Society and the Sea Conference

Dates: 15-16 September 2016

Location: Greenwich Maritime Centre, University of Greenwich, London, UK.

The Greenwich Maritime Centre at the University of Greenwich is holding its first international interdisciplinary conference on the theme ‘Society and the Sea’.

The Society and Sea conference will bring a spotlight on some of the key maritime challenges and solutions facing society today. The conference is wide ranging and will draw from science and technology through to the arts and humanities to bring novel perspectives on some of the most pressing challenges for the maritime world. It will be an ideal opportunity to build networks and learn about some of the key issues of the day.

The conference will take place in the unique setting of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, home to the University of Greenwich.  Register to attend and find out further details


Interview with Dr Emma McKinley


  1. What are your main fields of interest in marine and coastal geography? (less than 10 words)

Marine citizenship, public perceptions research associated with a range of marine issues, conservation marketing applied to marine and coastal environments, ecosystem services and their value, marine planning, integration and collaboration for a Blue Society.

  1. What projects/research are you currently involved in?

We’re just at the beginning of new funding stream processes, so at the moment, my main focus is developing new projects and going through the funding application process. Two projects we are working on that I am leading include: A payments for ecosystem services project, which would be working with French partners to develop an English Channel/ Le Manche focus for best practice; and a project looking at supporting a sustainable marine recreation sector, with a specific focus on the marina sector.  Again, this project would be a cross-border project between France and England, and would build directly on some of the successful outputs from the Channel Arc Manche Integrated Strategy (CAMIS) project, which ran from 2009-2013. Additionally, I am doing some work on understanding public perceptions research for the marine environment, and how it can have benefits for marine conservation and policy goals.  Finally, I am developing a project that looks at the branding and marketing practices used by terrestrial protected areas, with a view to identifying some best practice recommendations that can be used to support marine protected areas, and specifically the Marine Conservation Zone process currently underway in the UK.

  1. How did you get into your field of research?

I always wanted to be a marine biologist – it’s all I ever remember wanting to do, although I may not always have known the correct terminology! I moved from Dublin to complete my undergraduate degree in Marine Biology at the University of Stirling, and that was the start of it all.  After my degree, I went on to University of Bangor to do an MSc in Marine Environmental Protection. I knew I wanted to continue through academia, and to do a PhD, but my challenge was that I was interested in everything, making it difficult to choose an area to specialise in. I considered furthering the work I had done for my MSc, which involved a lot of lab based work and stable isotope analysis of Scalloped Hammerhead sharks; very natural science based. While in that stage of slight limbo that comes with being finished your studies and working out the next steps, I was offered a research position with an Italian NGO, Naucrates, working on a turtle conservation project in Thailand. It was while I was working in Thailand that I realised that, while I was passionate about the natural sciences of the marine environment, if I wanted to make a real difference to marine conservation and policy, then I had to understand the people interacting with our seas. My PhD topic was advertised about 6 weeks after I got back from Thailand, and the rest is history! Now, I get to work across the social-natural science interface around marine and coastal conservation, policy and management issues.  It is an exciting time to be involved in marine issues – so much is changing with social media, citizen science, increasing understanding of the value of marine resources and evolving policies; and hopefully it is all going to be for the better!

  1. What top tips would you give to current and future students?
  • Research something you’re passionate about! It’s so much easier to work on something you love J
  • Read, read and read! The diversity of specialisms within marine and coastal science is vast, and it will probably take you some time to work out exactly where you want to focus your efforts…but you will!
  • Where you can, go to conferences! Listen, Learn and Network! Conference speakers will inspire you and will help you to focus on what you’re most interested in, and help you grow new ideas.
  • Make sure you’re keeping up to date with marine issues – use social media, follow active researchers in the fields that you’re interested in. Marine and coastal issues are diverse, and the landscape is always evolving. Social media is a really quick way of keeping up to date with everything and of networking with key researchers in your field.
  • Always remember #oceanoptimism
  1. What are the main issues geographers need to tackle in the marine and coastal environment?

