Bridgnorth Endowed School, MSci degree in Environmental Geoscience at the University of Bristol
A-levels, MSci (1st class hons), PhD
PhD at the University of East Anglia (UEA), and post-doc at UEA
Lecturer at University of Bristol
Lecturer in Biogeochemistry in the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol.
Favourite thing to do in my job: My favourite thing about work is making new scientific discoveries (however small). It can be exhilarating to know you have discovered something completely new about how the world works!
I'm a scientist (!). Outside of work I love music, film and my cat Pip.
I live in Bristol with my girlfriend (she’s an artist). I play guitar in a rock band with my old friends from university and love going to lots of gigs (even if I can’t hear much the next day!). My favourite TV show is Twin Peaks, and I went to Washington State in the US to visit the set when I finished university. I’ve always been passionate about the environment, I think because I grew up in a rural area of Shropshire and spent lots of time in the countryside. Me and my brother have both ended up doing environmental work (he’s a park ranger!).
I use computers to investigate how the oceans and marine life change because of global warming.
The oceans and marine life are very vulnerable to climate change now and in the future. In fact they actually help us to suck up the extra heat and fossil fuel emissions that we put into the atmosphere! I work on understanding how the oceans have changed in the recent past, and might change in the future because of on-going climate change. I focus my work on understanding tiny free-floating organisms in the ocean called “plankton”, which are the primary producers in ocean ecosystems.
I’m particularly interested in how the amount of oxygen (which we all need to breathe, even animals in the ocean!) in the oceans can change as they warm up because of climate change. Many scientists have measured changes in oxygen levels in the oceans from ships, and have noticed that the levels are starting to decline as the oceans get warmer. This could mean many areas of the ocean start to become “dead” to marine life in the sense that there is insufficient oxygen for them to live there. To do this work I use computer models (a bit like Minecraft but with more scientific details!) to look at the global picture.
My Typical Day
My day is split between teaching students, doing my own research, and various other responsibilities like organising field trips!
To be an academic it is very important to multi-task! Our jobs include lots of different types of work, from teaching undergraduates who have just started their degrees from school, all the way through to presenting scientific results at conferences to other experts (quite nerve-wracking). I split my time between different responsibilities, and try to make sure to have time to do my own research on the oceans!
What I'd do with the prize money
I would like to make music which helps students learn about climate change
I would use the money to make music (a travelling installation for Schools) which allows us to “hear” climate change. This might sound a little confusing, as climate change is not a sound but a serious of global physical changes happening in the real world! But actually when you boil it down, climate change is actually a series of different “noisy” or chaotic processes (whether its the oceans slushing around, or daily changes in weather, which the weatherman doesn’t always get right) alongside a long-term warming trend. Think of it like tuning a radio in the car — when you turn the radio on and its not quite on the channel you heard lots of “noise” and static but when you get it right you can clearly hear the station. The climate system is just the same! And such an exercise gives us the chance to better understand, using music, how clearly we can hear the “climate change station” compared to the noisy static! And how this might change in the future.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Cheerful, Passionate, Relaxed
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
My proudest moment was presenting a scientific paper at the Royal Society in London
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My mum always supported me and encouraged me to do what made me happy
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
A volcanologist (not too far away?)
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Rarely (apart from playing the drums too loudly in the music room)
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Travelled around America
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To publish a book, to release an album, to be able to fly
Tell us a joke.
What is a woodpeckers favourite cheese? Pecorino