Microplastics may have drastic consequences for coral reefs

IMAGE: http://www.plasticfacts.com

I am now at the beginning of my PhD so I thought it would be good to share my MSc thesis work: The effects of microplastics on coral holobiont photosynthesis, respiration and bleaching susceptibility, which will hopefully be published soon!

Numerous organisations such as Plastic Oceans, 5 Gyres and Surfers Against Sewage are fighting to make a difference in the global plastic pollution crisis. Following the incredible Blue Planet II , and even more recently Drowning in Plastic, the public response has been brilliant, pushing for reductions in single-use plastic globally. However, more threats from plastic to the oceans continue to be uncovered, such as with my MSc thesis, supporting evidence that coral reefs may be suffering from plastic pollution too.

Continue reading “Microplastics may have drastic consequences for coral reefs”

Four days in Argentina: my experience of the Climate Change and Plant Dynamics in the Andes Workshop


From the 13th to 19th of August I flew out to Mendoza, Argentina to participate in a climate change workshop. The workshop, sponsored by Newton Fund and the British Council aimed to address plant dynamics and climate change in the Andes while helping develop and connect early career researchers across Latin America and the UK. The workshop had a great range of participants from a wide range of disciplines. As the participant with the least amount of experience I always felt included and respected. I have a remote sensing and GIS background with a strong interest in botanics and forests and it was great to learn some really contextual knowledge.

The Andes is a mountain region within Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela and covers an area of 2,500,000km². The Andes is a fascinating area to study as it covers all biomes, it is high in diversity and the elevation changes. Furthermore, the Andes, unlike any other mountain chain support a vast population, 85 million people live in Andean regions and a further 20 million rely on Andean mountain resources. As well as being biologically significant, with a high level of biodiversity and endemism the Andes is a wide source of ecosystem services providing much of the national economies through agriculture, minerals, water and energy.


However, it has been noted that human activity may now be pushing climatic variation out of this natural variation. particularly precipitation and glaciers and solid water reserves are depleting and large forest areas are being impacted by drought. Considering the Andes as a whole his a huge task as there is so much variety and dependencies. As a remote sensor, what particularly interested me was concerns surrounding data gaps and data quality. Primary issues that were raised surrounding data quality were :


  • Issues with scale
  • Issues with complexity
  • Do we have the technology available to fill the gaps?
  • What do we need to create a model of the entire Andes?
  • Is there complete data sets for the Andes, e.g. a full species list and what is the quality of this data?
  • Are conclusions being derived from enough data points?
  • The need to consider the Andes geographical boundary rather than political boundaries, and how to define this boundary.
  • Land use change and where anthropocentric change actually outstrips climate change damage.
  • Uptake of modern technologies in the Andean research is less than European counterparts.


Overall it was an invaluable opportunity to present my work and gain connections for the future. Presenting my work in front of so many knowledgeable people was nerve wracking but very rewarding. It was also a really great way to end my university career.

I gained insights into advice for early career researchers, the key points I took away from this discussion were:

  • Facilitating
  • Gaining access to networks
  • The need for opportunities to share and collaborate
  • Importance of social skills and online presence, particularly understanding there are no stupid questions
  • Opportunities for women into science
  • Being a leader
  • The need to keep up to date with trends both at home and abroad
  • More live streams of workshops and conferences to help those who cannot travel
  • Finding publishing opportunities

This has definitely encouraged me that as someone in their very early career, that this is a viable career path and there is a chance to learn and collaborate with specialists on important projects. From my experience, I was inspired to create a list of opportunities to develop my career and understanding of the topic. I would like to:

  • Create more tutorials – particularly for radar processing:
    • It was also highlighted by a Peruvian counterpart that they would like to use more remote sensing but most material is in English and few members of their team speak English. My idea is to create videos, a screen capture of the process to reduce the effect of this language barrier. Furthermore I could translate my current tutorials into Spanish.
  • Do a project on radar and elevation: investigate the impact of elevation and slope on the usability of radar in the Andes.
  • I have identified a few projects where I could contribute a couple of radar scenes to aid in the development of the project.
  • Write more blog posts to share my collaborations and experiences.
  • Write a review of remote sensing opportunities in the Andes. 20180815_101425

A first hand experience of ecotourism in the Maldives

After saying our goodbyes to the lovely people of the MaRHE centre and many of the locals of Magoodhoo who came to watch our boat leave, we made our way to Dhigurah, a few hours north. Dhigurah is an inhabited island with several resorts and hotels where whale sharks are known to be year-round residents. Continue reading “A first hand experience of ecotourism in the Maldives”

The Island of Magoodhoo – what can it tell us about waste management issues on small island developing states?

