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Zara Botterell

Zara Botterell smiles at the camera

Zara Botterell



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I am a PhD student at the University of Essex, based at Plymouth Marine Laboratory. My research interests lie broadly in anthropogenic threats to marine and freshwater environments. Previously at the University of Exeter (MSc & BSc) I have investigated the abundance and distribution of invasive plants around lakes in Cornwall, the effect of anthropogenic noise on the predator-prey relationship between sea bass and prawns and how climate change will affect fish communities in SW England including effects of the local fishing community.

Recently I have worked on marine turtle entanglement in anthropogenic debris and was the co-ordinator of the Marine Ecology and Conservation Network at the University of Exeter. 


Current Research

‘The ingestion of microplastics by plankton, and implications for the wider marine ecosystem and human wellbeing’


Microplastics are ubiquitous pollutants within our oceans, highlighted as contaminants of global environmental and economic concern by governments and international agencies worldwide. Owing to their small size, previous research has shown that microplastics are readily ingested by zooplankton and this has led to reduced growth, reproduction and survival. In this PhD I aim to investigate the ingestion of microplastics by marine biota including the wider implications for the marine ecosystem and human wellbeing. To do this I will assess the spatial and temporal overlap between microplastics and plankton in the marine environment and therefore the probability of encounter. I will also assess the factors affecting bioavailability of microplastics to zooplankton and the potential of the organism to ingest microplastics. These are particularly important in determining impacts and levels of microplastic contamination on the marine food web including organisms consumed by humans.


Supervisory Team

Dr Pennie Lindeque

Dr Michael Steinke

Dr Nicola Beaumont

Professor Richard Thompson

Dr Tarquin Dorrington