Ms Sophie Harris

Overview

It was during a six-month wildlife internship in South Africa, monitoring Cheetah movements, that I decided to attend university to become involved in conservation. During my undergraduate degree at UWE Bristol, studying Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science, I came across the monitoring technique environmental DNA (eDNA). Since then, I have been fascinated by the subject and its capabilities which led me to base my thesis on the topic. I created the title “A Comparison of Two Monitoring Methods: Camera Trapping and Environmental DNA (eDNA) to Detect Active European Badger (Meles meles) Setts” under Dr Andy Wetten.

I am currently conducting my MScRes in Biological Sciences with Professor Si Creer using environmental DNA metabarcoding to assess how ephemerality affects freshwater invertebrate biodiversity on the Gwent Levels.

Research

Environment DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding is a non-invasive monitoring method that can detect multiple taxa from a single environmental sample. Metabarcoding of invertebrates and wetlands in the UK has focused on a specific order, such as Diptera or monitoring fish. This project aims to test the efficacy of eDNA metabarcoding for the detection of aquatic macroinvertebrates in wetland ecosystems characterised by permanent or transient water residence and to trial a standardised method. The project will leverage novel invertebrate biodiversity data, enable historical comparisons and potentially highlight the broader ecological effects that water residence has on the macroinvertebrate biodiversity in the Gwent Levels. In turn, the project will provide a proof of principle case study and make eDNA metabarcoding invertebrate surveys more accessible for organisations such as National Resources Wales and landowners.

Personal

2017: Wildlife Internship with Global Visions International (GVI). Monitoring the movements of cheetahs and lions, through telemetry equipment and tracking. Collected behavioural data of predator and herbivore species on daily game drives. Other responsibilities included: supervising the volunteers and security, caring for and liaising with volunteers and the creation of a QGIS map tracking pangolin sightings on the game reserve, leading to a recommendation by the Vice-Chair of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group to collaborate with a Master’s student. Gave pangolin talks to new volunteers.

2018-2021: Studied a BSc(Hons) in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science at UWE Bristol. Included on the Dean’s List of Academic Excellence for all three years. Furthermore, I received the UWE Bristol’s Future Awards for participation in extra curriculum activities.

2020: Attended the British Ecological Society Undergraduate Summer School for which I received the Science Communication Prize.

2021: Field Assistant for Cotswold Ecology. Conducting dusk and dawn surveys, predominantly looking for bats on potential development sites.

Education / academic qualifications

  • 2021 - BSc , Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science
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