In 2019, I graduated with a degree in Marine Biology from the University of Essex, where I developed a keen interest in marine microbiology and ecology. During this time, I re-established the student-led Marine Conservation Society. Together we organised events such as beach and river clean-ups both as a society and in partnership with the Essex Wildlife Trust. I completed my dissertation on the ‘Spatial Ecology of Coral Disease in the Wakatobi Marine National Park (WMNP), Indonesia’ under the supervision of Professor David Smith. The research project, involving a 6-week SCUBA diving expedition, analysed the prevalence of disease across different coral genera and environmental conditions.
I became aware of the diversity of Vibrio bacteria due to their association with multiple coral diseases, and the importance of investigating the expansion of marine pathogens with rising sea temperatures in terms of both geographic cover and population abundance. These topics dominate my research interests, now from a human health perspective, as climate warming is associated with increasing incidences of Vibrio infections around the world.
I started my PhD, entitled: ‘Is it safe to go in the sea? Climate change and Vibrio bacteria’, at UEA in 2019 under the supervision of Professor Iain Lake. This project is funded by the ARIES DTP and CASE partner CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science).
Vibrio bacteria inhabit marine and estuarine environments, with populations strongly influenced by temperature and salinity. Pathogenic strains of these bacteria can result in serious, sometimes fatal, infections in humans that are predominantly contracted through open wounds or the consumption of contaminated seafood. Changes in climate and extreme weather patterns are believed to expand the environmental suitability for Vibrio species through space and time whilst also boosting the regularity of human exposure to these pathogens, leading to higher rates of infection.
My research aims to generate a clearer understanding of the influence of climate change on Vibrio disease and aid the development of mitigation strategies that seek to minimise the impact of such infections on human health. Through the creation of statistical models using epidemiological, climatic, and oceanographic datasets, I am able to apply the output of my analyses to regional and global climate models to predict the distribution of future Vibrio risk under different climate change scenarios.