We are the UK's leading organisation dedicated to realising the potential of scientists and engineers returning to research following a career break

Fellows returning to Environmental Sciences

Dr Clare Bird

Before Clare took a break of seven years to look after her two children, she completed a PhD and a post-doc in the field of marine microbial ecology. Her current research focuses on bacterial symbiosis within marine protists called foraminifera (forams). Such symbiotic relationships have the potential to influence the chemistry of the forams’ shells which is used as an estimate (a proxy) for past climate reconstruction and underpins future climate projections. This project has afforded Clare the opportunity to learn a variety of new skills including illumina DNA sequencing and analysis using a linux platform.
After a career break there is always someone with more recent experience than you so you aren’t as competitive in the job market. This Fellowship completely removes that hurdle. As a Fellow, I have particularly enjoyed the training days provided by the Trust and the opportunity to research my own project.

Host: University of Edinburgh
Sponsors: University of Edinburgh & NERC


Dr Alan Fox

Alan is a Daphne Jackson Fellow sponsored by Heriot-Watt University, where he is researching connectivity within the Scottish marine protected area network. The aim is to use computer models to map the connections between separate protected marine populations. These network maps can then be analysed for gaps and to target conservation effort. Alan is returning to research after a career break of ten years to look after his son. Before this break he completed a PhD and ten years postdoctoral research in physical oceanography, ocean modelling and global ocean circulation. During his break Alan became interested in marine conservation and policy through voluntary work with Scottish Environment LINK. The Fellowship has enabled Alan to pursue this interest. The placement within the Heriot-Watt Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology, together with the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, has provided the support and training opportunities for a change in research emphasis.

Host & Sponsor: Herriot-Watt University

Dr Mary Gearey

I received my PhD in Water Governance from Cranfield University in 2005 and continued as a post-doctoral Research Associate until 2008. I had a career break when my husband took a job overseas and my children were pre-school age. But when we moved to Sussex in 2012 I decided to return to academic life. I joined the School of Environment and Technology at the University of Brighton in January 2015 and already feel very much part of the team. My overarching research interests lie in exploring how developed economies manage and govern water resources within the context of complex, dynamic environments. I am currently exploring how a waterside community articulates its relationship with its water environment. The Fellowship has bolstered my self-confidence through involvement in training courses, joining research networks and writing collaborations. I now feel confident that I can develop a long term academic career.

Host & Sponsor: Brighton University

Dr Anne Jay

Before I took my career break I worked as a postdoctoral researcher in France, and a teaching associate at Imperial College, London.  I took a three-year career break and had two children. The aim of my Daphne Jackson Fellowship is to better understand the Deccan Traps, an extinct volcano which covers one quarter of the peninsula area of India and erupted at the same time as the dinosaurs became extinct.  I am using a technique that is new to me, geographical information systems (GIS).  It will allow me to better constrain eruption volumes and eruption rates which will improve our understanding of the environmental impact of such a massive volcano. The Fellowship is allowing me to manage my return to work gradually and maintain a good work life balance whilst I have two small children.

Host: The Open University
Sponsors: The Open University & NERC

Dr Clare Lawson

Clare has a PhD in plant ecology. Following her PhD she had research roles at the University of London, Cranfield University and the University of Reading. Her research focused on the impact of management practices on farmland biodiversity, the importance of plant-soil interactions in grassland restoration and the response of grassland ecosystems to environmental change.  Having taken a career-break to be with her young family and relocating home, Clare returned to research in October 2014 with a Daphne Jackson Fellowship at the Open University, sponsored by NERC and the Open University.  Her current research is investigating the role floodplains have in delivering biodiversity conservation and soil-carbon storage, focusing on the relative importance of plant-community composition, plant functional traits and hydrology in determining the amount of carbon stored in the soils of floodplain meadows.

Host: The Open University
Sponsors: The Open University & NERC

Dr Emma Pilgrim

My interest lies in alternative methods of food production. My BBSRC sponsored Fellowship, at the University of Exeter, is a joint interdisciplinary project with Professors  Juliet Osborne (Environmental Sustainability Institute, Penryn) and Michael Winter (Centre for Rural Policy Research, Politics, Streatham). I am looking at the potential benefits of Forest Gardens in the UK for both society and food provision.  Forest Gardens are multi-layered agroforestry systems that originated from the tropics.
I am a plant ecologist and read my Ph.D. at Silwood Park, Imperial College, before running the citizen science projects for the wild plant charity Plantlife. However the lure of research beckoned and I moved to Devon to work as a researcher for Rothamsed Research. I then took maternity leave and a career break before obtaining this Fellowship.

Host: University of Exeter
Sponsor: BBSRC