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.

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

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?”

UK Food Banks: the geodemographics behind hunger in Sheffield

Adapted from a presentation I did a couple of years ago – Food Banks visualised in a series of maps. Disclaimer: this is one of the first GIS projects I ever did so I do apologise for my poor choice of colours and formatting. I do still think the data is interesting which is why I chose to share it here.

Food Banks

Food Banks provide short-term emergency support during a crisis

They aim to relieve the immediate pressure of the crisis by providing food, while also offering solutions to help identify and resolve the underlying causes of the crisis.

  • Thousands of people go hungry within the UK every day due to the inability to afford food
  • Instigated by local church groups, Food Banks were set up within communities to provide donated food to the less fortunate via groups of volunteers.
  • The Trussell Trust aspires to have a minimum of 1 Food Bank within every local community

Where can you find a Food Bank?

Foodbank Comparisons Final
Prevalence of food banks in the UK. Local authority data from Trussell Trust

The prevalence of food banks has vastly increased in the past 10 years.

There are around 1000 food banks in the UK. 424 operate under the Trussell trust which can be seen on the map below. 

UK Foodbanks 2017. Data geocoded from addresses

The Referral System

Food Banks distribute three-day emergency food parcels to people in crisis who are referred by frontline care professionals or local organisations such as:

      • job centres,
      • social workers,
      • health visitors
      • school liaison officers.
      • children’s centres,
      • housing associations,
      • welfare agencies

The number of vouchers given out also vastly increased:

160,000: The highest number of vouchers was given out in the North West in 2015

3.38%: the percentage of people in the North East who received a 3-day voucher 2015


% of the population who received a 3-day emergency food voucher 2012 – 2016

These statistics are even more sobering when looking at the number of under 18’s receiving vouchers:

61,750: The highest number of vouchers given out  to under 18’s was in the North West in 2015

7.12%: the percentage of children in the North East who received a 3-day voucher in 2015


Sheffield Foodbank maps
Locations of food banks in Sheffield


  • The first food bank opened in 2013
  • Mainly in the North-East of the city
  • 15 organisations operating over 20 sites
  • All are Christian organisations


We read several reports which highlighted the key reasons people use Food Banks in the UK. A study by the University of Hull called ‘Mapping Hunger’ highlighted the main reasons people use food banks:

  • Benefit delays
  • Long-term illness
  • High level of deprivation
  • Low skill jobs

I decided to apply these key reasons to the case study of Sheffield to see if they are true. The different geodemographics I will analyse are:

  • Deprivation
  • Long-Term Sick
  • Unemployment
  • Rates of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance


The Multiple Index of Deprivation takes into account 7 factors:


  • Sheffield is ranked the 60th most deprived local authority in England out of 326.
  • 23% of Sheffield’s LSOAs are in the 10% most deprived nationally
  • Performs worst in Education 41st of 326
  • Performs best in Living Environment 135th of 326
Food banks and deprivation in Sheffield.

As food bank users are most likely to be using public transport a 2km buffer is used to highlight the travel distance. Most deprived areas are included in this area, though it highlights an area in the North that is not served by a local food bank.

 Long-Term Sick

long term sick
% of working age long-term sick and location of foodbanks

Job Centres

Job Centres (orange) and Food Banks. Line encloses areas that are within 2km of both
Enter a Job Seekers Allowance by ward. The darkest in the centre is the Burngreave Ward


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.

Continue reading “Using GIS and remote sensing for management of wildland-urban interface”