Improving MPA Management

New Marine Science Seminar Series Launches 15th September

New Marine Science Seminar Series Launches 15th September

The first of the Bertarelli Foundation’s monthly marine science seminars will take place on 15th September. This online seminar series will invite experts to share their knowledge and experience as we explore important marine science questions and conservation challenges.

This first session will take place online at 1pm (BST) on Tuesday 15th September and will discuss holistic approaches to island restoration. Chaired by Prof. Heather Koldewey, she will introduce four speakers who are all working on the interface between tropical islands and coral reef systems.

Intact island ecosystems are vitally important for biodiversity conservation. However, more recently, researchers are also considering the role that island ecosystems also play in supporting the health of neighbouring reefs.

Following the short ten-minute talks, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions – or provide their experience – about this increasingly important topic.

Seminar: Rats, Seabirds and Reefs: Holistic Approaches to Island Restoration

When: Tuesday 15th September 1pm (BST)

Chair: Professor Heather Koldewey (Zoological Society of London)


  • Sarah Havery (RSPB) – The Importance of Removing Invasive Species

Sarah Havery is a Senior Species Recovery Officer for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) based in the UK. She received her BSc. (Hons) in Biology from the University of Bristol and her MSc. in Conservation and Biodiversity from the University of Exeter. Sarah has been directly involved in habitat and species recovery work on islands in the Indian Ocean, the South Pacific, the Caribbean and in the UK. Her role at RSPB involves managing conservation programmes to support the recovery of globally threatened species in the UK Overseas Territories and in east Africa. Sarah is also a trustee for the Chagos Conservation Trust and is supporting the development of their Healthy Islands, Healthy Reefs programme.

  • Dr Araceli Samaniego-Herrera (Landcare Research) – Rat Eradication on Tropical Islands

Araceli’s niche is at the intersection between biodiversity conservation and applied research. As a conservation manager, she has led numerous conservation projects on islands, including 12 rodent eradications—all successful. Her 18-year career in island restoration started in Mexico and expanded internationally to countries including Australia, Belize, Canada, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Zealand and the USA. As a conservation scientist, she aims to advance restoration methods particularly for tropical islands, where challenges are more complex. She uses and promotes technological innovations to maximise conservation effectiveness. She recently joined Landcare Research (New Zealand) and is excited to contribute to awe-inspiring projects such as Predator Free New Zealand.

  • Peter Carr (University of Exeter) – Is Rat Eradication Enough to Rewild Tropical Islands?

Peter first visited the Chagos Archipelago in 1996 and has been committed to the conservation and rewilding of the islands since. Author of Birds of BIOT (Carr 2011a) and numerous articles and papers on the area’s natural history (e.g. Carr et al. 2013, Carr 2014, Carr 2015), as part of his PhD, he has recently published the definitive account of the breeding seabirds (Carr et al. 2020). While working on Diego Garcia (2008-2013) he raised the funds and led the restoration of the largest expanse of freshwater in the central Indian Ocean, now home to all species of the region’s dragonflies (Carr, 2020). He also 50% funded and led a trial of rewilding abandoned coconut plantations, successfully converting 30 hectare of plantation back to native forest – this project gave the opportunity to over 200 people to become involved in conservation activities on Diego Garcia (Carr 2011b). In 2014, Peter led the first successful eradication of rats from an island in the Chagos Archipelago (Harper et al. 2019). In 2019, he spent eight months on Lord Howe Island as a team leader on the largest rat and mouse eradication project of its kind in the world. Peter is presently finishing his PhD and, is part of the steering committee working towards rewilding the northern atolls of the Chagos Archipelago.

  • Dr Casey Benkwitt (Lancaster University) – How Rats Influence Coral Reefs

Casey is a marine ecologist who is broadly interested in the behavioural, population, and community ecology of reef fishes, with a focus on how human activities influence these processes. Originally from New Jersey, USA, she earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies and Sociology from Bowdoin College in Maine. While at university, Casey learned to scuba dive, which convinced her of two things – she wanted to conduct marine research and she wanted to do so in warmer waters. After spending a few years as a Fisheries Biologist and then a Marine Science Instructor, Casey earned her PhD in Zoology at Oregon State University studying how invasive lionfish affect native coral-reef fishes in the Caribbean. Casey then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at California State University, Northridge, where she researched the effects of different fishing regimes on sex-changing fishes in kelp forests. Casey is now a postdoc at Lancaster University as part of the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science. Her current research focuses on how nutrient subsidies from seabirds influence coral reefs, including whether seabird-derived nutrients can boost the resilience of coral-reef communities to climate change and whether management actions to remove invasive rats and restore seabird populations benefit coral reefs.

If you’re interested in joining, please register online here.