Research Experience Placements (REPs)

NERC recognises that there is a shortage of individuals with quantitative skills coming into environmental science. The REP scheme aims to address this shortage by offering funding to support summer placements for undergraduate students studying quantitative disciplines outside NERC remit, during which they will undertake research within the environmental sciences. These placements are intended to encourage these students to consider a career in environmental science.

In Summer 2020, the SUPER DTP is delighted to host two REPs students:

  • Maxime Greffe (currently studying Software Engineering at Edinburgh Napier University) will be working with Dr Karen Diele on the project “Improving Science-Informed Crab Fisheries Management in Brazil”
    • The placement offers a unique opportunity to engage with, actively contribute to and learn from a UK-Brazilian applied research project investigating the reproductive rhythmicity of the mangrove crab Ucides cordatus, to underpin and improve the management of its fishery in Brazil. Due to the high ecological and socioeconomic significance of these crabs, the Brazilian government has implemented a suite of fishing rules. Regulators have however lost credibility among fishers, due to a mismatch between precautionary capture bans, implemented to protect the crabs during their conspicuous mass-mating events, and the actual occurrence of mating. Fishers adhering to the bans miss out on crucial income; consequently ‘wrong’ bans have sparked conflict and law incompliance. To solve this conflict, the researcher network REMAR, coordinated by Diele, has been studying the abiotic drivers of mass-mating across Brazil. Field data generated by REMAR have been complemented by citizen-scientists who fed observations of mass-mating crabs into the purpose-built smartphone application REMAR_CIDADÃO. REMAR evidenced that the occurrence of mass-mating is linked with geophysical cycles and can therefore be predicted in time, over a large spatial scale and different tidal regimes. Diele and Schmidt first observed such link for a crab population in north-eastern Brazil and identified what they named the Syzygy Tide Inequality Cycle (STIC) as the temporal driver of the mass-mating (Schmidt, Bemvenuti, Diele 2012).
  • Gordei Ussatsov (currently studying Computing Science at Aberdeen University) will be working with Prof Paul Fernandes on the project “Smartrawl”
    • The landings obligation (LO) is being implemented as part of the European Union’s revised Common Fisheries Policy. This policy was significantly influenced by British interests, and, given market expectations for the fishing industry to maintain the environmental sustainability of their produce, it is likely to be retained, in some form, under Brexit. So the Scottish fishing industry will be required to implement strategies to avoid discarding fish, which is still a difficult undertaking given the nature of the mixed fisheries. Fisheries Innovation Scotland is currently funded a project, Smartrawl, which is developing a highly innovative trawl design which includes a stereo camera to identify and size fish in the extension of the trawl, followed by a gate that allows for the release of unwanted discards and bycatch. Preliminary work has been done on image analysis algorithms to detect fish in the acquired images from the stereo camera, but it clear that the expertise required for this goes beyond even the most expert biologist. Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms such as regional convolution neural networks will be run to help detect fish, and ultimately to classify these species.