Inspiring women: Educating children about our changing oceans

Published on: 26 February 2016

Dr Ceri Lewis has spent time studying oceans in the Arctic, and been part of a project that has reached more than 2.5 million school children. To mark international women’s day 2016 (#IWD2016) we asked her to tell us a bit about her career so far…

“I’m very passionate about the marine environment and the amazing variety of small and strange animals that live in it. I feel very privileged to be able to study and talk about the marine environment for a living.

Unfortunately this environment is now changing at a rate unprecedented in history because of man-made impacts. We continue to pollute our oceans, with hundreds of chemicals entering the oceans every day and over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic now floating in the surface waters of the world’s oceans. On top of that our carbon dioxide emissions are not only warming the oceans but are also changing the chemistry of seawater and causing acidification.

My research looks at these important issues and how they affect the health of marine animals. A key part of my job is to not only understand these processes, but to pass on that knowledge to others. As such I love nothing more than talking to students of all ages about the fascinating world of marine animals like sea urchins and copepods and how their environment is currently changing.

As part of my research I have been to some amazing places, including camping in a tent at -40˚C in the Arctic to study what is happening under the Arctic sea ice. The story of scientists putting themselves through these conditions to study what is happening made for a really compelling tale so we have used this to build educational resources for schools around our work. These have been hugely successful and have now been seen by over 2.5 million kids worldwide.

I now get asked to talk at all kinds of public and schools events and enjoy using the stories of my adventures and my science to engage and inspire the next generation of marine scientists.

In my position as a university lecturer I get to watch some amazing young women starting out on their science careers. They have so much to offer science but the drop-out rate by the time they get to post doc or young lecturers is still far too high. We need to support them past these critical stages if we are to stop losing all of this talent.”

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