Studying the seas, from Plymouth to Japan

This is Ben's story

Dr Ben Harvey graduated in BSc (Hons) Ocean Science in 2008 at Plymouth. After completing further postgraduate study, Ben’s dedication for exploring the ocean has taken him all over the world. Currently, he lives in Japan, working as an Assistant Professor at the University of Tsukuba’s Shimoda Marine Research Centre, where he has a strong research focus on marine ecology.

Navigating the waters: from Plymouth alumni to researcher in Japan

“After completing my undergraduate degree in 2008 at Plymouth, I worked for a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Samos, Greece at the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, for a year doing marine conservation.

“The next year saw me study at Bangor University, where I completed a masters in marine environmental protection. I followed this up by working as a research assistant on a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) project for one year, where I investigated the effects of climate change on intertidal organisms – the area above water at low tide and under water at high tide.

“My next step saw me move to Aberystwyth University to begin my PhD on the ‘effects of ocean acidification and warming on biotic interactions and marine ecosystems’. I then combined a short-term post-doctoral position and temporary lectureship in marine ecology at the same institution.

“Finally, I secured my current position as an Assistant Professor in the Shimoda Marine Research Center at the University of Tsukuba." 

"Here in Japan, I carry out teaching and research on the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems, using CO2 seeps as a natural analogue."

Water ocean wave through a glass window

"The fieldwork is the most fascinating aspect of my work. I’ve had the very fortunate opportunity of travelling to many exciting places in the world, and as a subtidal marine biologist, I often use scientific diving to explore these wonderful places for my work."

My research focus

“I am broadly interested in all aspects of marine ecology, particularly the role of environmental change on community structure and ecosystem functioning."

“My research has generally focused on the effects of climate change on species physiology, population demographics, and community-level interactions. At present, I am using the CO2 seep system in Mikama Bay, Shikine Island, Japan, to investigate the ecosystem-level, long-term effects of ocean acidification. 

"Overall, my research has been interdisciplinary in nature, including manipulative experiments in aquarium mesocosms, in-situ experiments involving natural gradients (CO2 seeps), laboratory-based work such as population genetics, meta-analytical approaches, and modelling approaches including dynamic energy budgets and structural equation modelling."

Choosing Plymouth

"The city itself is a great place, and, particularly for a student in the marine sciences, the seaside location is ideal. I found the lecturers to be incredibly knowledgeable and engaging, and I always felt I was extremely well supported.”

“I chose to study at Plymouth because the course covered a broad range of subjects – from the physical processes to the biology and chemistry – this gave me a good knowledge foundation in the first year, which allowed me to focus on the subjects I was more interested in for the subsequent years."

"As I am currently working in the field of climate change, this almost interdisciplinary approach was, and still is, extremely relevant. 

"Another reason I choose Plymouth was because of the scientific diving on offer – a skillset I frequently use as part of my current role."

"I loved diving every week with my course mates. A particularly fond memory was when we went to dive the wreck of the HMS Scylla out in the Plymouth Sound. Although I already had lots of experience scuba diving at this point, it was still the first time I’d seen a wreck."

On the foreshore, looking out to Plymouth Sound

Moving into academia

“Before studying at Plymouth, I hadn’t thought a career in academia was a viable option for me, and I had only planned to complete my undergraduate degree before finding work. It was during my third year with some encouragement from a few faculty members that I moved towards more of a research route, ultimately culminating in my current position.

“I would recommend all undergraduates to make more use of the opportunities to carry out research during their studies. It is my experience now that hard-working undergraduates can make really valuable contributions to scientific research – and even get involved in published work, an important aspect for careers in academia."

“My time at Plymouth allowed me to build my confidence, and to acquire the necessary foundation of knowledge and skills that allowed me to start down my present career path. It could be argued I learned how to learn, which instilled the inherent curiosity for marine ecology I now possess.”

Follow in Ben's footsteps at Plymouth

Studying a marine science degree will expose you to a wide range of exciting and important subjects such as physical, chemical and biological aspects of oceanography, coastal processes, meteorology and climatology, hydrographic surveying, marine conservation and sustainable management of marine resources.

Explore our range of courses

Before you go, did you know?

  • Around 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans
  • The largest ocean on Earth is the Pacific Ocean, covering around 3 per cent of the Earth’s surface
  • About 70 per cent of the oxygen we breathe is produced by the oceans
  • The deepest known area of the Earth’s oceans is known as the Mariana Trench. It’s deepest point measures 11km.
  • The longest mountain range in the world is found under water. Stretching over 56,000km, the Mid-Oceanic Ridge is a mountain chain that runs along the centre of the ocean basins
  • We have only explored about 5 per cent of the world’s oceans. There’s a lot more to be discovered!

Source: National Geographic website