Meet the team

Dr Siân Rees

From an early start as an outdoor educator, activist, traveller, teacher, geographer Siân moved to specialise in ocean policy and then discipline hopped into environmental economics for her PhD.

Since she joined the University of Plymouth in 2007, she has been developing social and economic research to support decision-making frameworks in the marine environment. This has largely focussed on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) fisheries management, ecosystem services and the Natural Capital Approach. As an Associate Professor in Social-Ecological Systems at the University of Plymouth Siân leads a range of research projects.

She has written and co-authored over 30 publications since 2010, she leads a 4* Research Excellence Framework impact case study and is currently a member of the NERC Advisory Network.

Dr Matthew Ashley

Matthew’s research takes a multidisciplinary approach, applying research methods from natural, social and behavioral sciences to investigate the effect of policy, management and anthropogenic activities on social-ecological systems. Matthew has conducted research projects funded by: NERC, UKERC, Defra, EU Horizon 2020 and Interreg Europe and various NGOs, on the effectiveness of ocean literacy initiatives as well as social and economic effects of planning and management decisions in the marine environment.

Projects in this area have included using ecological and social and economic research methods to understand the environmental and economic impacts of marine renewable energy. Developing pioneering marine natural capital assessments and monitoring risk to ecosystem service provision from the marine environment. Matthew has also developed the design and completion of research that applied behavioral science methods to track indicators of behavior change in participants involved in ocean literacy initiatives across Europe in the Horizon 2020 project ‘ResponSEAble’.

Dr Holly Niner

My research focusses on the management of marine resources and space. I am particularly interested in how issues of fairness are incorporated into decision-making of how natural resources are used. This relates to concerns of sustainability i.e. how can we ensure that the planet can support a thriving future for all sectors of global society.

This interest has meant that I’ve skipped around a lot in terms of disciplinary expertise as I’ve tried to find a way to contribute to achieving sustainability. Accordingly, I have roots in normal science (Oceanography), I have spent time in the real-life management of marine industry and resources within government and industry, and then moved into the social sciences as it slowly (not that slowly) dawned on me that decisions are based on so much more than just quantified ecological evidence.

Periklis Kleitou

Grew up in a coastal city at the eastern Mediterranean, Periklis was always intrigued by the exploration and protection of the marine ecosystems.

Since 2018, Periklis joined the Marine Conservation Research Group to propose novel and interdisciplinary ideas for the management of non-indigenous species. He (co-)produced several publications and policy reports and assists national and regional authorities in marine conservation.

For the most part he is based in Cyprus where he has been involved and participated in several research programmes/projects related to the marine ecosystem, fisheries, and aquaculture. He holds good relationships with stakeholders and he is strongly involved in citizen-science activities

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Dr Eva McGrath

Eva is a trans-disciplinary social researcher, with a particular interest in narratives about water. She first studied Literature, and became interested in how authors incorporate water into their texts including the range of meanings, symbolism and emotion that stories can sensitively convey about water in its various forms, across different cultures, time-periods and genres. Through her PhD in Human Geography, she developed creative methods to capture what rivers mean to people and place on-board passenger ferries. As part of Green Minds, she is leading a mixed method approach to understanding the value of the coast and parks in Plymouth, which includes policy-document analysis and social media analysis, to inform a local understanding of the social significance of green and blue spaces.

She swims year-round in the sea and rivers around Plymouth, is a keen gardener and is becoming an enthusiastic bird and bumblebee watcher.

Tom Mullier

Tom is a marine scientist and spatial analyst with a particular interest in how technology can facilitate marine conservation and better communication. Tom has worked in the field for nearly 20 years, moving from tropical marine ecology to become part of the Finding Sanctuary team facilitating the design of Marine Conservation Zones in the South West of England and eventually starting a consultancy specialising in spatial analysis, GIS, marine planning and software development.

Tom splits his time between working with the research group and as a commercial consultant through Marine Mapping Ltd.

Nata Tavonvunchai

Nata comes to marine conservation from sustainability consulting and a social science and philosophy academic background. At the University, Nata is working on her PhD on equitable and climate-smart blue carbon governance. Her research focuses on inclusive development in blue carbon ecosystems (mangroves, wetlands, seagrass and algae), which provide substantial benefits to maintaining habitat integrity, safeguarding coastal communities and addressing and mitigating the effects of climate change. Specifically, Nata is interested in how to potentiate blue carbon's community co-benefits, how public and private sector capital can be directed to blue carbon conservation and policy/market frameworks for blue carbon management.

Alongside her PhD, she is continuing her work in climate change consulting, where she works on plastics and climate finance, as well as blue carbon.

Outside of work, Nata enjoys spending time in the outdoors going hiking/scuba-diving, and tennis, as well as dancing and sewing.

Lindy Brown

Lindy comes from a social care background with over 30yrs experience working in communities marginalised by poverty and has a strong commitment to social justice. In parallel, she has always been passionate about the ocean, having been brought up by a Sailor (who she thought was a pirate until 8yrs old).

