Meet Natalie – a Marine Research Intern
Tell us a little about your background?
Back in 2017 I graduated with a BSc in Biological Sciences with Study Abroad from the University of Exeter. During my degree, I became increasingly fascinated with our world’s oceans and how they are managed, so much so I went on to complete an MSc in Marine Environmental Management at the University of York. Whilst completing my master’s degree I was lucky enough to have some great research experiences, including conducting coral and sponge research in Hawai’i and surveying coral reefs in the Maldives. Yet, what always came through as key interests of mine were marine management, policy and sustainable development, and I was fortunate enough to pursue these interests further through the Coast Explorer internship programme run in part by The Crown Estate in 2019. This was a fantastic opportunity that provided me with valuable experience in a range of marine sectors, and made me eager to pursue further experience in marine management and renewable energy development.
What are you currently working on?
In recent years, there has been an increasing awareness of how loud our oceans have become due to human activity. Underwater noise pollution is receiving increased attention amongst scientists and regulators, with concerns mounting on the impacts of noise in a seascape that is experiencing increasing industrial growth and development. Among the sectors enjoying this expansion is renewable energy, specifically offshore wind, as efforts increase to tackle climate change and meet the nation’s energy demands in a clean and sustainable way. During the construction of an offshore wind farm, pile driving into the seabed emits high levels of noise into the marine environment. This can have detrimental consequences for marine mammals such as harbour porpoises, which rely on sound for communication, navigation, prey capture and predator avoidance. As a Marine Research Intern, my research project is focusing on how we can best manage underwater noise by considering current regulatory guidance, new scientific evidence and survey data collected during wind farm development. I am also engaging with various customers, stakeholders and regulators to draw on additional knowledge and perspectives and gain a greater understanding of the management landscape regulating underwater noise. In doing so, I hope to provide valuable insights into our current management of underwater noise and propose recommendations on ways in which The Crown Estate can help to address such a complex environmental issue and reduce consenting risk for its customers.
What is a typical day for you?
A typical day for me can involve a variety of things, including desk-based research and meetings with the rest of the team. However, one aspect I enjoy the most about this internship is having the opportunity to engage with The Crown Estate’s customers and stakeholders to gain valuable insights and perspectives to inform my project. This has included several offshore wind developers, regulators and conservation organisations, which has allowed me to broaden my professional network and gain a greater understanding of the variety of careers available in the marine sector.
What do you enjoy the most about The Crown Estate?
The Crown Estate is a very unique place to work and has such a diverse and interesting portfolio, there is nowhere else quite like it! Everyone in the team is very welcoming, approachable and supportive, which has made my transition back to the business great. New ideas are always welcome, and I enjoy being in an environment that encourages you to think differently and challenges you to grow and develop professionally. I guess returning for a second time is a testament in itself to what a great place it is to work!
How has The Crown Estate helped you in your career development?
The Crown Estate has been great in supporting my personal and professional development post-university. Beyond my research project, a key focus of my internship has been identifying areas where I could develop or improve upon a skill or gain new experience, and where possible The Crown Estate has been fully supportive in facilitating this. Career development is a key priority and the team are great at encouraging you to make the most of the opportunity to develop your skills and broaden your professional network.
What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
Whenever I find myself in warmer waters, I jump at the chance to go scuba diving (I haven’t braved UK seas yet!). I also enjoy running and boxing as ways to keep fit.