When I came to choose my PhD, I knew I wanted to do something related to marine biology and at the time, there were ten I could apply for worldwide. Most of them involved statistical modelling using existing data sets – the project at Edinburgh Napier was the only one that involved hands-on science in a brand-new area about which very little was previously known. The idea of doing cutting-edge science in a new field really appealed to me.

Another plus was that the PhD involved working some of the time at St Abbs Marine Station, an independent marine research station on the Berwickshire coast. 

The other attraction was Edinburgh itself – a city I knew already and loved.

The idea of doing cutting-edge science in a new field really appealed to me.

Enthusiasm and ideas

When I came for the interview, I met the full supervisory team, including my Director of Studies, Professor Karen Diele.  She made a great impression, full of enthusiasm and ideas and this was confirmed when I had a private chat afterwards with one of her current PhD students.

My PhD is looking at the impact of noise pollution on the early life stages of aquatic creatures such as lobsters, shrimp, oysters and squid. The larvae of these creatures can spend several months floating around in plankton in the sea, during which time they are very vulnerable to predators. I’ve been assessing how noise affects their growth, development, physiology and behaviour during this critical period.

I’ve found Edinburgh Napier to be a really supportive place to do my PhD. Following a conference on oysters held in Edinburgh, I was invited to spend a month at an oyster hatchery on an island in the Limfjord, in the North of Denmark. The University provided the funding so I could take advantage of this opportunity. I had so much equipment to take, I ended up driving out there, which was quite an adventure in itself!

Thanks to Karen’s contacts, my research has also been featured on Blue Planet UK, a spin off from the BBC’s famous Blue Planet series, that focuses on the science around our own shores. Another PhD student, Craig Stenton, and I were filmed at St Abbs – it was interesting to see how several hours of filming turned into just a few minutes of the actual broadcast.

Different perspectives

The PhD students in the School of Applied Sciences are a pretty close-knit group, even though we’re all studying very different subjects, from sports science to genetics to marine biology. It can be really helpful for your research to get the perspective of scientists from outside your field. And we do social stuff together too: there’s a five-a-side football team and the occasional pub quiz.

I’ve just submitted my thesis and am planning to write up some papers based on the research. I’m also looking for jobs – most likely in private consultancy. There’s going to be a big push for more offshore renewables, and I’d like to help minimise their impact on the environment – or even find ways for them to act as positive marine habitats.

I remember when Karen called to offer me the PhD, I was on the research boat at Bangor University, where I was doing my Masters. I asked for 24 hours just to think it through, but I knew already that I was really excited by the project, so it wasn’t difficult to say yes. And given how positive my experience has been at Edinburgh Napier, that was definitely a very good decision.