe your experiences studying at the Penryn Campus and living in Cornwall (e.g. facilities, student life, campus surroundings, support).  

Cornwall is beautiful – I loved living near the coast and being able to go out and explore the rock pools, go for a swim and go surfing throughout the year I lived there. I think being near the sea just fuelled my fascination and passion for the subject I was studying! 

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

I think just being in a place with so many great minds all there to be able to talk to and ask questions really made my experience unique. The staff listened to us during a challenging year from the COVID-19 pandemic, where for the majority of the year we worked remotely. I think their willingness to make adjustments and try to give additional opportunities was unique and really demonstrated their empathy and concern for their students. 

What skills and experience have been most useful for your career? And how do you think your programme prepared you for your career/current role?  

I think doing my research project in the field at Exeter helped to prepare me for my current career- while during my project there would constantly be things that had to be fixed, adjusted or re-planned. I think learning to think on my feet and troubleshoot creatively are skills that carried over into my current role and I use the most while taking care of a lab with several aquariums housing many different animals.  

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work? 

Sometimes I feel like a child being in science, I’m in constant fascination with how organisms function and interact with their environment. I love continuously learning and I never want to lose that sense of awe about the natural world, being a researcher gives me that chance to learn and explore. Working as a Research Technician in the Aquatic Research Centre at the University of Derby has offered me the chance to ask my own questions and develop my own research projects, whilst also helping others with their research and learning the technical skills associated with our projects. It really is the best of both worlds.  

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

Overall, I would say network! Go to conferences, reach out to that author on a paper you really liked, and take chances. There will be people who don’t respond, but those who do may be more likely to think of you if a position comes up that may fit your career aspirations. Or they could end up being a great collaborator in the future. Even if nothing comes of it you may still learn something just by speaking with them. 

What are your plans for the future? 

I hope to go on to do a PhD at some point! 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying to the University of Exeter? 

Firstly, I would congratulate them on a good decision. Secondly, this advice might be more specific to those switching subjects or careers, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and believe that it’s too hard to switch careers and go back to school- but I’m walking proof that it’s never too late and you can still find success.  

MSc Graduate in Focus: Tess DeSerisy

We are looking back on some of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine science around the world since studying with us. Today we meet Tess DeSerisy, MSc Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation graduate (2021) and now a Conservation Field Supervisor at Sea Turtle Inc. 

What did you enjoy most about studying at the University of Exeter?  

The thing I value most about studying at Exeter was the connectivity it gave me to scientists around the world. Speaking with and hearing perspectives from researchers in loads of different cultures allowed me to open my mind to new and innovative ways of thinking. 

What were the best aspects of studying your course?

The best aspect of studying my course was absolutely the research project! I had an incredible opportunity to travel to Cyprus to work with the Society for the Protection of Turtles (SPOT). I was given full responsibility of my own research, which made me feel confident in my abilities to both hypothesize and produce publication-level work. 

 

What skills and experiences did you gain that will/have been useful for job/internship applications?  

Almost all the skills that I learned during my masters were transferable to my new position. Most notably, though, I use my time management and research development skills. As a supervisor, I had to think on my feet often to make sure interns’ schedules were seamless yet productive. While balancing these schedules, I had to also develop new more efficient methods of conducting my own research. 

Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter?  

The internationally acclaimed staff led me to apply and further choose to study at the University of Exeter.  

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

As an international student, there are so many factors that make Exeter unique. The campus location and surrounding areas are incredible. The methods of teaching, especially during the pandemic, have been instrumental in my degree program. The accessibility of the faculty is incredible and rare for a university with both undergraduate and postgraduate programs. These are just a few of many factors. 

What skills and experience have been most useful for your career? And how do you think your programme prepared you for your career/current role?  

One of the hardest things about the degree was conducting my own research with a hands-off support system. My supervisor trusted me to develop and carry out my own project, only offering support when I asked for or needed it. As someone who thought they might be a “forever intern”, trust and responsibility of this stature were unfamiliar to me. This opportunity allowed me to believe in myself and grow into a successful research scientist. I think there is no better way to be prepared for a career in research than to be given the opportunity to conduct meaningful research while knowing your supervisor would not let you fail. 

               

Why did you choose this career?  

I always knew I wanted to do field work, but it wasn’t until going through this masters program that made me sure I also wanted to conduct meaningful research from the field. This position, and this career path in general, has enabled me to collect important data, use this data for novel research and to share my passion for science with young career scientists.  

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

Never let anyone tell you your dreams are too big. If you put everything you have into it, you can’t go wrong. 

What are your plans for the future?  

I plan to hold the position I am currently in for several years to grow, publish, and learn. Following this position, I plan to either grow within the company or begin a PhD program to further specialise as a research scientist. 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying to the University of Exeter?  

I heard in a movie once, “It only takes five seconds of courage to change your life.” Why not try? 

 

MSc Graduate in Focus: Camille Burton

We are looking back on some of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine science around the world since studying with us. Today we meet Camille Burton, MSc Marine Environmental Management graduate (2021) and now a Marine Advisor for Natural England. 

What did you enjoy most about studying at the University of Exeter? 

Being taught material from current research from some of the top scientists. 

What were the best aspects of studying your course?

