Researcher wins Best Student Presentation at EIMR Conference

Caitlin Harris, a second-year PhD researcher, was awarded Best Student Presentation at the recent ‘Environmental Interactions of Marine Renewables (EIMR) Conference’ in Orkney, 14-19 April 2024.

Caitlin’s research investigated harbour porpoise presence and foraging behaviour near two floating offshore wind farms in Scotland, as part of the IFLOW project, supervised by Dr Benjamin Williamson (UHI), Dr Steven Benjamins (SAMS) and Professor Beth Scott (University of Aberdeen). The talk presented findings of potential displacement of harbour porpoise close to floating turbines and discussed possible reasons for results which related to both prey availability and windfarm presence.

Dr Benjamin Williamson said: “I am delighted Caitlin’s research was recognised with this award, as part of an excellent conference advancing environmental understanding and helping to inform sustainable development of offshore renewable energy.”

Caitlin commented “I am very honoured to have received this award. The conference hosted a range of research advancing ecological understanding of marine renewables. My PhD aims to help further our understanding of potential impacts of floating offshore wind on cetaceans and fish which will be crucial to support the industry as it develops to help reach net zero targets."

The PhD studentship is based at the Environmental Research Institute, part of UHI North, West and Hebrides, and supported by the NERC Scottish Universities Partnership for Environmental Research (SUPER) Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) grant (Grant reference number NE/S007342/1 and website).

The 7th EIMR conference, held biannually since 2012, is organised jointly between Heriot Watt University and the University of the Highlands and Islands.

The international conference, hosted at different sites across the Scottish Highlands and Islands region, brings together marine renewable energy experts from across the globe to explore the interactions of marine renewable energy and the environment.

The theme of the 2024 conference was balance; balance between ecosystem effects and reducing carbon-emissions, balance between societal impacts and economic growth, balance between national goals and resilient coastal communities. Caitlin’s talk contributed towards this theme by discussing the balance between growing energy needs and ecological impacts of floating offshore wind developments.