I am a PhD candidate at King’s College London in the Department of Geography. I study marine conservation biology. I also work as a marine wildlife analyst for APEM.
I study marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Irish Sea, so I have chosen to live in Northern Ireland to be closer to my field sites, which are located in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, and north England. I go home to Brittany (France) every couple of months to visit my family and take advantage of the beautiful pink granite coast. I enjoy diving, horse riding, skiing, and hiking. I also love to travel and have been to every continent except South America and Antarctica (but hope to visit soon!).
My pronouns are:
I am a PhD candidate and study whether or not marine protected areas are an effective and sustainable biological conservation tool. I also work as a marine wildlife analyst, where I spend my days analysing aerial survey data of seabirds, marine mammals, and large fish species (sharks, sunfish, etc.).
Marine life is facing increasingly serious threats due to human activity. A wide array of methods is currently applied to manage and protect marine resources, such as establishing marine protected areas (MPAs). There is no single definition of an MPA and the role of each one depends on its specific objectives. MPAs should meet both biophysical objectives while maintaining sustainable use; in other words, they must ensure long-term ecological conservation of species and habitats while also considering socioeconomic outcomes. However, the effectiveness of MPAs remains largely debated, as many studies consider either the biological or the socioeconomic success of MPAs. A more universal approach to MPA management should be taken, one that address the concerns of the entire MPA ecosystem. This doctoral thesis assesses MPA effectiveness, using the Irish Sea as a case study because it is busy waterway with a rich biodiversity that remains understudied in terms of its conservation. Indeed, there is a lack of research on MPAs in the Irish Sea, despite having almost 200 designations across over 110 sites.
To explore the state of MPAs in the Irish Sea, this research study first identifies gaps in their management and monitoring to determine whether there are any paper parks – MPAs that exist solely on paper and lack active management and monitoring. Irish Sea MPAs were identified and categorised using the UNEP and IUCN World Database on Protected Areas and the Marine Conservation Institute’s MPAtlas. Results of this study show a strong positive correlation between the number of designations of a given site and the presence of a management plan. The existence of management plans was also moderately linked to whether site assessments were conducted by the relevant authorities, and having multiple designations was weakly correlated with favourable ecological assessment outcomes. This study shows that not all Irish Sea MPAs are paper parks, despite many lacking active management and monitoring. There is a need to better understand the requirements of national, regional, and international conservation designations, and how they interact, to ensure favourable site conditions are met.
This thesis addresses the issue of equity (as called for by the Convention on Biological Diversity) in three case-study MPAs (Strangford Lough, Carlingford Lough, and the Solway Firth) to better understand stakeholder perceptions. The Site-level Assessment for Governance and Equity (SAGE) toolkit, developed by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), was used to evaluate equitable governance and management in these MPAs. SAGE contains Likert-scale questions to evaluate how different stakeholder groups perceive their MPA’s management and how included they feel in decision-making. Semi-structured interviews with stakeholders provide qualitative data for the SAGE assessment. The results of this study reveal a lack of communication between MPA authorities and local stakeholders, highlighting the need for an alternative to the current top-down governance approach.
Ecological site conditions and their monitoring are explored, using intertidal mudflats at Strangford Lough and the Solway Firth as a case study habitat. Mudflats are infrequently surveyed, making effective conservation challenging. This study uses population data of benthic species and wintering shorebirds as a proxy to explore changes in mudflat conditions on a temporal scale, using AMBI (benthic species) and Shannon-Wiener’s H (benthic species and shorebirds) values to assess habitat quality. It highlights the need for a more holistic approach to conservation management in the intertidal of MPAs, as species population data as indicators alone cannot always be relied upon to adequately assess site conditions, especially as large gaps in monitoring frequency can make it difficult to draw sufficient conclusions about the state of these habitats.
This study calls for a more ecosystem-based approach to MPA management, supported by adequate resources from the institutions responsible for them. Within this ecosystem-based approach, proportionate attention should be paid to habitats, target species, and local communities when making management decisions and developing conservation targets. This research hopes to give MPA managers, policy makers, scientists, and other stakeholders evidence on which to base more effective management of MPAs.
My Typical Day:
Each PhD candidate’s typical day differs depending on what you’re working on at the minute. I’m currently waiting to defend my thesis!
PhD students have loads of different jobs. Some PhD students are graduate teaching assistants, meaning they help teach undergraduate and postgraduate students, and this is one of my jobs as well. Others collaborate with other researchers on other projects, on top of their own! One thing you can be certain about is that there will be A LOT of writing. You are expected to be writing every day, even if some of it won’t make it into your thesis. Much of this writing comes from what you’ve learned reading other people’s work and adding your own research to the existing scientific literature. In my programme, I’m expected to publish 3 papers. These are submitted to scientific journals, such as Science or Nature. We’re also expected to go to conferences to present our research, which is fun because we get to travel to new countries and cities and meet other researchers just like us!
What I'd do with the prize money:
I’d spend the prize money on outreach to get more young people involved in marine citizen science programmes such as Seasearch UK, which allows divers (SCUBA & free divers/snorkelers) to the record species they see on their dives and contribute to a national database on marine life.
I have a BA in History from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the United States and a DipHE in Biology from the Open University in Northern Ireland. I got my first MSc in Environmental Policy at Sciences Po Paris (France) and then worked as an environmental sustainability professional for a few years before going back to school to earn an MSc in Biodiversity, Territory, and Environment from the Sorbonne (University of Paris I: Panthéon-Sorbonne). I also have a PgDip in Marine Science from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. Now I’m doing my PhD at King’s College London in Physical and Environmental Geography, or more specifically Marine Conservation Biology.
International Baccalaureate: English HL (5), History HL (5), Biology HL (4), Mathematics SL (4), Spanish SL (7), French SL (6).
During my first Master’s degree, I interned at the non-profit Clean Water Action, working on environmental toxicology awareness. After my first MSc, I got a job as environmental sustainability intern at Dassault Systèmes, working in their Sustainable Innovation Lab. I then did a brief stint as a research intern at Harvard University in the Department of Environmental Health before getting my first salaried job as a sustainability specialist for Sodexo. There I worked on a number of environmental sustainability projects, in particular on sustainable seafood and marine conservation in partnership with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. This reignited my desire to help protect the marine environment and I decided to go back to school to earn my second MSc and go on to the PhD. I have been a marine protected area consultant for the International Institute for Environment and Development and have spent the last few years working as a naturalist with the French League for the Protection of Birds on an offshore marine protected area.
Marine Wildlife Analyst
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Cool, calm, and collected (not really)
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Health, happiness, and safety.
Tell us a joke.
If you know any good jokes about fish, let minnow.