I was lucky enough to go to the Maldives this January as part of my MSc Marine Systems and Policies at the University of Edinburgh. The Maldives is a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), a group of 26 atolls located in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka and 820km long. Most of the islands are inhabited by local people or are entirely resorts, with the economy relying heavily on tourism. We were allowed to stay on the Island of Magoodhoo, Fafuu atoll, a local island with a current population 838, within the Marine Research and Higher Education (MaRHE) centre. As part of our time in the Maldives we each had to conduct a research project of our own.

The members of my course on a research boat in the Maldives

Continue reading “The Island of Magoodhoo – what can it tell us about waste management issues on small island developing states?”

Mitigating whale-vessel collision from Space: a viable option?

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A mitigation technique for whale-vessel collisions is of interest to both commercial and conservation sectors as they often result in damage to the ship and death of the whale. The scale of which this is happening is difficult to monitor as there is no universal database on the matter and ships are often nervous to report collisions due to perceived implications. However, the IWC Vessel Strike Data Standardisation Committee has been collating both formal and informal reports of whale-vessel strikes since 2005 which indicates whale-vessel strikes are on the rise and unsurprisingly more common in areas with high maritime traffic. Continue reading “Mitigating whale-vessel collision from Space: a viable option?”

Tutorial: How to download and do land classification on Sentinel-2 data in QGIS

Recently I have done a couple of training sessions and found people wanted guidance on how to download Sentinel-2 data and what they could do with it. This uses an example of processing in tropical forest but could be adapted for other purposes. Here are the notes I produced as a result of this session – they are aimed at a complete beginner who isn’t looking to do masses with the data but would just like to get started with learning.  I thought I would share in case they are useful to anyone else.

It requires a plugin called the Semi-Automatic Classification Plugin that can be installed by going to Plugins > Manage and Install Plugins then searching for Semi-Automatic Classification Plugin. It will be highlighted in green as it is a trusted plugin. Press install and all the toolbars should appear.

Note there is definitely more glamorous ways of doing this, but this is a great start for people who are only looking to use QGIS. Feel free to ask any questions!

Impacts of landslides on trunk roads in Scotland

Once again I present you a very dated case study – I must have preempted this as I have since moved to Scotland so this suddenly seems interesting again.

Scotland is connected by a series of trunk roads. Trunk roads are roads of strategic importance and closure of one of these roads can have widespread impacts. Scotland’s trunk roads carry 35% of all Scottish traffic and are valued at £20.8 billion. In August 2004 there was a series of landslide events across Scotland. The landslides affected key parts of the road network and limited access to travel and services, highlighting the potential financial implications of landslides (Table 1).

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Using GIS and remote sensing for management of wildland-urban interface

Another small project I did ages ago. This is one I’d like to return to as there is so much more potential and remote sensing for forests is a particular interest of mine. However for now here is a quick look at a case study of the wildfire-urban interface.

The GiIl and Stephens article is an excellent article about the challenges posed by wildfires on the management of the wildland-urban interface (WUI). Building on this, this post will use GIS and remote sensing to look at asset protection zones in Wilson, Wyoming.

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Soil Erosion and Deforestation in Ecuador

Firstly I thought I’d share some short summaries of projects I’ve worked on in the past. They are quite basic in their techniques used – I was just starting out! – but I think they could be useful as a case study nonetheless.

Deforestation is a growing issue in developing countries as the demand for agricultural commodities rises. In Ecuador, the government’s subsidy based approach to agriculture and the discovery of oil has led to the country having the highest rate of deforestation in South America. Furthermore, the removal of vegetation has been identified as the leading cause of soil erosion. I chose to look at two sites in contrasting regions of the country to see how the soil has been impacted as a result of deforestation. An overview of the two sites characteristics can be seen in the table below:

Continue reading “Soil Erosion and Deforestation in Ecuador”