Win whale skeleton at the Museum of Zoology

How to Study Marine Life in the World’s Changing Seas

In this blog series for National Marine Week, Geography PhD Student Anna Guasco describes the many ways Cambridge postgraduate researchers study life in the ocean:

Cambridge isn’t exactly known for marine life. Instead, when thinking of Cambridge, you might picture cows grazing in Midsummer Common or along the River Cam. Pathways winding along the Backs of the old Colleges. Weeping willows and wildflowers. Swans and squirrels. Occasional foxes and badgers. Yet Cambridge is both physically and socially connected to the ocean. The drained fenlands once were home to large numbers of freshwater eels, in a network of rivers, creeks, and marshland that eventually lead out to the coast; eels still can be found in small numbers in these Cambridgeshire waterways. Seabirds, particularly black-headed gulls, can be seen often throughout the year in Cambridgeshire. Even if it’s not always possible to see historic and contemporary connections to the ocean, Cambridge is in fact connected in a number of ways to the coast and the deep seas beyond.

Black-headed gulls and a mute swan swimming on a lake at Cherry Hinton Hall
Black-headed gulls and and mute swan at Cherry Hinton Hall park. Image credit: Anne French

And despite being land-locked, Cambridge is quite the hub for marine and oceanic research! The headquarters of the International Whaling Commission, a key institution for whale research internationally, are just outside Cambridge. The British Antarctic Survey and the Scott Polar Research Institute also are in Cambridge. International NGOs, intergovernmental organisations like the IUCN, RSPB, and UN Environment Programme have offices in the David Attenborough Building, home of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute.

But how do Cambridge researchers study the world’s oceanic lifeforms and environments? Where do they go? What do they do? What motivates their research?

To answer these questions, this blog series highlights the wide range of exciting research that postgraduate students at Cambridge are undertaking. I interviewed five current international postgraduate students to learn more about what they study, how they study it, and why they study it. These students include biologists and ornithologists, ecologists and conservationists, and historians and geographers. Each student’s journey to their current work also shows that there are so many different ways to become involved in marine research.

One blog will be posted online every day during this week, which is National Marine Week in the UK!

Win whale skeleton at the Museum of Zoology
Fin Whale at the Museum of Zoology
(c) University of Cambridge + Julieta Sarmiento Photography

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