Lindy made the decision to career hop following participation in a citizen science survey expedition with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, as she wanted to utilise her existing skill set of engagement with those communities who are not always heard, to ensure that everyone was equally able to access the benefits of the ocean and contribute to its protection. Lindy’s current research seeks to understand if the experience of material deprivation is a barrier to engagement with the narrative of Ocean Literacy due to the weight of preoccupation with life’s difficulties.

Lindy can be found outside whenever possible, mostly running, and swimming and walking her dog Honey.

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Kizzy Beaumont

After graduating from the University of Plymouth in 2007 with a MSc in Biological Diversity and a BSc (Hons) in Marine Biology, I went on to work as an aquarist and then as a displays supervisor in public aquariums across the UK. Along with animal husbandry, I also developed and led on education initiatives, as well as volunteer and staff training programmes. This highlighted to me the positive impact education can have on people and the environment and eventually led me to move into a career in teaching.  

I began teaching animal science, marine biology, and wildlife conservation in both FE and HE settings, before becoming a programme leader and then HE curriculum manager. I designed a number of new modules focussing on marine policy and management. For the past four years, I have been working in learning development, supporting students in developing their academic practice. I gained my PGCE in 2014 and was awarded a Senior Fellowship to the Higher Education Academy in 2019.

I have now returned to Plymouth to undertake my PhD research within the scope of transformative blue governance and the interface between people and the environment. 

Guy Hooper

Guy recently graduated from the MSc Marine Conservation program at Plymouth University having completed a BSc in Marine Geography at Cardiff University. During his time at University Guy has been able to work on a range of natural and social science projects including the investigation of invasive Pacific Oysters in Cornwall, and the analysis of marine conservation recovery strategies in Devon’s inshore waters.

Guy has developed an interest in the socio-ecological interface and is now enjoying the opportunity to be part of the work happening in North Devon, working as a research assistant on the Blue Biosphere Natural Capital Accelerator Program. Guy is also a keen sailor, surfer, diver and climber.

Current PhD students

Kizzy Beaumont

Transformative blue governance and just transitions to a sustainable blue economy.

Periklis Kleitou

Invasive species and lionfish in the Mediterranean (see entry above).

Samantha Blampied

Evaluating the effectiveness, socio-economic value and trophic dynamics of MPAs.

David Cox

Scallop ranching.

Danielle Bridger

Effects of Open Ocean Mussel Farming on Ecosystem Services.

Giulia La Bianca

Deep Sea Ecosystem Services.

Nata Tavonvunchai

Climate-smart blue governance: practical approaches to blue carbon.

Current Research Masters students

Lindy Brown

Leave no-one behind: In search of a more inclusive narrative in marine conservation.

Current Marine Conservation Masters students

Creative Practice and links with artists

2018/2019 Collaboration with Marine Institute Artist in Residence An Ever Moving Now. A multi-chaptered, cross-disciplinary project that explores wildness, rewilding, and our relationship with nature.

Affiliated staff

The Marine Social Science Research Unit is supported by a range of academics across the University of Plymouth who co-supervise staff and students towards interdisciplinary goals. We are united though the internationally renowned Marine Institute and Sustainable Earth Institute at the University of Plymouth.

Professor Melanie Austen

Dr Claire Kelly

Dr Lynda Rodwell

Dr Emma Sheehan

Professor Martin Attrill

Professor Jason Hall Spencer

Professor Kerry Howell

Dr Alun Morgan

Dr Kirsty McQuaid


Katherine (Paige) Lewington

Attitudes the invasive species, Pterois volitans, in Turks and Caicos: Incentives or barriers to a market. In partnership with the JNCC

Eden Amos

Mapping cumulative impacts and trade-offs of the Blue Economy – In partnership with WCMC.

Ankitha Manohar

Promoting the protection of key biodiversity areas and marine protected areas as the foundation for the Integrated Coastal Management and Marine Spatial Planning for Myanmar – In partnership with IUCN.

Arianna Liconte

MRes- A Multisource Approach to the Identification of Vulnerable Habitat-forming Gorgonian Assemblages in Italian Coastal Waters.

Hannah Parry-Wilson

MRes Evaluating anchoring behaviour and Zostera marina health responses to a mooring trial within an MCZ site at Fishcombe Cove, Brixham, England.

Jennifer Rasal

MRes The Impacts of an Offshore Mussel Farm in the Brown Crab Cancer Pagurus.

Casey Snook

Enablers and Barriers to a commercial market for the invasive lionfish in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic UK Overseas Territories. In partnership with the JNCC.

Florentina Winger

Life’s a beach. In partnership with WCMC.

Abigail O'Sullivan-Sehmi

It takes a village to understand a manta ray: The contribution of multiple data sources to manta ray research and conservation in the Maldives.In partnership with Manta Trust.

Todd Last

National Marine Parks vision for the UK – In partnership with Blue Marine Foundation.

David Reeves

Research assistant.

Adam Fisher

Green Minds Research Assistant.

Andy Cameron

North Devon Marine Pioneer Research Assistant.