My name is Natasha Simmonds and I’m a London born, California raised PhD candidate based at the University of Aberdeen. In September 2019, I completed my Masters at the University of York, studying for an MSc in Marine Environmental Management. At York, I completed two dissertations. One which examined the value of marine mammal wildlife watching around the Isle of Man. The second investigated the practicalities and ethos behind private sector engagement with mangrove management in five international case studies.

I’m excited to return to one of my major passions and interests during this PhD: Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). How effective they are, what makes them successful, their impact on society and vice versa.

MPA designation in the UK has significantly advanced over the past decade, propelled by international, national and local mandates to conserve marine species and habitats. To address increased pressure on the marine environment, a number of policy processes have unfolded across the UK with differing management approaches, regulations and levels of enforcement. What has emerged is a complex mosaic of spatial designations that interact and overlap, share objectives and have common challenges.

My work at Aberdeen over the next four years will investigate MPA governance in the Atlantic UK region, with a specific interest in integrating the Natural Capital Approach. This is to be completed through policy analysis and stakeholder engagement. Cross jurisdictional, case studies will be selected from West Scotland, Northern Ireland, North West England and Wales.

During my undergraduate degree in Ocean Science at Plymouth, and my subsequent research, I was able to develop my interest in practical learning and the interface between science and policy. Therefore, I’m truly thrilled to continue these themes during my QUADRAT DTP placements, with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Queens University Belfast. In these placements my aim is to train in policy analysis; science-policy engagement and integration; stakeholder engagement practices; as well as social and non-market valuation techniques.

I’ve never lived in Scotland, or this far north before – so I’m looking forward to this new chapter. I can often be found at the bottom of a pool, playing Underwater Hockey, near the sea front or on a yoga mat.