Behind-the-scenes of eXXpedition, we have an amazing volunteer team. This includes fantastic scientists who help our crews make sense of the data and samples collected on our eXXpedition journeys. Over the next few weeks, we are going to introduce you to some of our eXXpedition scientists – a vital but often hidden part of our team!
We kick off the series with Winnie Courtene-Jones!
Name: Winnie Courtene-Jones
Institution Affiliation: Scottish Association for Marine Science
Position: PhD researcher
Web URL: https://education.sams.ac.uk/people/research-students/winnie-courtene-jones/
General Research Interest: Marine Microplastics
Science and plastics
Briefly describe your background:
I am currently studying for a PhD at the Scottish Association for Marine Science on the west coast of Scotland. Prior to this I completed a BSc in Zoology at Bangor University in Wales and an MRes in Marine Biology at Plymouth University. I worked as a self-employed marine consultant and have also held positions as a marine field biologist in Belize and Tanzania.
Why are you interested in plastics (or contaminants) in the marine environment:
Plastics are one of the fastest growing threats to the health of the world’s oceans, they are extremely pervasive and I am sure we all see plastic litter in the environment on a daily basis. I am fascinated to know more about how the microscopic plastic pieces we can’t see with the naked eye (microplastics) interact with the environment and their long-term fate within these systems. Being an entirely man-made material, I also feel we have a responsibility to research and mitigate against the impacts caused by plastic pollution.
What advice would you give citizen scientists?
Firstly, I would thank all those citizen scientists for the work they have done/are doing, you are contributing knowledge on the quantity and distribution of marine plastics. I would encourage anyone not yet involved in beach cleans/surveys, nurdle hunts etc to see what’s going on in your local area and get involved. The data generated by citizen scientists is an extremely valuable tool
Who do you admire the most (dead or alive)?
Like so many people, I grew up watching the documentaries of Sir David Attenborough documentaries and was extremely inspired. I also admire the strong female scientists Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Jane Goodall and Rachel Carsson who have all done so much for science, communication and women in leadership roles.
What’s the most delightful word you can think of?
Science (is that too geeky?!)
What gives you hope for the future of our marine environment?
Two things; 1) the resilience of nature to bounce back if we give it a chance. 2) The new generation who perhaps live in an age of greater understanding about the world around us, the need to use resources sustainably and protect the amazing planet we live on. There are some remarkable people out there with such an awareness of the natural world. The motivation of school children and young scientists I have met is really inspiring.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Believe in yourself and persevere.
What’s your favourite marine creature?
There are so many amazing marine creatures, octopus are fascinating (and deserve a mention here), however, I have always had a bit of an obsession with sea stars and brittle stars.
Recommend a book, article or author, please!
‘Oceans of Life’ by Dr. Callum Roberts is a great and really accessible book.
If you could put just one thing at the top of your bucket list, what would it be?
Exploring the deep sea first hand in a submersible – who wouldn’t want to witness this world and have such a unique experience in their lifetime?!
Thank you Winnie – for answering our questions and for helping us with eXXpedition Round Britain!
Keep your eye on our blog for more scientist and crew interviews, as well as regular crew updates as our team sails Round Britain!