LIZ – ECOTOXICOLOGIST
What career path and training has led you to your current job?
Since I was young I have been interested in science and the environment. I have always been passionate about protecting the environment and conserving it for future generations. At A-level I chose to study geography, biology and chemistry, and then I picked an Environmental Science BSc at Nottingham Trent University. This was quite broad and covered all aspects of the environment, but it was in doing this that my interest in the aquatic environment really developed. I also took an ecotoxicology module which fascinated me. After completing my BSc I decided I wanted to focus on the aquatic environment, so I started an MSc in Biology of Water Resource Management at Napier University in Edinburgh. One of the modules included in the course was ecotoxicology, but in more detail than I had done previously, and it was more focused on aquatic organisms. I found the module completely absorbing and subsequently chose to focus my dissertation on ecotoxicology. As part of my dissertation I worked for 4 months at the Fisheries Research Service in Aberdeen looking at the effects of salmon pellets treated with sea lice medication on crabs, which inhabit the area under the salmon farm cages.
Following the completion of my MSc I got a job as a chemical hazard assessor for the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas). This entailed assessing chemicals used in the offshore oil industry. This then led me on to my current role as an ecotoxicologist in the National Centre for Environmental Toxicology (NCET), a specialist team within WRc, which is an environmental consultancy.
Why did you want to study Toxicology?
Having always had a passion for the environment and conservation and after having my interest sparked in ecotoxicology during my BSc, being able to combine the two seemed ideal. The increasing human population and advances in technology has meant there are increased volumes of chemicals being released into the environment, as well as new substances (for example nanotechnology) being manufactured and released. Consequently, without investigation, the environment could be being exposed to chemicals and substances that it cannot cope with. Therefore, working in this area I feel I can do my bit to prevent harm being caused by calculating appropriate concentrations that can be released without causing detrimental effects.