“I always wanted to work with sharks” is how Emma Baker explains her enthusiasm for the aquatic world which has led to her becoming the first student to graduate from the University of Cumbria with an honours degree in Marine and Freshwater Conservation.
The student, from Chester-le-Street, enjoyed unrivalled access to a variety of streams, rivers, lakes and the sea during her time based at the Ambleside campus. After studying animal management at East Durham College, Emma was keen to concentrate on the marine world and her interest coincided with the creation of a new course in Cumbria.
“I was actually visiting Ambleside when the university mentioned the course and I decided instantly this was the one for me,” Emma said.
“I am very proud that Emma will be the first ever graduate of the new degree in Marine and Freshwater Conservation at the University of Cumbria," Dr Gill Notman, Programme Leader BSc (Hons) Marine & Freshwater Conservation, said. "She has worked very hard and learned a great deal. Her childhood fascination with sharks brought her to Cumbria, but throughout the degree, and by undertaking research on environmental plastics, her interests have developed into the wider field of water resource management. I know she will go on to have a fulfilling career as an aquatic scientist helping us meet the challenges facing humanity into the 21st century.”
The proximity of Windermere, within sight of the Ambleside campus, meant Emma was ideally placed for her final year work to examine plastic pollution in the lake. She surveyed three main locations associated with the area’s thriving tourist industry to assess and monitor pollution from litter.
“The litter that accumulated in the lake probably came from the land originally – Bowness was worst affected and surveying twice, at the end of the summer season and again after Christmas, confirmed it is a seasonal problem,” Emma said.
As well as gaining the environmental knowledge, skills and practical experience needed to become a professional aquatic scientist, Emma benefitted from links between the university and the Freshwater Biological Association, South Cumbria Rivers Trust, United Utilities and Solway Firth Partnership. Time spent with the organisations, she says, has helped boost her knowledge from different perspectives.
“The course wasn’t all about aquatic ecology – we also went on field trips to water treatment works in Kendal and Lancaster to see how our drinking and waste water is treated and managed – there was a real variety of experiences,” Emma said.As for the future, she’s heading to the south coast to study an MSc in Water and Environmental Management at the University of Brighton.
If Emma's story has inspired you, get in touch: https://www.cumbria.ac.uk/clearing/
Video: Courtesy of That's Cumbria