Lorna McKellar, postgraduate researcher, CDT SuMMeR: Cohort 1

Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Management of UK Marine Resources (CDT SuMMeR)

Lorna McKellar


I completed my BSc in Psychology at University College London before going on to work in the qualitative market research industry, which looked at consumer decision-making through focus groups, workshops, and community forums. I then decided to follow my interests in marine ecosystems by completing an MSc in Tropical Marine Biology at the University of Essex, during which I spent time working in an otolith lab group looking at salmon migrations. 

Research interests

I’m primarily interested in sustainable marine management and how we can improve the health of our marine ecosystems as well as the ecosystem services that they provide. My experience in human psychology and decision-making means that I am particularly motivated to work with key stakeholders across different industries to improve communication and look at how we can use cross-disciplinary methods to more effectively manage our marine resources. Working with a charity like the Community of Arran Seabed Trust has given me insight into how a successful Marine Protected Area can be implemented with the support of all stakeholders. 

PhD research: Setting thresholds for good status in marine ecosystem management 

My PhD research is looking at how we set ecosystem thresholds which determine whether marine areas are in a good or degraded state. By monitoring ecological variables that are proxies for overall ecosystem health, we can get an idea of the state that an ecosystem is in, but defining the point at which that variable reaches a degraded state requires setting a threshold and the methods currently used to do this are not always clearly defined or quantitatively generated. By being able to identify which environments are degraded and which are healthy, governmental bodies can proactively implement ecosystem-based management approaches to improve or maintain the overall state of that area.
As the UN Ocean Decade gets underway, nations are looking to improve the health of their marine environments but in order to do this there must be a logical, quantitatively robust method of determining the status of each marine ecosystem. Working groups across government advisory bodies are currently working on identifying these methods whilst also considering the impacts on ecosystem services, so the outcomes of this project will not only be relevant and beneficial for these conversations but will result in actionable research that could improve the way in which we manage our marine resources. 

Why I applied for the CDT SuMMeR

I applied for the CDT SuMMeR because it has a strong focus on interdisciplinary research, which I believe will produce some of the most exciting and relevant research outcomes. The collaboration between academic and non-academic organisations was another motivation for applying, as I know this will give me a chance to collaborate with people that are working on implementing tangible changes in marine management and give me insight into how my research could be used in the real-world environment.