Our field trip, whilst not the Maldives I thoroughly enjoyed being on campus and in the Isles of Scillies with my class for two weeks. 

What skills and experiences did you gain that will/have been useful for job/internship applications?  

My self-management and independent learning. Throughout the duration of my masters degree I developed upon the use of the mapping software QGIS and enjoyed creating a mock proposal for creating a protected area. 

Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter? 

I felt that the course met all my requirements and what I was looking for in a masters degree. The lecturers and the familiarity that I had at the University of Exeter (as I undertook my undergradutate degree there too) meant that I managed well even during the pandemic. 

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

I think The Exeter Marine research department along with the field trips they provide students puts them in a great position to provide people with the skills to develop and apply to future jobs and new working environments. 

What skills and experience have been most useful for your career? And how do you think your programme prepared you for your career/current role?  

Interning and then working as a freelance consultant for Safetynet technologies helped me hugely in getting the position I am now in with Natural England. This gave me experience working within the fishing industry as part of a variety of teams (business, marketing, and science). The masters degree then helped narrow and define what I am interested in from general zoology to marine environmental management, which made applying for jobs and interviewing a lot easier, as I felt more confident in my ability and knowledge within the industry. 

Why did you choose this career?  

The marine environment is fascinating and beautiful. It is also fragile and as the rest of the natural world, at risk from us. I am therefore compelled to study its complexities and work to help resolve issues. 

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

If you fail at getting the job you applied for (as I first did at Safetynet), just enquire about interning, you may get lucky and they hire you as an intern for a while, which opens up opportunities to work for them in the future.  

What are your plans for the future?  

I want to see where this role takes me and at some stage take a sabbatical to travel before life gets complex! 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying to the University of Exeter?  

I’d advise students to look carefully at the modules first before deciding on which ones they want to take. If they are what you can see yourself specialising in then go for it. 

MSc Graduate in Focus: Janey Sellars

We are looking back on some of our MSc graduates who have excelled in marine science around the world since studying with us. Today we meet Janey Sellars, MSc Marine Environmental Management graduate (2021) and now the Project Coordinator for the ExeterMarine research network here at the University of Exeter.

What did you enjoy most about studying at the University of Exeter?

Studying alongside like-minded individuals who also shared a passion for the marine environment and the importance of protecting it.

What were the best aspects of studying your course?

Although I undertook my masters degree during the covid pandemic which meant that my fieldtrip to the Maldives was cancelled, we were still able to go on a local fieldtrip to the Isles of Scilly. The staff invested a lot of time an effort into making sure this was possible for all students

What skills and experiences did you gain that will/have been useful for job/internship applications?

I was able to undertake more networking during my masters compared to my undergraduate degree which motivated me to find freelance work alongside my masters. Although this was separate to my university degree I was given support from my course leaders and lecturers as to who to reach out to for gaining further experience.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter?

I had already lived and studied marine science in Cornwall prior to starting my undergraduate and postgraduate degree so it has been home to me now. Furthermore, the University of Exeter has a good reputation for marine science research and has strong affiliations externally which I figured would come in useful upon completion of my degrees.

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

I think its location on the Cornwall campus what makes it particularly unique. Having done both my undergraduate and postgraduate degree here I’m unsure as to how the university differs in some areas than others but I know their level of research is next to none in comparison to other universities in this field as they reach universities and organisations internationally.

What skills and experience have been most useful for your career? And how do you think your programme prepared you for your career/current role?

I think my masters degree provided me a more specialised and niche understanding of the issues facing our marine environments and the necessary tasks required to protect them for future years to come. I think my masters provided me more information on the potential organisations and jobs available out there for when I completed it.

Why did you choose this career?

I had always been interested in the marine environment and had a particular interest in social science within the marine and fisheries sector, considering it’s becoming an increasing global issue. I have hoped that in the future I will be able to work with communities to provide sustainable methods of using marine environments to their benefit whilst preventing further irreversible damage.

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

I would say firstly identify the route or area of the sector you want to pursue,  as that narrows it down massively and enables you to focus on gaining experience and finding work in a smaller sector rather than applying for lots of jobs. Then research potential types of work you want to consider, whether it be working with governmental bodies, NGOs, individuals or freelance. Take courses, volunteer, reach out and contact people for advice and you will gradually gain experience and networks which may eventually lead onto a job. I believe persistence is key.

What are your plans for the future?

I haven’t thought too far ahead into the future but am enjoying the experience I’m gaining in my current role which will act as a great stepping-stone job onto a future job. If the right job comes up then I will take it wherever, but I have considered travelling or potentially gaining some practical experience on boats to pair with my industry experience and education.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying to the University of Exeter?

I would say consider the topics which interest you the most and base your decisions on that. At an undergraduate level in the bioscience field there is a lot of overlap so generally choose the degree title that you would like to have a degree in. There is often only a module or two on each year on each degree which specialise in the degree title and modularity allows you to choose modules across other degrees. At a masters level I would advise to choose more carefully as I would imagine you’re choosing a masters degree to gain more experience in a more specialised topic to further you experience for an industry job in that topic.

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

SOUTH WEST SEAS
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.

BLUE BRITAIN
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

OUR GLOBAL SEAS
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.

PEOPLE AND THE SEA
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

OCEANS UNDER THREAT
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.

MARINE RESEARCH IN ACTION
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!