Caitlin Cox

Ever since I was very young I have been fascinated by the ocean. Annual family trips to Cornwall and Wales rewarded me with a host of activities related to the shore and coastline. From rock pooling to wildlife boat trips, and swimming to surfing, the draw of the sea has always been strong for me.

The pull of Plymouth's marine research

From someone with an agricultural and engineering family history that grew up 2 hours from the nearest beach, studying marine biology is quite a contrast. My fascination for the subject was fuelled by a family trip to Lanzarote where I was introduced to scuba diving. The feeling of being encompassed by water, yet still being able to breathe, was so mesmerising that I cannot describe the utter euphoria I felt. From then on, I decided that I would study marine biology. 
As a leading university for marine research, Plymouth caught my eye with a large option of marine-related courses to explore. I chose to study Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology because it opened up a range of opportunities: from field trips to France and South Africa, to scientific diving modules. The vast number of facilities and opportunities, such as the HSE SCUBA Diving Course and the COAST Laboratory, ensured that Plymouth was the choice for me.
From the lecturers to the Student Union, the support and encouragement I received from the University was immense. Since graduating, the Careers Service have constantly been providing support in both job-seeking and postgraduate opportunities. The team encouraged me to undergo my masters in Sustainable Environmental Management, alongside working for ARC Marine – a team leading the way in nature inclusive solutions in marine environments.

My proudest moment has to be when I was offered a job with ARC Marine as an Assistant Ecologist – with them offering to support my masters thesis. It is such a large role which has opened to door to so many opportunities such as presenting, filming and research publications. That feeling of seeing my name as a co-author was so thrilling, because I couldn’t believe that was me.

Caitlin Cox at graduation.
Limpet? More like a living island! Caitlin Cox captured this great example of epibiosis on this Patella limpet during her dissertation data collection.
Caitlin Cox and her dog on the beach.

A passion for eco-engineering

Coastal communities are under constant pressure from coastal erosion and flooding. As someone who has seen the impacts of eroding coastlines up close and the negative impact it has on coastal communities, you can understand the need to protect people’s livelihoods. That is why I want to create a solution that can be implemented globally to not only protect coastal communities, but to promote native biodiversity.  
I first joined ARC Marine as an intern focusing on sustainable business development through the Sustainability Hub: Low Carbon Devon. My passion is within the vast waters of the coastal zone and the company provided me an incredible opportunity to hone my skills during my master studies. Through this opportunity, I provide support to our Chief Scientific Officer, but I am also researching the efficacy of Krib Karn reef cubes as breakwaters and seawalls.  
I have recently filmed an interview alongside the Environment Agency and ARC Marine regarding the pilot breakwater project in Newlyn. Part of my masters thesis involves developing the surveying approach to nature-inclusive designs, with Nelwyn being my study site.

I hope my research can pave the way for the inclusion of nature-inclusive designs within coastal policy. If we can unify global approaches to nature-inclusive design we can make a space for nature, while protecting coastal communities from the hazards of coastal erosion and rising sea-levels.

Caitlin Cox
A limpet shell taken by Caitlin Cox.
Caitlin Cox and her dog on the beach.

A future of nature-inclusive design

My advice to anyone with similar career interests is to grab any opportunity you can. Get involved with University researchers, commercial researchers, citizen science projects and volunteer. This will allow you to build your profile of experience. 
Also, be prepared – for interviews, assignments, anything! The more prepared you are the better your chances of success and increases your time for going on adventures.
After I complete my masters, I have planned three possibilities. The main goal is to eventually complete my PhD in ecological engineering and nature-inclusive designs, which develops my findings from my masters thesis. Hopefully, this will lead to real-world experiments. 
I am also looking into Knowledge Transfer Partnerships to create a research relationship between ARC Marine and the University, which would lead to the development of my academic and commercial skills. 
My last possibility is to develop my skills working full time in the eco-engineering field. This would allow me to develop my real-world knowledge before applying it to any future research opportunities including a PhD.

My true goal is to make nature-inclusive designs a viable alternative to grey infrastructure strategies, which can be incorporated within national and international policies, to promote marine biodiversity within coastal strategies.

Celebrating some of our amazing recent graduates

Home of world-leading marine research, teaching and innovation

Our mission is to advance sustainable use of the marine environment through our systems-thinking approach to research, education and innovation. 
With one of the largest marine and maritime portfolios of any institution in Europe, we have a long-held and outstanding international reputation for conducting world-leading, transdisciplinary research. 
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