The University of Plymouth World Oceans Day Schools' Conference 2021
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On the 8th of June join a host of our academics across the Faculty of Science and Engineering in a celebration of the marine research and opportunities available at the University of Plymouth.

As the ‘Home of Marine Research’ in the UK, we want to inspire young minds to conserve, protect and research the marine environment, giving insight into the diverse range of careers that are available to students no matter their interests, from Marine Biology to Cyber Security.

This full day of talks is aimed at A level students who are looking to their next steps into higher education, however any eager GCSE students are more than welcome. The day will feature talks from our three schools, the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SoGEES), School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics (SECaM) and School of Biological and Marine Sciences (SoBMS).

The talks will be delivered by Zoom and we encourage students to dip into each of the school sessions, dependant on their interests. You can view the talks by selecting each of the schools below.

Please book your place via the above link or email sciengoutreach@plymouth.ac.uk for any queries.

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Today's events

World Oceans Day Conference Programme

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (09:30-11:30)

09:30-10:00 | Dr Simon Ussher: Feeding the food chain in the modern ocean - the importance of nutrients and ocean chemistry

This talk will examine how ocean chemistry and the availability of vital element ‘building blocks’ (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and iron) can affect the growth of phytoplankton that support marine ecosystems and play a role in controlling atmospheric CO2 concentrations.


10:00-10:30 | Eva McGrath: Valuing the Plymouth coast: a transdisciplinary perspective

This presentation considers water and the value of water from a transdisciplinary perspective: to suggest that researching with water has to stretch beyond the traditional boundaries of disciplines and subject areas. Insights are given from a rich experience of researching water through diverse and creative methods, including literature, ethnography, policy analysis and social media analysis in relation to Plymouth’s coast and rivers. It is only through crossing disciplines and adopting a multi-perspective approach that we can begin to understand what water means to us and the subtleties, challenges, decision-making processes and future trajectories of societies relationships with water.


10:30-11:00 | Dr Uwe Balthasar: Ocean composition as drivers of evolution of marine life through time

A significant proportion of marine organisms form calcified hard parts to protect themselves from predators. It turns out that the success of these calcified marine groups of organisms is closely linked to the specific mineral composition of their skeletons and the concentrations of magnesium and calcium in the seawater, which in turn is controlled by plate tectonics. These changing fortunes of marine organisms in synch with changing seawater composition are an example of the co-evolution of life and the planet.


11:00-11:30 | Dr Charlotte Braungadt: Frontline environmental research and citizen science - synergies in action

The big challenges in today’s world are climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. Whether we are seeking solutions to the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean, assess the impacts of climate change on species distribution or seek to reverse the decline of a species near extinction, the role of volunteers as citizen scientists in frontline environmental research is often key to providing key data, and fast. This talk will provide an insight into what all of us can do to provide the data that support sustainable environmental management decisions of the future.

School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics (11:30-13:00)

11:30-12:00 | Dr Luciana Dalla Valle, Dr Matthew Craven and Dr Raphael Stuhlmeier: The mathematics of the sea

What do sine waves have in common with ocean waves? How can we predict coastal flooding using statistics informed by social media data? And how can we optimise shipping in our ports, and maximise energy capture from offshore renewables? Mathematics provides the tools to answer all of these questions and more!


12:00-12:30 | Professor Deborah Greaves: Offshore renewable energy - powering the future

Renewable electricity generation outperformed fossil fuels for the first year ever in 2020 and provided a record-breaking 43% of the UK’s electricity. The government has committed to major expansion of offshore wind capacity by 2030 and with the tumbling price of offshore wind farms, how much further could the UK go? The answers lie out at sea, with a host of new innovations bringing floating wind turbines, wave energy and tidal power. Professor of Ocean Engineering, Deborah Greaves describes how offshore renewable energy is set to transform the power industry in ways that seemed unthinkable until just recently.


12:30-13:00 | Professor Kevin Jones: Securing our ships in a cyber world

Many countries are really dependent on goods transported by sea, and ships and ports are becoming increasingly attractive targets for hackers. Kevin will talk about why ships are targets, what could happen in some scary scenarios and the effect it could have on all of us, and then some of the new and exciting things we are doing at the University to help make our ships cyber-secure.

School of Biological and Marine Sciences (13:00-15:00)

13:00-13:30 | Dr Phil Hosegood: Sharks in the surf zone: how internal waves create predator hotspots

Phil will show how Silvertip shark aggregations over tropical seamounts are explained by the schooling of fish that are a response to internal waves that break over the drop off surrounding the seamount summit. The waves are predictable in time and space due to the tidal currents that generate them; by understanding the ocean dynamics that drive such turbulent events in biological hotspots, we are better able to develop appropriate conservation strategies by more accurately predicting where, when and why top predators aggregate.


13:30-14:00 | Dr Jenny Gales: Using ocean exploration to understand Antarctic ice sheet change

The rate that Antarctica is losing ice is increasing with global effects to sea level rise, ocean and atmospheric circulation. Understanding how ice sheets have changed over decades to millions of years, in response to past changes in climate, is crucial in understanding how ice sheets will change in the future. This will allow us to estimate future global sea level rise. This talk will focus on cutting-edge tools used in ocean exploration to study how Antarctic ice sheets are changing and have changed in the past. These tools include a range of autonomous and marine robotics, deep sea drilling, smart sensors and ways of mapping the seafloor and beneath.


14:00-14:30 | Professor Richard Thompson: Marine litter: are there solutions to this global environmental problem?

Plastic debris is widely distributed at the sea surface, on the sea bed and on shorelines. Nearly 700 species are known to encounter marine litter, with many reports of physical harm resulting from entanglement in and ingestion of plastic. At the same time it is very clear that plastic items bring many societal benefits. Can these benefits be achieved without emissions of waste to the environment? Progress requires systemic changes in the way we produce, use and dispose of plastic. As well as reducing usage, a key solution to two major environmental problems, our non-sustainable use of fossil carbon (to produce plastics) and the accumulation waste, lies in recycling end-of-life plastics into new products.


14:30-15:00 | Dr Mark Davidson: Extreme storm impacts on the coast

As our climate warms and sea levels rise, increasing pressure is being placed on the coastal environment in terms of the risks of coastal erosion, flooding and loss of valuable infrastructure. This presentation will focus on the impact of the extreme storm waves on the coast with a specific case study focused on the UK South West coastline. Examples of how storms can impact the coastal environment will be given and the different coastal processes that augment this change will be explored.


World leaders

We are ranked the number one university globally for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 14: life below water.

The award recognises the quality of our marine research and teaching as well as our efforts to reduce the impact of campus activities on the marine environment. The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings are the only global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Learn more about our rankings

Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021: life below water

Event photography and video

Please be aware that some of the University of Plymouth's public events (both online and offline) may be attended by University staff, photographers and videographers, for capturing content to be used in University online and offline marketing and promotional materials, for example webpages, brochures or leaflets. If you, or a member of your group, do not wish to be photographed or recorded, please let a member of staff know.