Peter Lawrence

Peter is a post-doctoral researcher on the EU-funded Ecostructure project.

Why did you choose to study / research marine science?

I always had a passion for exploring and experimenting. This all started when I was very young, building “sand dams” and seeing what sea creatures washed into my trap. This interest slowly developed into a love for the physical world, it’s complexity and why different shapes and textures are better suited to one species over another. I was never the best desk based scientist and wanted to use microscopes, range finders, quadrats, cameras and GPS. This desire to be tactile or outside led me to study Geology and computing at Manchester University which in turn resulted in my first job working in the dredging sector and environmental survey. It was here I found that specifically I loved the marine environment and the balance between salinity, sedimentation, colonisation and erosion. It was the fact that these process can be observed on a hour by hour basis and that only a few cm’s can make a huge difference to a sites ecology that intrigued me most.

I finished my Ph.D. in 2018 studying the roles of topography in the coastal diversity and began a new love affair with emerging technologies and science outreach in coastal science using LiDAR and photogrammetry to describe environments, understand the ecology and explain the importance of such physical diversity to land owners, politicians and the public.

What is your research project about?

I am currently working as a PostDoc on ECOSTRUCTURE (https://bit.ly/321mMfw). Here my roles is primarily focused characterising the features of artificial and natural rocky shores and modelling the relationships between the biota that lives in these two systems (work package 2). In recent months I have been working with work package 3 towards the deployment of “true topographic” concrete tiles derived from photogrammetry, 3D printing, concrete moulds and machine learning, covered by the BBC (https://bbc.in/2ZmUZby).

Interesting fact about yourself?

I am a surprisingly good darts player. I only wear “lucky” stripy socks for field work. A passionate supporter of palliative care and metal health support networks.

Mikhala Bornstein

Why did you choose to study / research environmental science?

Ever since I can remember I have loved being outside and learning about the environment around me. When I was really young I used to go “salamander hunting” with my aunts. I was always on whale watches and walking nature trails with my family. When I got to college no other major seemed more fitting. I am very passionate about conservation and research and enjoy sharing what I know with others. My hope is that with this major I will always have a job that I love.

What is your research project about?

Collecting and compiling information pertaining to marine ecological engineers and temperate reefs off the New England coast.

Interesting fact about yourself?

Sometimes I eat lemon with the peel on it.

Heidi Meyer

Heidi is succesfully completed her PhD on the EU-funded SponGES project at the University of Bergen, supervised by the late Hans Tore Rapp and Andy amongst others, in 2022.

Why did you choose to study / research marine science?

I have always been fascinated by the ocean, especially invertebrates and life in the deep sea. As a kid, my dad and I would explore rock pools and go on fishing trips in the Chesapeake Bay. My favorite pastimes included either being in or near the ocean. When I first learned about the deep sea in High School, I immediately fell in love with the strange and unusual creatures living around hydrothermal vents and whale falls, and I just wanted to know more. However, due to a fear of chemistry and physics (now some of my favorite subjects), I avoided majoring in the sciences and went to school for Film at Montana State University, which definitely did not last very long. After a term, I switched to Undeclared, then German Education, then back to Undeclared. During my second year in Uni, I was visiting a friend in Oregon and fell in love with the state. On the drive back to Montana, I was listening to Jaws the audiobook and decided then and there that I was going to be a marine biologist. Within three months, I moved to Oregon and within a year, I began my education to become a marine biologist at Oregon State University, where my interests in benthic habitats grew. I completed my MSc in Marine Biology at Bangor University, and I am about to begin my PhD at Bergen University on the community and biodiversity of deep-sea sponge grounds in the Arctic.

What is your research project about?

I investigated the fine-scale spatial patterns of a deep-sea sponge ground on the summit of the Schultz Massif Seamount on the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge. For it, I analysed autonomous underwater imagery (AUV) of the sponge ground collected in 2016. I went through through hundreds of images taken by the AUV, and counted and documented the discernible megafauna present and their geolocation. I created a photomosaic from the images and generated a density hotspot map to visualize the spatial patterns of the primary megafauna inhabitants, which to no ones surprise, were mostly demosponge and glass sponge species (Geodia parva, Stelletta rhaphidiophora, Hexadella detritifera, Lissodendoryx complicata). I also looked at the fish species present and how they were using the sponge ground. I even found a cool little whale fall that the team went back to collect in 2017!

