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 Neil Cook

Neil Cook

Research student, School of Biosciences

Overview

I completed my MSc in Tropical Coastal Management at Newcastle University in 2007, after which I spent over ten years in the conservation NGO industry. During this time I worked extensively on coral reef assessment, management and capacity building programmes in small island states. I visited and worked alongside many marginalised fishing communities across the Pacific, including Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Samoa.


Prior to joining Cardiff University I was based for over three years in Northeast Tobago in the southern Caribbean, where plans are in development to establish a marine protected area in the recently declared UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve. There I led a collaboration with Global FinPrint to conduct baseline assessments of shark and ray populations, which subsequently became the catalyst for returning to academia to undertake my PhD in the Organisms and Environment Division of the School of Biosciences.

Research

Research interests

I am interested in anything to do with marine conservation generally, but particularly sharks. Many species of shark have undergone significant population declines since the onset of industrial fishing, a number of which are now threatened with extinction. Given both their ecological and economic importance, this renders them a priority for conservation. However, the complexity of fisheries is such that many communities depend directly on fishing as an important livelihood and source of food.


I find this intricacy of conservation fascinating, where there is a hypothetical balanced situation in which human interactions with other species strengthen and consolidate a mutually beneficial relationship. I place a high importance on engaging and integrating local collaborators and community stakeholders in my research objectives. It is a critical component of conservation management to effectively disseminate research findings and benefits in complex social environments, and therefore maximise the potential for success.


I am currently working across two study locations - the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation in west Wales, and Trinidad and Tobago, with particular focus on the Northeast Tobago UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve. Here in Wales, my primary study species is the smallspotted catshark Scyliorhinus canicula, widely distributed and Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. In Trinidad and Tobago my focus is on the scalloped hammerhead shark Sphyrna lewini, Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and listed on CITES Appendix II.


I am using a number of approaches including baited cameras, individual identification and vertebral microchemistry analysis to investigate how these sharks use coastal waters and how their movements and preferred habitats change over time. My aim is to address these population knowledge gaps on a local and regional scale to strengthen the evidence base for enhanced marine protected area and resource management design.


I work with a number of collaborators both in the UK and overseas:


Teaching


  • Cardiff University undergraduate field course - two weeks, Northeast Tobago 2019

  • Cardiff University virtual field course - one week online, 2020

Thesis

Casting a wide net - a toolset to strengthen shark conservation management

Funding source

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships 2 (KESS 2) is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF).

Supervisors

Photo of Sarah Perkins

Dr Sarah Perkins

Senior Lecturer

Professor Joanne Cable

Professor Jo Cable

Head of Organisms and Environment Division, Masters Lead