Sophie Harris

PhD Student

Associated roles

About me

Living close to WWT Slimbridge and being a member and regular visitor to the reserve provided me with an insight into the pioneering conservation work the trust conducts. Following this and attending an environmental DNA talk by one of WWT’s research scientists, I developed an interest in analysing eDNA and its potential uses. As a result, I conducted an MRes in Biological Sciences at Bangor University, using aqueous eDNA to assess freshwater invertebrate biodiversity between ditches and reens in South Wales.

Aside from my scientific work, I am a trainee ringer with the British Trust of Ornithology. I also have an interest in science communication and was fortunate enough to work at WWT Slimbridge as a Visitor Engager in the summer of 2021. I loved presenting and engaging with the public about the work Slimbridge is doing across the globe, further cementing my interest in working with the trust.

My project

My passion for solving the world’s problems through ecological solutions has led me to a PhD at Newcastle University. Here I will be trying to understand how wetland species became rare or locally extinct using sedimentary DNA and stable isotopes – supporting future ecological restoration by uncovering the past. I will be working with Dr Maarten van Hardenbroek van Ammersto (Newcastle University) and Dr Hannah Robinson (WWT) to try and develop primers to allow DNA extraction from sediment cores taken from ponds. This should, in turn, provide WWT with an insight into past environments, which will aid in restoring UK ponds to their former glory.

Experience and interests

  • Proficient in the use of R for statistical analysis and data visualization.
  • Metabarcoding of species diversity.
  • Environmental DNA applications.
  • Public engagement through public speaking and social media.
  • Use of telemetry equipment for mammal monitoring.
  • Engaging with landowners and partner organisations to achieve results.
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