Interesting fact about yourself?

I am a mega nerd and love Harry Potter. Rumor has it, I even enjoy going to an event called The College of Wizardry in Poland to live as a nerdy witch for a weekend. Surely nobody is that weird…right?

Emyr ‘Martyn’ Roberts

Martyn is a post-doctoral researcher on the EU-funded SponGES project.

Why did you choose to study / research marine science?

I was always fascinated by the sea as a child. When I wasn’t staring into a rock pool in my native North Wales, I was sketching sea creatures, or trying to understand (and alter) the flows of water in my rainy back garden. I’m rather physical and mathematical by nature, but what really interests me is understanding why an organism might ‘choose’ to live somewhere and why it may (or may not) flourish there. This is rarely down to chance. Quite often, exciting physics and/or cutthroat biology offers the explanation. I spent my early life asking these “I wonder why” questions. So much so that my Nain (Welsh for grandmother), exhausted, would respond with the nonsensical “because ‘y’ is a crooked letter and you’ll never straighten it”. Unsatisfied with this explanation, I’m still looking to straighten that ‘y’.

My background is in physics and ocean sciences, and I completed my Ph.D. in physical oceanography (tidal effects on seabed light and implications for seabed algae) at Bangor University in 2015. I have participated in research cruises to the Panama Basin of the Pacific Ocean, the Arctic Ocean (twice), and several coastal seas of the North East Atlantic. I have also conducted nearshore fieldwork in East Africa.

What is your research project about?

My current research project is the EU-funded SponGES project (Deep-sea sponge ground ecosystems of the North Atlantic). In this role, I’m using all kinds of cutting-edge techniques to answer questions concerning sponge distribution and population connectivity on various spatial scales. I use statistical species distribution models to predict areas of suitable habitat, hydrodynamic models and particle tracking algorithms to investigate sponge population connectivity, and I even have time to go to sea and work with hi-tech and traditional in situ observations. It’s a heady mix.

Interesting fact about yourself?

I may be distantly related to a Captain William Lanyon, who sailed around the world with British explorer Captain James Cook. Or, of course, I may not. One never can tell for sure.

Stephen Balestrini

Steve is an M-Degree student and graduated in 2013. He now works for Natural England.

Why did you choose to study / research marine biology?

It may sound clichéd, but I do love to be beside the seaside. Not because of the weather, as it is usually pretty rubbish 90% of the time. It is because of the biology of the shore. To the untrained eye, a canopy of Ascophylum nodosum may seem a pile of squishy mess, but to us marine biologists, it is a beacon of life. While most people avoid it, we rummage through it!

What is your research project about?

I will be measuring the hydrodynamic forces surrounding Ascophylum nodosum canopies and observing how much these canopies reduce the forces. This has only been done on Chondrus crispus in Rhode Island, USA. This will prove a very interesting project for shore ecology.

Interesting fact about yourself?

I once ate a slug when I was younger…

Elisha Slater

Elisha is an M-degree student and graduated in 2013.

Why did you choose to study / research marine biology?

Like most marine scientists, as a child I always loved the sea. Growing up I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer, but when I was offered a place on an applied practical science course I quickly learnt that I was a natural scientist at heart, both excelling and gaining passion for biology. I then decided “why not combine science and my love of the seaside”… and here we are.

What is your research project about?

I am looking into the tube-building polychaete worm Sabellaria alveolata and the extensive colonies that it creates. I am rearing S. alveolata from eggs, through to the larval stages then and getting them to settle. This is great for potential reef restoration projects, and I am doing this all whilst gaining an insight about the behaviour of these animals.

Interesting fact about yourself?

I have a pet albino pygmy hedgehog; he’s pretty grumpy and prickly around new people but a real quirky character once he comes round. It’s not always easy to hug a hedgehog, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Daniel Sadd

Daniel was an MSc student studying Marine Environmental Protection at Bangor University, having previously graduated with a BSc in Marine Biology. He now works on Ascension Island.

Why did you choose to work in Marine Biology?

