My research is focused on the interconnected restoration ecology of coastal habitats, particularly oyster reefs, seagrass and saltmarsh. This requires understanding species’ ecology: how marine organisms function and interact with the environmental pressures such as climate change, microplastics, disease, invasive species and excessive nutrients (eutrophication).
Our coastal habitats have suffered significant and devastating losses over the last 50-200 years, and part of my research is study how biodiversity is created in the marine environment so that we’re better equipped to protect, maintain and enhance it. My research aims to quantify both biodiversity function and other ecological services provided by coastal habitats, such as water quality regulation, fish nursery function and carbon and nutrient storage.
Recently I have applied my knowledge and expertise in molluscan ecology and evolution to restoration of the native oyster Ostrea edulis. In 2017 I founded the UK and Ireland Native Oyster Restoration Network in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London. The aim of the network is to catalyse a national approach to oyster habitat restoration via action, communication and providing evidence for policy change. I'm an advisory board member for the European Native Oyster Restoration Alliance and a member the Aquaculture Research Collaborative Hub UK, an academia-led network developing a UK aquaculture community.
I also provide scientific leadership for the Solent Oyster Restoration Project, run in collaboration with Blue Marine Foundation. Over 60,000 oysters have been restored to the Solent so far. I enjoy communicating this research in engaging ways – most recently on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4. I'm a keen advocate of effective science communication to support changes in policy and the sustainable management of marine resources.
I'm a reviewer for several scientific journals and an editor for Restoration Ecology, the journal of the Society for Ecological Restoration. We are currently co-writing the European Monitoring Guidebook for Native Oyster Restoration Projects, due to be published in November 2020. I am the lead editor for the Restoration Handbook for European Native Oyster Habitat, commissioned by the Environment Agency, to be published in September 2020.
I studied Biology at the University of Sussex (1993-1996) followed by an MSc in Marine Resource Development and Protection at the Orkney based International Centre for Island Technology of Heriot-Watt University (1997-1998). During my Master's degree I worked at the Malaysian fisheries department researching the biodiversity of sponges in the Marine Park Pulau Payar.
After a brief spell as an environmental consultant for Emu Environmental Ltd (now Fugro Ltd), I was awarded a NERC-funded PhD at the University of Southampton. My PhD examined the evolutionary history of the gastropod Topshell genus Osilinus (now Phorcus, Donald et al. 2012) in the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean. I went on to a post-doctoral research position at the Marine Biological Association of the UK working on a European project investigating anthropogenic impacts on European Genetic Marine Biodiversity (EUMAR) 2002-2005.
After a career break to have children I returned science as a Research Fellow at the University of Portsmouth on a molecular and microbial ecology research project to investigate microbial activity concerned with sulfur and iron cycling in timbers of the Mary Rose under different states of preservation (2010-2012). After another short career break I returned to a part-time lecturer position in Marine Biology in 2014, and became principal lecturer and course leader for BSc (Hons) Marine Biology in 2016.
My core research interests are:
- Restoration ecology of coastal habitats: Native oyster reefs, seagrasses and saltmarsh
- Ecology and evolution of the native oyster Ostrea edulis
- Bonamia sp. disease interactions and immunity in oysters
- Ecosystem functions and natural capital valuation of coastal marine ecosystems
- Microplastic interactions with marine invertebrate filter feeders
- Marine Invertebrate host-microbiome interactions
- Genetic biodiversity of Porifera in the UK
- Evolution of Topshells
PhD Research Supervision
I welcome enquiries and applications from students wishing to be supervised in PhD projects broadly within the area of restoration ecology.
I am course leader for the BSc (Hons) Marine Biology degree.
I am module co-ordinator for:
- Marine Ecology and Conservation U30000
I am happy to take calls and emails from the media on my research, and am aware of the need to respond to journalists in a timely manner. Please contact me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested journalists can also contact the University's Media and Communications team for support and advice on all media engagement, including out of hours.