Natalie Smith, postgraduate researcher, CDT SuMMeR: Cohort 1

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

<p>Natalie Smith, CDT Summer<br></p>


Completed my undergraduate degree in Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology at the University of Plymouth, with an academic placement year working with the International Marine Litter Research Unit (UoP), Arribada Initiative and The Zoological Society of London. My undergraduate dissertation was looking at the occurrence of microplastics in a Plymouth marina, investigating abundances in surface water, sediments and sessile marine organisms. I have been conducting microplastics research since November 2018.

Research interests

I previously interned and worked as a research assistant with the International Marine Litter research Unit alongside my undergraduate studies from November 2018 until October 2022, working on projects including eXXpedition, Preventing Plastic Pollution (PPP), PISCES and others with primary focus on sources and occurrence of microplastics.  However, as my career has developed I have began to shift toward the impact of microplastics and bioplastics to marine organisms and the natural environment. Since April 2020 I have worked at Arribada Initiative, conservation technology company, where I have been working within a small team to develop a cetacean bycatch mitigation device.

PhD research: Butt Out: A transdisciplinary approach to understanding the impact of cigarette butts in the marine environment

This project aims to investigate the impact of cellulose acetate cigarette butts on the marine environment, through looking at emerging leachate and the effect this has on the ecological assemblages in marine sediments. With the combined use of citizen science data to investigate occurrence and abundances in the coastal environment. Through the use of environmental psychology we aim to investigate attitudes and behaviours towards cigarette butts that lead to the unsustainable disposal of cigarette butts as a pathway into the marine environment and possible solutions to deter this behaviour. Working with out Ash Wales and Marine Conservation Society partners we aim to generate accurate and reliable data to inform and improve public engagement campaigns. Furthermore, if possible we would like to evaluate the impact of cigarette butt litter on the ecosystem services provided by different coastal environments, bringing together the environmental data, social/cultural data and existing peer review literature. 

Why I applied for the CDT SuMMeR

CDT SuMMeR presented a transdisciplinary approach to this project that not only seemed more aligned with my approach to research but also showed clear opportunities for skill development and training that I believe would result in myself becoming a more rounded and developed researcher.