Why I chose the Marine Systems and Policies Masters

I am James Nikitine, 30 years old, French and British, originally from near Geneva, Switzerland. With a background in film, digital media, public relations and advocacy, I worked for 3 years in Geneva and Oxford for an environmental production company, Green.TV and for a non-governmental organization working on links between conflict and land degradation: Land, Lives, Peace. Before that, and after my BA at Exeter, I spent 3 years backpacking in the South Pacific, in Samoa, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand where I worked as a dive guide on the Great Barrier Reef. It was then that I realized I wanted to pursue in marine, so I also became a diving instructor last year. I enrolled in the MSc marine systems and policies at the University of Edinburgh and am almost there! Although I grew up in the Alps near Geneva, my relationship with the ‘blue’ is long running as I started diving when I was 8, diving in Corsica with my family.

Recently our ‘pod’ of 15 marine MSc students from 12 different countries spent two weeks on a traditional remote atoll in the Maldives, learning research field methods at the University of Milano-Bicocca’s maRHE marine lab, through underwater work, geomorphology of atoll islands and social research methods. This experience was highly valuable, as we learnt how to understand tropical island processes through an interdisciplinary prism, a methodology very much at the core of the MSc programme. To me this holistic mentality is extremely necessary, in order to understand how systems and policies work. Having spent time working internationally with UN, NGOs and business professionals, when speaking to them all came to the same conclusion: working in silos is inefficient, and we must work understanding holistically. This approach embedded in the Maldives trip is immensely necessary as one tackles issues such as waste management, natural resource management, or even when monitoring corals for bleaching. Being on a traditional island such as Magoodhoo for an immersive 9 days made this programme even more relevant to the problems our world faces. During the trip, I took the opportunity to interview our programme director, Dr. Meriwether Wilson, the head of Geosciences Prof. Sandy Tudhope, and social anthropologist Dr. Laura Jeffery while we were looking for whale sharks. You will shortly be able to watch the videos on the marine website.

The trip was made particularly interesting as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was asking for people to submit data for their citizen science bleaching monitoring project. As this year’s El Niño Southern Oscillation event is particularly strong, records were showing between 1-2C˚ sea surface temperature rise (SST) for the Indian Ocean, thus affecting coral’s ability to retain their symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae. When we arrived in Malé the capital, we made a visit to the IUCN office (photo of us in the office) where Gabriel Grimsditch and their fantastic team told us about their activities in coral resilience through their project REGENERATE. This was a great way to introduce our work in maRHE! You can find out more about their work here.

Finally, one of my fondest memories from being in the Maldives was when during a sunset sail, our entire group jumped off the top of the boat, known as Donhi, and were all laughing and having fun. It was a great experience and I would recommend it!

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Since October 2015, I have been a member of the IUCN World Commission for Protected Areas (WCPA) and also an active volunteer contributor to the IUCN WCPA Marine Young Professionals Task Force. In December, we created an infographic on the links between ocean and climate for display during ocean day at COP21, and we are now working on a blue solutions competition for the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii in September.More information

After completing this MSc with a dissertation on large-scale marine protected areas and Pitcairn, I wish to continue my efforts working in marine conservation, running projects, communicating and educating through advocacy. I believe it is crucially important to protect our ocean as it is the life support system on our planet. As population increases, the pressure on the ecosystems is huge. We simply cannot maintain healthy biodiversity levels if we pursue with our consumption model and pathological neglect for the environment. We need to make peace with nature and work together in order to reach true sustainability. My family, wife Sylvie and first baby boy due in a few weeks are what is most precious to me in life. I want him to grow up in a world where there will be coral reefs, forests, and rich biodiversity. That is why we cannot wait to act and must work towards conservation and resilience immediately.

Connect with James – @jamesnikitine Twitter and Instagram


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Muddy Boots in the Sun (Ben Reid, Graduate)

IMG_8208Since graduating with my MSc in Ecosystem Services and BSc in Ecological Sciences I have found myself in wild and wacky places from anti-poaching work in Cyprus, land use surveying (aka being chased by cows) in Scotland and finally landing in Rwanda working with One Acre Fund.

You never know where life will take you but an ecologist working in rural African agricultural development was definitely a surprise and a hell of an adventure. From creating processes that would affect all 130 000 of our clients, lugging fertilisers in our rural distribution points or climbing volcanoes in my spare time, life out here has thrown it all at me.

Being an ecologist doesn’t mean you only know about trees and stuff but being able to see and analyse systems, patterns and processes and UoE was a great place to learn these life skills. Utilising these skills leading a 300 person team is challenging, hugely rewarding and is a definite reason to walk to work with a smile on your face.

If you are interested in what I get up to, please get in touch or check out how you can kick-start your dream career at www.oneacrefund.org.

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Inspire Launch Grow Applications due Friday!

The annual Inspire Launch Grow awards programme and event to showcase the first class entrepreneurial talent across the University of Edinburgh Staff and Student population. Finalists will compete for £14,000 worth of prize money and additional in‐kind support from industry partners.

Following a three month application and selection process twelve finalists will pitch at the Inspire Launch Grow event on the 9th of June where they will be joined by an audience of key partners from industry, government and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The day of pitches will be followed by an awards ceremony to recognise the astounding achievements of the university’s top entrepreneurial talent with three awards.

