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Martina Bristow

Martina BristowMartina Bristow smiles at the camera






My academic interests span many fields such as: mathematics, wildlife conservation, animal behaviour, marine spatial planning, fisheries acoustics, and fisheries management. These interests have naturally led me to seek out an interdisciplinary PhD project that brings together my key interests, drawing upon both my biological and physical/mathematical background.

I completed an integrated Masters in Mathematics at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in 2010, focusing primarily on fluid dynamics during my Master’s year. Having realised my passion for animal behaviour, I later obtained an MSc in Animal Behaviour: Applications for Conservation at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in 2016. It was through my Master’s thesis project at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) that I first became involved with the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). My project looked at ways to identify important benthic areas for conservation in the Southern Ocean as part of a wider context of marine protected area planning by CCAMLR. During the course of my project, I began to appreciate the challenges inherent in producing robust assessments of marine ecosystems and the need for reliable methods, particularly for assessments of commercially and biologically important species. 

Prior to commencing my PhD, I worked for the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR) in Bergen as a research technician for six months. I undertook a project to evaluate the Weddell Sea Marine Protected Area proposal tabled to CCAMLR in 2016 by the European Union. My employment with the IMR provided me with excellent opportunities to better understand Southern Ocean marine ecosystems and how they are currently monitored, as well as contribute science to inform international policy.


Current Research

 Marine ecosystem assessment in a patchy world: are AUVs the solution to quantify zooplankton?


The distribution of zooplankton in the oceans can be highly patchy. Estimating their abundance is therefore challenging due to the difficulties in obtaining representative acoustic or biological samples. Although zooplankton have some limited ability to direct their movements, they are subject to strong influence from oceanographic conditions. By studying the relationship between these environmental factors and the propensity for zooplankton to become patchily distributed, this project aims to improve methods for quantifying zooplankton for the purposes of marine ecosystem assessment.

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) offer numerous potential advantages to do this, since they can collect data on in-situ oceanographic conditions simultaneously alongside acoustic information on zooplankton distribution. AUVs are capable of collecting data from areas inaccessible to ships and moorings, and can be considerably cheaper for running surveys. However, there are difficulties in obtaining usable data from AUVs such as ocean gliders, and this project will address the problem of how to optimally design glider surveys by analysing existing ship-based data in the context of modelled oceanographic conditions to develop sampling strategies. These strategies will then be tested by glider deployments on missions that run concurrently with ship-based surveys of zooplankton. I am also keen to explore whether zooplankton show a marked behavioural response to gliders, as it may be important to account for this effect if using glider data to estimate abundance.


This PhD is an Industrial CASE partnership between the University of East Anglia, the British Antarctic Survey, and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council.


Supervisory team

Primary supervisor: Professor Karen Heywood (UEA)

Co-supervisors:  Sophie Fielding (BAS), Jeroen van der Kooij (Cefas)



CCAMLR working group and Scientific Committee working papers:

WG-EMM-16/35 (2016) Identification of important benthic areas for conservation – using shared data from the Domain 1 MPA planning process. Bristow, M., Grant, S., Santos, M., & Capurro, A.

WG-EMM-17/42 (2017) The Weddell Sea MPA revisited: questions, comments and suggestions. Bristow, M. and Godø, O. R.

SC-CAMLR-XXXVI/10 (2017) The Weddell Sea MPA revisited and wider implications for CCAMLR MPA planning. The Delegation of Norway (Authors: Bristow, M., Godø, O. R., Lowther, A., & Bergstad, O. A.)


Grants & Awards

EPSRC Vacation Bursary 2009.

NERC Industrial CASE Studentship 48 months, commencing 2017.


Other relevant activities

Various voluntary, outreach and teaching/demonstrating positions:

UEA (2007-2010): Mathematics Teaching Advisory Group Member and School Board Rep, Mathematics Peer Guide, MTH Sports Rep, Faculty of Science Visit Day Guide, Student Ambassador & Student Mentor;

ARU (2014-2016): Demonstrator for undergraduate Biomedical Sciences, Biology and BioGIS modules, Student Ambassador, and Outreach work e.g. facilitating Cambridge Science Festival events.