In this Blog handover we ask Sherece Thompson, intern for the Coast Explorer Internship Programme, to introduce herself, the project, and the exciting journey that lies ahead.

Who?

Who is the intern for this project? My name is Sherece Thompson and I am the new coastal explorer intern!

Since a young age I have spent many days on my local stretch of beach in Westbrook, Margate. I grew up surrounded by shallow seas and chalk reefs; seeing species like the small-spotted catshark, common cuttlefish or thornback ray washed up on the shore line (along with a lot of seaweed!). In my teens I was fortunate enough to travel to South Africa on several occasions, this is where I found my passion for conservation which I brought back to the UK.

I studied my undergraduate in Animal Conservation and Biodiversity, carrying out my dissertation on the harbour seals at Pegwell Bay, Sandwich. In the UK we have grey seals and harbour seals, in both species’ individuals can be identified by their head and neck spot pattern. So, the aim of my dissertation was to photograph individual seals to create the Thames Seal Catalogue; a reference for the seals at Pegwell Bay. At the age of 21 I moved to Scotland for a year to study the MSc Marine Conservation at the University of Aberdeen. This was a fulfilling experience and for my three-month research thesis I turned my attention to the harbour seals in the Moray Firth; using GPS tracking data to explore harbour seal foraging strategies. No mean feat considering harbour seals are very individualised in their movements.

What?

What is the CEIP? The coastal explorer internship is a six-month long programme running from May to November 2021. The internship partners comprise 4 organisations, with whom I will be spending my time throughout the internship. The focal partners are Kent Wildlife Trust Consultancy Services (KWTCS) and Vattenfall. KWTCS provide not only ecological consultancy advice, but work with a host of partners to achieve effective habitat management, improved networks for nature recovery and public engagement. Vattenfall is a large contributor in the UK to renewable wind energy. They have devised a CO2 roadmap in order to decrease their CO2 emissions, as well as that of their customers. Let’s not leave out the other two important partners: The Crown Estate manages the UK’s seabed, and is responsible for leasing areas of the seafloor, issuing licenses, and aiding in the marine planning process. The Crown Estate also hosts an array of coastal and marine services, such as the Marine Data Exchange; an open access database full of information from offshore sources. Last but not least, Canterbury City Council are hands on in the public domain; managing coastal areas, creating Shore Search events for school children as well as educational talks. Each partner has a significant role in terms of marine conservation, and I hope to gain experience across all these areas; from public engagement to the provision of green energy.

Why?

Why is this internship so important? The UK has a legal requirement under the Climate Change Act 2008 to offset 100% of it’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A large aim of the internship is to contribute to achieving net zero through relevant research. This internship has many roles to play; one day I may be out with KWTCS working on the CHASM project to investigate crab and lobster decline in East Sussex. The next I could be working with Vattenfall doing desk-based research investigating how to further reduce their CO2 emissions. Covid-19 permitting, I will be out with Canterbury City Council engaging with the next generation and hopefully inspiring them about our diverse and fascinating coast. With the Crown Estate I will gain insight into how they take on the mammoth task of managing our seabed.

Surveys, research, species decline, invasive species, public outreach, citizen science, innovation and education, this is going to be a great six-month journey and I cannot wait to get stuck in and share my experience along the way!

Keep an eye on our website to hear more from Sherece as her journey continues!