There are so many – but I think one way of addressing many issues is by working more effectively across disciplines. We need to ensure that there are strong, meaningful way of engaging public and stakeholder groups in decisions influencing their marine environment (through understanding public perceptions and supporting success stories and #oceanoptimism); we need to examine the relationship between researchers, practitioners and policy makers to ensure that the best available science is being used effectively and is used to support policy strategies; and we need to build bridges across the various disciplines working on marine and coastal environments. There are economic geographers, physical science geographers, social geographers, energy geographers (to name just a few) all involved in marine and coastal issues – we need to work together to ensure we are addressing the challenges facing the marine and coastal environments in the best possible ways.

Interview with Paul Rooney, Assistant head of geography, Liverpool Hope University


  • What are your main fields of interest in marine and coastal geography?

Coastal sand dunes and their conservation management

  • What projects/research are you currently involved in?

In 2006 I established the Sand Dune and Shingle Network, based in Liverpool Hope University, and continue to direct it. Through this initiative I am involved in a number of national and international projects that seek to link science and management, and conserve coastal dunes and shingle as dynamic landscapes. Currently I am organising a large international coastal conference, ‘Littoral 2017’, in Liverpool for September 2017.

  • How did you get into your field of research?

I became interested in coastal dunes through my undergraduate studies in Liverpool, completing my research projects and volunteering on the largest open dune system in England, the Sefton Coast. It was a very convenient location for me, being just north of Liverpool. Following my undergraduate degree I managed coastal dune nature reserves on the Sefton Coast, and then a 1 million Euro EU LIFE co-financed project there to take forward the management of the SAC, before joining Liverpool Hope University in 1999.

  • What top tips would you give to current and future students?

Work hard, be enthusiastic, and go the extra mile to make you stand out from the crowd. Most of all, enjoy what you are doing.

  • What are the main issues geographers need to tackle in the marine and coastal environment?

Climate change is the overriding issue of importance of course, but together with these impacts we are still developing an degrading coastal environments at an alarming rate. I am most interested in coastal dunes, and in the latest EU-wide assessments coastal dunes once again stand out as a habitat of grave concern in terms of their conservation status.

Interview with Dr Tavis Potts

Interview with Dr Tavis Potts

bio pic 2

  1. What are your main fields of interest in marine and coastal geography?

My interests lie in the intersection of human and environmental geography, specifically the social and political dimensions of coastal and marine governance. Topics that I find fascinating include the international comparative analysis of marine spatial planning and ICZM; investigating alternative approaches to policy delivery through partnerships, private sustainability standards and co-management; assessing cultural ecosystem services and incorporating them into policy; and the development of the low carbon ‘blue economy’ and its ramifications for coastal industries and communities. A common thread in my research is understanding social change and the role of policy, law and politics as a facilitator or inhibitor of this change.

2. What key research projects are you involved in?

I am currently winding up an interesting project called Marine Spatial Planning for Local Economic Development (MSP-LED). This project centred around the development of digital touch tables to support local data collection and conflict resolution in Scottish coastal regions. Touch tables are touch sensitive flat screens, similar to a small ipad / tablet, but are the size of a coffee table (and rather heavy at 45kg!). We developed software that was able to load GIS maps and layers with which stakeholders could annotate and draw and which would be captured in a geodatabase for analysis. Using this technique we prepared a map of sea kayaking and wild life tourism in Argyll and facilitated an emerging conflict between small scale fishing and oil rigs in the Moray Firth. We have found the devices very good at transmitting spatial information at different scales and providing a support tool for negotiations over marine planning and spatial issues.

3. Are there any other initiatives which you would like to highlight to the group?

I was recently appointed as a non-executive member of the UK Marine Science Coordination Committee (MSCC) ( which aims to coordinate marine science at the UK level. I will be representing social science and geography with the aim of improving integration between the natural and social sciences –an important step change for UK marine science. There is increasing recognition of the value of collaboration between natural and social scientists in addressing the key issues that face the oceans. It is a very exciting time but we have a lot of work to do in building our national capacity. The MSCC is taking this seriously and we hope to deliver a national platform for marine social science.

