I joined the University of Stirling on 1 March 2019 as Head of the Institute of Aquaculture in the Faculty of Natural Sciences. As the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser for the Marine Management Organisation, I have a dual career in government and academia. This started with a CASE PhD in Zoology, completed at the University of Aberdeen and the Scottish Government’s Marine Science Laboratory. I studied how environmental changes impact the growth and behaviour of salmon. This advanced earlier research on feeding physiology of sharks, which later extended to haddock, sea cucumbers, seaweed, tilapia and trout. My passion for elasmobranchs led to being a scientific diver for an underwater television documentary.
After my PhD, I became Director for Aquaculture (Department of Agricultural Economics) where I led a BSc programme and managed a finfish hatchery. Thereafter, I was the Director for Marine Resource Management (Department of Land Economy), also at the University of Aberdeen and responsible for its transformation into an interdisciplinary centre promoting boundary crossing research and education between science and policy. For the first time, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors accredited interdisciplinary degree programmes in marine science and management.
I moved to Newcastle University to pursue my interests in tropical environments, especially investigating human interactions with coral reefs and marine protected areas, and factors influencing rule-breaking. I became Professor of Marine Governance and Environmental Science and held leadership roles including Dean of Postgraduate Research, Director of Research, Deputy Head of School and Public Orator.
I was also appointed to several high-profile positions including President of the European Aquaculture Society where I received the organisation’s highest honour, the Distinguished Services Award. This was for notable contributions to global food security using systems thinking to link aquaculture, fisheries, marine protected areas, integrated coastal management, marine policy and governance to better contribute to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. I was chair of the Scottish Government’s Marine Science Advisory Board and a Ministerial Scientific Adviser to the North Eastern Sea Fisheries Committee.
The Institute of Aquaculture comprises 100 staff, over 200 students (129 UG, 44 PGT and 32 PGR), laboratories and four aquaria facilities (two off-site).
I am a practitioner of Shotokan karate and enjoy snorkelling and diving.