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.

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 is 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…

Laura Bush

Laura was a PhD student sponsored by the Cemlyn Jones Trust, she graduated from her PhD in 2016 and now works as an environmental consultant.

Why did you choose to study / research marine biology?

When I told my High School Careers Adviser that I wanted to be a Marine Ecologist, she pointedly ushered me along a very different path: Marine Biology was not a field to make a career of! Being young and naïve, I took her advice, and several PCR disasters later, and an Honours degree in Developmental Biology, I realised the error of that decision: whilst the course content and theory had been fascinating, I did not enjoy it’s application… So I returned to Marine Biology with a Masters in Marine Resources, Development and Protection. Upon completion of my MSc, I took up a post as a Marine Ecologist with the Scottish Environment and Protection Agency (SEPA). Through this role, I developed a wide variety of skills including benthic invertebrate, macroalgae and phytoplankton taxonomy; the estimation of macroalgal biomass; and the estimation of macroalgal, seagrass and saltmarsh extent. Whilst I loved my time within SEPA, I feel it is time to develop these skills further.

What is your research project about?

My research project is entitled ‘Stability and Variability of Coastal Marine Habitats on Decadal Time Scales’ and has 2 main Hypotheses:

That the change in coverage of biotope forming communities, and their shore height limits, will be mostly driven by cyclic variability in wave exposure.
Cover of biotope forming communities will incease, regardless of vave exposure, as a result of warmer winter temperatures resulting in enhanced invertebrate juvenile survivorship.

I intend to approach these in 3 main components:

  • Assess the change in cover of biotope forming communities, around the Irish Sea, from all available post-war aerial photography, including data to be collected with the use of a remote controlled drone.
  • Estimate the temporal changes in wave exposure, within the same time series, from Met Office data, using GIS.
  • Analyse the effect of temperature variability on invertebrate grazers, from historic temperature and rainfall data, and historic faunal data.

Interesting fact about yourself?

I was bought up on a Peninsula in the North West of Scotland with no mains electricity, water or other utilities. There are no shops, no pubs or indeed anywhere to spend any money. There are no roads, and to get there you have to either hike 6 miles from the end of the single track road, or take a boat (and by boat, I mean a 10ft, handmade, clinker-built rowing boat with an outboard engine on the back). Until I left home, there was only one telephone on the Peninsula, and that was in a box next to my house so whenever it rang, a bell would ring inside and we’d have to throw our wellies on, rush out into the elements, over the wall, dodging livestock to answer it… Then came the trip along the Peninsula to give the lucky recipient a message. Whilst many may think this was a very deprived childhood, it was also a childhood full of adventure and lacking in the usual restraints. As a family we were fairly self sufficient with windmills for electricity, wells for water, a vegetable patch with a polytunnel, the ocean was on our doorstep, and we had hens, a milking cow and plenty of other livestock.

Craig Robertson

Craig is a PhD student sponsored by BOEM and completed in 2018, Craig is now a Lecturer at Bangor University.

Why did you choose to study / research marine biology?

Having grown up around the beaches and coast of Durban, South Africa, I have always had an interest in the marine environment. My interest became stronger as I grew older, until I began diving and catching specimen species for my first marine aquarium, where I attempted, somewhat haphazardly and after many flooding events, to replicate the processes that determine a marine ecosystem. After relocating to the UK and enjoying a long lifestyle diversion, I finally returned to my marine ecology aspirations, studying Applied Marine Biology (B.Sc) and Marine Environmental Protection (M.Sc) at Bangor University.

On completion of my M.Sc, I was employed as a benthic taxonomist for Hebog Environmental Ltd, a small marine science consultancy specialising in marine benthic survey and macro faunal analysis from around the North East Atlantic and abroad. The post gave me essential taxonomic skills with which to develop my research and a deeper appreciation for marine benthos and constituent fauna.

What is your research project about?

My Ph.D is entitled: The Functioning of Deep–Sea Canyons on the East Coast of the U.S. The project is looking at the ecosystem functioning in submarine canyons, specifically off U.S. South East coast. The project involves a complete appraisal of the hydrodynamic regime, sediment flux and food supply influencing the habitats and fauna found at these biodiversity hotspots. The project is comprised of five main research areas on deep-sea canyons, answering ecological questions in the following areas:

  • Eco-hydrodynamics in submarine canyons.
  • Habitat heterogeneity and sediment processes in canyon systems.
  • Faunal bathymetric zonation patterns within canyons and surrounding areas.
  • Benthic infaunal community trends in submarine canyons.
  • Habitat niche modelling and habitat facilitation in canyon systems.

The Ph.D is working in collaboration with colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and the United States Geological Survey.

Interesting fact about yourself?

I have many hobbies ranging from your average ‘lazy anytime’ hobby to the definitively niche ‘self-emersion slightly obsessive’ hobby. I think you can never have too many. They include: music, gardening, hiking, swimming, tropical marine aquarium keeping, cycle touring, shell collecting, world cinema, ceramics and Indian classical music. Currently, I’m on a ‘grow as much veg as you can’ hobby with a pinch of ‘vintage clothing’, although I can feel a season of stoneware pottery looming!