Case study 08

Dr Lucy Bricheno

National Oceanography Centre

Picture of the Mediterranean

Collaboration across the EU and other parts of the world is essential to the science surrounding coastal seas, explains Dr Lucy Bricheno, a specialist in hydrodynamic and wave modeling at the National Oceanography Centre.

Dr Lucy Bricheno’s science focus is on coastal seas, particularly physical processes such as waves and tides.

This work relates to coastal flood risk and weather prediction and has a strong human component, advising on policy and delivering forecasts.

She has worked at the National Oceanography Centre in Liverpool for nearly seven years.
Environmental science is inherently global, she points out. Rising sea levels and climate change are driven by human activities and have an impact on life and livelihoods.

“I work closely with the Met Office and the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,” says Lucy. “As well as working on local/UK projects, a large dimension of my work is international – both across Europe and more widely – so freedom to travel and work internationally are crucial.”

One recent example is the FIELD_AC FP7 project. With seven EU partners, it was the EU’s Research and Innovation funding programme for 2007-2013.

For this project Lucy set up coupled models of atmosphere, ocean, wave, sediment and ecosystem to make coastal predictions for the UK and the Mediterranean.

“We collaborated with many European partners and had meetings in Brest, Hamburg, Leuven, Venice, Barcelona and Liverpool,” she says. “The freedom to travel to, and work in, these countries was invaluable.”

Another example is CEASELESS, which started in 2016. This three-year project combines satellite observations and coastal models to study the fate of pollutants in coastal seas and will also require international working and travel.

But, says Lucy: “The uncertainty around Brexit has cast a shadow, and I am worried about the success of this and other future European projects.”

Lucy has represented NOC outside Europe – at the Meteorological Service Singapore and in the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE) Coastal Ocean and Shelf Seas Task Team.
Recently, the successful ESPA-Deltas project involved more than 10 partners. It assessed health, livelihoods, ecosystem services and poverty alleviation in populous deltas.

NOC worked to deliver coastal models to Bangladesh, involving cross-country working between the UK, India and Bangladesh.

“The outputs are already informing policy and we are publishing a book,” says Lucy. “To work in science is to work internationally: we must collaborate to deliver successful projects.

“UK scientists have a strong international reputation and research, knowledge, and teaching are a major export. I do not believe that the UK government values this enough.

“A lot of science research requires long-term investment and support. Projects also take time to come to fruition, often three to five years, or more in some cases. Science funding needs to support these timescales rather than short-sighted cuts, which only save money in the short term.”

Lucy also did a six-week secondment at the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre and believes opportunities to work and collaborate with experts in other centres should not be played down. “No institute can be expert in everything – so collaborations and knowledge exchange are clearly the way to go.

“At the oceanography centre, we are working more and more with international partners, applying knowledge transfer and capacity building, while answering interesting science questions about their coastal seas.”

Such knowledge transfer is particularly important to countries developing their own ocean science. “NOC and NERC already deliver cutting-edge science, but we must be free to apply the models developed for the UK to global coastal sites – particularly countries that need development assistance.”

The final piece of the puzzle is the staff. “NOC and NERC employ people from all around the world. We recruit the best people to do the job, and thus we have to source staff from a very wide pool.

“I am proud to work with and manage an international group. Specialist research needs specialist people, and it’s important that we can recruit and retain the best by offering them a welcoming and stable environment in which to work.”