Growing up as far away from the sea as is possible in the UK, it seems strange that I would choose a career in Marine Biology. However, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t want a career dealing with sea- life (apart from the desire to go into space every now and then). Growing up spending time watching nature documentaries, dragging the rest of my family to aquariums and spending holidays on Welsh beaches at my Grandpa’s caravan, the decision to study Marine Biology at University was not a tough one. Now I wish to broaden my knowledge on various topics that interest me. Areas including corals, Mangroves, the deep sea, and scuba diving with underwater photography!

What is your research project about?

For my current research project I am working with the Devonshire cup-coral, Caryophyllia smithii with the aim to discover how a changing environment affects their feeding behaviour. I shall be manipulating food availability, temperature and flow speed using a Recirculating Flume. As a secondary branch of the research I shall be comparing the feeding behaviour of C. smithii with the deep-water reef-building coral Lophelia pertusa, and finding out whether the changes in feeding behaviour of the two species differs under a changing environment.

Andrew Olivier

Andy graduated from his MSc in Marine Environmental Protection and is now completing a PhD at Bangor University UK.

Why did you choose to work in marine biology?

I grew up watching documentaries on the oceans and going out on boats in various places around the world. It was always something that I really enjoyed and found fascinating. I originally wanted to be an underwater cameraman. I then fell in love with the sciences and thought an undergraduate degree at the Scottish Association for Marine Science was a good way to do something I enjoyed and was highly passionate about. The degree gave me a strong foundation in general marine science, covering aspects from a variety of disciplines. Over the years I have been studying I found that my interests focused on the management and sustainable use of marine resources. During my undergraduate degree I worked as a scientific diver and after leaving university spent a year working as a scallop diver in order to gain further experience of the fishing industry.

What is your research about?

I am looking at the effect of ocean acidification on Mytilus edulis and the effect this would have to their muscle mass, vulnerability to predation and a variety of other factors which could have an impact to the aquaculture industry.

Easily summed up as put mussels in some nasty conditions, when they are weak and defenceless, stress them out in a variety of ways and see how they cope. Mussel masochism basically.

Ben Strachan

I have a BSc in Marine Biology and am currently studying for an MSc in Marine Environmental Protection at Bangor University in North Wales. Ben graduated from Ocean Sciences and has undertaken a PhD at the University of Ulster.

Why did you choose to work in Marine Biology?

I grew up in London; the back garden of my parents’ house was a wildlife haven where my brother and I spend many happy years. The highlight of this garden was a pond that we build ourselves, within a few months there were frogs, newts and a myriad of freshwater insects. I spend many hours with my head buried in books about the sea. I kept fish and I did work experience in an aquarium. A teacher suggested that Marine Biology might be the career for me, since setting off down this adventurous route I have never looked back.

What is your research about?

Currently I am studying the effects of trampling and sediment smothering upon the intertidal biogenic reefs Sabellaria alveolata found on the north and west Welsh coast.

Martyn Kurr

Martyn was a NERC-funded PhD student, and graduated from his PhD in 2016. He now works as a Lecturer in Newcastle University.

Why did you choose to study / research marine biology?

The Sciences always fascinated me from an early age, and I grew up exploring the countryside during the day and watching David Attenborough in the evenings, so natural sciences and biology have been closer to my heart than physics or chemistry. I picked Marine over other biological disciplines because the environment is less-well-understood. I feel that as a marine biologist you’re exploring an alien environment, full of un-charted wonderment. Which is rubbish, because most of us explore beaches full of uncharted crisp-packets and flotsam, but it’s still a giggle.

What is your research project about?

I’m researching two species of canopy-forming macroalgae, one invasive and one native to the UK. The invasive, Sargassum muticum, is currently outcompeting and in many locations replacing, the native Ascophyllum nodosum. The crux of the work is identifying key differences in the investment each species makes into chemical defence. The bit that interests me (because only weirdos get excited about seaweed) is placing those differences into an ecological context. To do this involves lots of animal behaviour experiments, and observing how those differences manifest in the decisions made by grazers (maybe getting excited about snails is just as weird). In time I hope to build a clearer image of Britain’s future intertidal ecology, as Sargassum spreads across Europe…