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Left Image credit Nick Upton /

Catherine McNicol, Sarah Nelms and Sara Mynott. Left image courtesy of Nick Upton /

Penryn research excellence illustrated by competition success

Penryn PhD students are celebrating after sweeping the board at a high-profile research competition.

Catherine McNicol, Sarah Nelms and Sara Mynott all secured top prizes in a poster competition, organised by the British Ecological Society.

The annual contest encourages postgraduate students, both in the UK and abroad, to submit a poster outlining their research and findings at the Society’s Annual Meeting.

The Cornwall trio presented their posters to a panel of judges who voted on the visual style, scientific content, originality of research and effectiveness of communication.

Catherine, who is based in the Environment and Sustainability Institute, presented on her investigation into the ranging behaviour of grey squirrels in response to pine martin presence. She secured the top prize in the competition, winning £250.

Speaking after the event, Catherine said: “I think it’s great that three early-career researchers from the same institution have been acknowledged for these awards and I am so pleased that my work has been received in such a positive way at this early stage of its analysis.

“The success of conservation projects is often dependent on public engagement and the sharing of knowledge and techniques. Platforms such as the BES conference are a great opportunity to trial these approaches to sharing findings with fellow researchers.”

Meanwhile, fellow student Sarah Nelms secured the runner-up position, winning £100. Sarah, a member of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation based at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, presented her findings on the transfer of microplastics, through the marine food chain.

She said: “The BES Annual Meeting is such a prestigious event, with scientists attending from across the UK and parts of Europe. It is exciting to think that three of the five people presented with Best Poster Prize accolades are female PhD students from the University’s Penryn Campus. I think that says a lot about the quality of teaching and facilities available to us.”

Sara Mynott, also a member of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation, was highly commended in the competition. Her poster highlighted how warming oceans could affect shore crab defences, specifically their camouflage.

Sara said: “I love science communication, whether it’s sharing research with the public or fellow researchers. Knowing that experts value the way I’ve shared mine is a real honour.

“It’s fantastic to see the work of so many of Exeter’s students celebrated at the conference. The University puts a lot of emphasis on engaging others with research and the poster awards speak volumes about the success of this approach.”

The British Ecological Society is a learned society that was founded in 1913, making it the oldest ecological society in the world. It focuses on the publication of scientific journals and runs several major scientific meetings each year.

The BES Annual Meeting attracts roughly 800 delegates each year and is the largest annual meeting of ecologists in Europe.

Date: 8 February 2017