4. What one question would you like to be asked?  What is the answer to that question?

That’s a good question. How important is engagement and fieldwork in coastal and marine geography? It’s critical and fundamental. Get out and talk to people who live, work and visit the coasts. Collect stories. Understand perspectives and values. Explore the complexity of how maritime sectors are managed ‘on the water’ and how they inter-relate. Speak to communities and facilitate change. Only with a solid grounding in the local and regional context can you hope to drive change at higher scales. Put your feet in the water!


Interview with Dr Wendy Dodds


  •   What are your main fields of interest in marine and coastal geography?

Governance – how we as a society choose to live, interact with and use the coastal and marine environment, both today and in the future. This picks up some key research themes including Integrated Coastal Zone Management, Marine Spatial Planning and marine nature conservation.

  • What key research projects are you involved in?

I am currently working on the Valuing Marine Ecosystem Services in the Western Channel Region (VALMER) Project, led by Plymouth University and where I.  VALMER is a European funded project comprising eleven French and English partners in SW England and France. The focus of this research is on the application of marine ecosystem service assessment to help support improved marine and coastal governance.

  • What one question would you like to be asked?  What is the answer to that question?

Do I eat fish? No. I believe that our oceans are in crisis, and whilst as consumers we can purchase what are considered to be sustainably sourced fish, I want to have as little impact on our oceans as I possibly can. Not eating fish is a simple way of helping with that aspiration, so is not using cosmetic products like shower gels that contain mirco beads, fighting to stop balloon releases at public events, not using plastic bags, engaging in policy debates about marine conservation in the UK …

Interview with Dr Victoria Powell

Interview with Dr Victoria Powell


1.  What are your main fields of interest in marine and coastal geography?

Short answer: My research interests focus on relative sea level change, storm surges, coastal management and coastal scenic assessment.

Long answer: Over the last seven or eight years my research interests in coastal geomorphology and management have become more diverse. I was introduced to coastal scenic assessment by Professor Mike Phillips, at Swansea Metropolitan University, who kindled my interest in coastal management processes in general. Since then I have researched deeper into sea level change, storm surges, estuarine processes and management in general, culminating in a PhD at the University of Dundee. I am now teaching coastal processes and management at the University of Chester.

2. What key research projects are you involved in?

Presently I am involved in the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning HEA-funded project, which investigates the use of mobile technology in fieldwork pedagogy ( This project provides a range of fieldwork case studies, which will soon be available as a Good Practice Guide published as a Springer Brief. Several Showcase Events have been provided for academics and practitioners to develop effective fieldwork learning strategies using mobile technologies. As well as supporting this project, I am writing journal articles from my PhD and investigating new lines of research.

3. Are there any other initiatives which you would like to highlight to the group?

Local coastal groups can always benefit from additional supporters, whether these are Estuary Fora in Scotland or National Parks, the RSPB or National Heritage. These organisations welcome volunteers to support the conservation of coastal landscapes and biodiversity, with volunteer maintaining coastal pathways or just using smartphone apps to monitor bird populations while on a Sunday morning walk. Take a minute to investigate what organisations operate along your coastline.

4. What one question would you like to be asked?  What is the answer to that question?

Question: How would you integrate coastal fieldwork into digital learning and can you eradicate expensive field courses from pedagogy?

Answer: Firstly, digital learning using virtual learning environments on university intranets can provide 4D perspectives of a field site before students leave the classroom. Social media resources, online libraries and academic journals illustrate the history and social characteristics of an area that may not be present during a site visit, especially if the visit is planned outside of the tourist season. These elements of the pre-fieldwork preparation are significantly enhanced by digital learning capabilities. Even so, digital learning would be lax as a substitute for practical experiential learning of the data collection methods gained from a physical presence in the field as some physical coastal features and social interaction experience cannot be gained in the classroom. Mobile technologies, such as smartphones and tablets, can easily connect the practical experiential learning with the ease of digital data manipulation, speeding up data processing and analysis. This fusion of coastal fieldwork and mobile technologies can reduce time needed in the field and in computer laboratories, potentially reducing long-term accommodation costs.

