Rachel Thirlwall

Education & career

A Bit About Me...

My fascination with marine environments started at a very young age when I began collecting and reading shark books. From then on I was on a mission to become a marine biologist and study these amazing creatures. However, my studies took me on a different path completely and after completing a module on MSP in my final year as a marine biology student, I was hooked. I began to think about conservation differently. Instead of becoming a field researcher, my goal was now to use information gathered by researchers to inform policy and decision-making when managing marine areas. In order to conserve marine environments there needs to be comprehensive and holistic management of those areas, and this is why MSP was so appealing to me. I am now working hard towards realising my dream of becoming a marine planner and shaping the marine environments in the North West that I grew up surrounded by. 



2015-2018 Marine Biology Degree at the University of Liverpool

2018-2019 Marine Planning and Management Masters at the University of Liverpool


Present - Project Assistant at the Liverpool Institute for Sustainable Coasts and Oceans

  • LISCO combines the coastal, marine and maritime expertise of Liverpool John Moores University, the National Oceanography Centre and the University of Liverpool. The Institute brings together natural scientists, social scientists and engineers to meet the challenges of a changing ocean and growing coastal societies.
  • Aim of the project = To develop an interdisciplinary vision for the future environmental conditions of, and human interaction with, the Mersey Estuary.

  • Objectives

    1. To gather multiple natural and social science perspectives on the existing status and potential future development of the Mersey Estuary;
    2. To integrate multiple perspectives into a holistic understanding of, and vision for the future of, the Mersey Estuary;
    3. To provide an empirical basis for the development of a conceptual approach to understanding coastal and marine issues.

Summer 2019 - Programme Coordinator for the University of Liverpool's Marine Spatial Planning Summer School

  • The University of Liverpool was chosen to host the 2019 Strategic partnership for Marine Spatial Planning Summer School
  • Students came from across Europe to take part in a week of activities designed to educate those interested in marine planning.
  • As many of the students came from varying backgrounds and countries, workshops and activities were designed to be inclusive. There were workshops focused around physical mapping, mapping using GIS, identifying principles aims and objectives, identifying issues for MSP, Stakeholder engagement role play and many more!
  • External contributors were also invited to take part in the summer school and give students different perspectives on MSP. There were talks from university professors, Marine Planners and Renewable Energy companies. 
  • There was also a field trip organised to show the students Liverpool Bay, where they identified various maritime industries, generating an interesting discussion on the conflicts that could arise when planning the Liverpool Bay area. 
  • The Summer School was the result of months of hard work carried out by the team to create an environment where students could enjoy learning about MSP and also learn from each other. The feedback received from the students was outstanding and the Summer School will take place at the University of Liverpool again this summer (2020)

Summer 2017- Research Assistant at Frontier (Tanzania)

  • Working in collaboration with the Mafia Island marine park, Tanzania, to raise awareness of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing practices.
  • Dynamite fishing had led to a severe decline in the health of the marine environments within the marine park, subsequently reducing the amount of fish available to local fishermen. 
  • Community outreach programmes were at the heart of solving the problem. Workshops and presentations were held with local men, women and children to discuss the dangers of dynamite fishing on their livelihoods as well as the benefits of using sustainable fishing practices.  
  • Also assisted with data collection whilst on the island through daily reef surveys. The continual data updates enabled the team to analyse trends for the island over years and will continue to help the marine park improve the health of the many reefs surrounding Mafia Island. 

Winter 2017 - Lab Assistant at Niras Consulting

  • Assisted in taxonomic classifications of benthic species to class level which provide support for research surrounding maritime development within the Mersey Estuary.




Research activities

Masters Dissertation focused on the opportunities and challenges for public participation within MSP.

Undergraduate Dissertation focused on exploring the behaviour of inter tidal gastropods in relation to environmental changes.

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