Apply now http://bit.ly/ILG-16

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What does the environment mean to you? 

Written by Dr. Christina Coakley (University Teacher, School of GeoSciences)

The end of Christmas marked my return to work after having my first child. I thought I would hit the ground running by getting involved with ILW and running an art exhibition as I did the previous year (Art in Crew! Words and Images Art Exhibition as part of Innovative Learning Week (ILW)). With the help of Gillian McCay (Assistant Curator of the Cockburn Museum) and many PhD students we managed to put on a great event, which (as all good events should) descended into musical chaos by the end!


Student prize winner Harold Wolstenholme’s image – A new perspective

The aim of this year’s event was to visually express what the environment means to our staff and students. Within the School of GeoSciences we have people working all over the world on a wide range of topics and in remote locations. We also have many different hobbies which use the environment around us, and therefore I thought this art exhibition would be a great insight into the people within our School. Staff and students were asked to submit a photograph or piece of art work for the event and I printed and framed these ready for ILW.

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Barrie talking to staff and students

On the Thursday of ILW we had a drinks reception, where Barrie Williams (Winner of the British Wildlife Photography Award- bwpawards) gave a short talk about how he sees the environment and the importance of showing it to people via the images he collects. Barrie was lovely and spent a considerable amount of time with our students discussing their work.

In the closing stages of the event I counted up the votes for the best student piece. We had approximately 40 pieces of work submitted for undergraduate, masters students, PhD students and staff. Over 50 votes were cast and there were a wide range of favourites, however a few came out on top.

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Student prize winners

First prize went to Harold Wolstenholme for his piece “A new perspective” (top image). Second prize went to Paula Nieto Quintano’s piece “hiking in Valgrande” and third prize went to Leo Peskett’s piece “Unfurling nature’s geometry” (Right hand side photograph is of Paula, me and Leo).



The event came to a close with the Crew Band playing hits such as Ring of Fire and the audience joining in on the chorus! It was a great event and I have to thank everyone who attended and helped out with the event.


The Crew Band

The art is still up in the Crew Building so feel free to swing by and see what the environment means to us!



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2016 hoodie competition

Our 2016 hoodie competition has started with MSc Geographical Information Science and Archaeology and look at this stunning background! Don’t forget to share your entries on Twitter and/or Instagram using the #geopgt, or you can email us on marketing@geos.ed.ac.uk The competition will be voted for by your fellow students. Last year  Seth won with his snowman montage, so if you’re not planning on taking your hoodie anywhere exotic, get creative!

Hoodie 2016

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Welcome to the Class of 2016!

Photo Credit Magnus Hagdorn https://www.flickr.com/photos/hagdorned

Photo Credit Magnus Hagdorn https://www.flickr.com/photos/hagdorned

A huge welcome to our MSc Class of 2016 who’ve started with us this week! I’m hoping the next blog post will be from one of you offering words of wisdom perhaps on the differences between undergraduate and postgraduate study, what it’s like returning to study if you’ve been away from university for a while, or helpful tips on Edinburgh. I will start off with recommending Edinburgh Zoo, partly because it allows me a chance to share a gratuitous ring-tailed lemur picture (thanks to our Magnus Hagdorn for this). It also reminds me of some of the advice we gave in our Welcome meeting on Tuesday- you’ll make some great friendships over this year that will last a lifetime, and don’t forget to come to us for help if you need support during your studies. Now over to you! (email Alison on marketing@geos.ed.ac.uk if you’d like to blog for us).

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Just one week to go til Welcome Week!

Dugald Stewart Monument and cityscape (Laurence Winram)We’re really looking forward to welcoming our new students on Monday 14th September for the start of their university studies. If you’ve got any questions for our current student community then why not ask them using our form here You should by now have received plenty of information about what’s happening during Welcome Week, but if not check out our Welcome Week page for the links you’ll need. See you soon!

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Give us your views on a new Masters degree programme

Every now and then we publish surveys on our survey page where we ask for your views either as a current student at the University or as a potential student who may be interested in our degree programmes. At the moment we have a survey all about a potential new Masters in Sustainable Energy- if you have 5 minutes to spare please help us out by completing our short survey on Survey Monkey.

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2015 PGT Extreme Hoodie Competition Winner

We have a winner! Huge congratulations to Seth Berkman who not only wins the prestigious accolade of Extreme Hoodie Photo Winner 2015, but also gets an ipad mini from the School. Many thanks to everyone who entered – they have shown us a great selection of the exotic (and sometimes chilly) field trip locations as well as some great places here in Edinburgh. You can see all the entries here

Seth Berkman and Carbon Management hoodie and snow friend

Seth Berkman and Carbon Management hoodie and snow friend

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Earth Science Photo Competition Results

Thank you so much to all our undergraduates who entered our Earth Science photo competition this year, and for everyone who voted for their favourites. The theme this year was fieldwork, showcasing the wide variety of field trips our students take during their studies.

Our winner is Alex Comerford who will be receiving our £200 prize supported by the Laidlaw Hall Trust and the Teaching Organisation in the School of GeoSciences:


And our runner-up receiving the £100 prize is Callum Strong for his image taken of the Nile river in Uganda:

Photo ABoth images will be on display in the Grant Institute Building later in July. You can see all the entries we had here


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