Interview with committee member Dr Steve Fletcher

Interview with Dr Steve Fletcher, University of Plymouth (January 2014) 


1. What are your main fields of interest in marine and coastal geography?

I am particularly interested in the academic space at the interface of marine science and policy.  This is a fascinating area that is increasingly recognised as critical in delivering effective marine and coastal policy.  In the last three years my work has focused primarily on three main areas: 1) the application of ecosystem services within marine and coastal governance, particularly in relation to marine protected areas and marine spatial planning; 2) critical appraisal of the effectiveness of marine planning and marine conservation approaches in the UK and Europe; and 3) identifying mechanisms through which marine governance can be enhanced through heightened engagement of society with the marine environment.

2.  What key research projects are you involved in?

I am involved in a broad range of projects, including the large multi-partnered European projects VALMER and PEGASEAS which I co-lead with Dr Gillian Glegg (also of Plymouth University).  VALMER is examining how marine ecosystem services can be integrated into marine and coastal governance in the Western English Channel using case studies in the UK and France, while PEGASEAS seeks to identify key lessons for marine and coastal policy in the Channel region and feed them directly into national and European policy.  An increasing element of my work is undertaking contract research for external clients.  Recent work has focused on marine ecosystem services and how this can be applied in the selection and management of MPAs and MPA networks, including for Natural England, JNCC, WWF Cymru, The Wildlife Trusts, and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Currently I am leading projects for Natural Resources Wales to assess methods to determine the socio-economic benefits of MPAs in Wales and the Dart Harbour Authority to develop a management plan for the Dart estuary.  I am also involved in a variety of other research projects focused on how to identify cultural ecosystem services in coastal and marine areas; how to visualise marine ecosystem services suitable for use with the public and with practitioners; and to identify the state of knowledge on how the public perceive and engage with the marine environment.

3. Are there any other initiatives which you would like to highlight to the group?

The Centre for Marine and Coastal Policy Research, Plymouth University is organising and hosting the 2nd Marine and Coastal Policy Forum will take place on 18-20th June 2014 in Plymouth. The event is supported by the RGS Coastal and Marine Research Group, the University of Brest, and the Marine Institute (Plymouth University). The event will provide an inclusive forum for policy-makers, policy-influencers, practitioners, regulators, and researchers to discuss contemporary issues surrounding the management of the marine and coastal environment.  The programme format has been designed to enable a broad range of topics to be discussed with the intention of progressing those issues through informed and critical dialogue.  Topics are likely to include:

  • Marine science-policy integration
  • Planning and management of the marine and coastal environment
  • Marine conservation and MPAs
  • New and emerging legislation, directives and policies
  • Blue economy and offshore development
  • Marine ecosystem services and the ecosystem approach
  • Cultural and social aspects of the marine environment
  • Societal engagement with marine issues
  • High seas governance and conservation
  • Management of marine resources
  • Social media in marine and coastal policy

The geographical scope of the Forum will include the English Channel, NE Atlantic, North Sea, Irish Sea and Celtic Sea.  The Forum will include the following contributions:

  • Forum presentations (15 minutes)
  • Pop-up/flash presentations (5 minutes)
  • Workshops (2 hours)
  • Posters

The Forum will begin with an evening keynote lecture followed by reception on Wednesday 18 June 2014 and conclude at lunchtime on Friday 20 June with a Devon cream tea.  A social dinner will be held on the evening of Thursday 19 June (included in the registration fee).   For further information about the Forum, including registration and offering a presentation, workshop or poster at the event, please see:

4. What one question would you like to be asked?  What is the answer to that question?

Q:  How can someone find out more about your research and the work of the Centre for Marine and Coastal Policy Research?

A:  Follow myself and the Centre on Twitter to find out what we are working on and to receive our tweets about pressing issues related to marine and costal policy in the UK, Europe and overseas.  Our Twitter handles are: @drsfletcher and @marcopolpu. Alternatively visit our website: