Having completed a PhD in the Cardiff University Fungal Ecology Group, I followed with a post doc analysing the chemical volatiles produced by interacting fungi. After a short post doc on biofuels I left Cardiff and joined the Wales Biodiversity Partnership Secretariat where I worked with conservation stakeholders across Wales to support the delivery of the Wales Biodiversity Action Plan. Then followed five years working for Natural England, implementing the landscape scale conservation approach (as set out in the Environment White Paper 2010 and Lawton Review) with partners, particularly across Gloucestershire and Avon. I joined the Otter Project in Nov 2015 to expand the research on emerging environmental contaminants.
My research is currently focussing on using otters as sentinels for emerging contaminant in the environment through a combination of analytical chemistry and GIS mapping and analysis. The Cardiff University Otter Project has previously focussed on legacy contaminants, those which were associated with the decline in the otter population during the 1950s onwards, such as PCBs, organochlorine pesticides and also heavy metals. While the levels of such contaminants have now declined due to legislative controls on their use, the ever increasing human population continues to release large quantities of chemicals into the environment. I am focussing on current or recent use chemicals such as pesticides and perfluorinated compounds which are likely to bioaccumulate and therefor potentially biomagnify up the food chain to top predators such as the otter. While the aquatic environment is highly dynamic, creating potentially very “noisy” pollutant monitoring data, top predators such as the otter integrate chemicals, both temporally and spatially, smoothing the signal and enabling the detection of low level pollution which may have implications for human, animal and environmental health.