Leading on marine ecology to support scientifically robust development

Tessa McGarry , Principal Advisor marine ecology


Tessa joined the company in 2004 as an Ecologist. Experienced in both fieldwork and data analyses and reporting, she is now a technical lead primarily focussed on marine mammals. She also provides mentoring to junior consultants. We asked her all about her work and some of her career highlights.

QWhat is your role and what does a typical week/project include?

I work as the lead specialist in marine mammals in my team and therefore typically I would be involved in several projects at the same time. Week to week my work varies, which makes it more interesting. I may be doing statistical analyses to work out densities of harbour porpoise in a proposed wind farm area, advising clients visual and acoustic marine mammal survey design, undertaking environmental impact assessments to look at the potential effects of a project on sensitive receptors (e.g. impacts of subsea noise from piling on marine mammals or fish), or presenting at project meetings with clients and stakeholders. I also regularly attend relevant workshops and seminars and lead a weekly marine ecology focus group.

QWhat are some of your most exciting past or present projects?

I was the lead on a project looking at the effectiveness of acoustic deterrent devices (ADD) as a mitigation tool to deter minke whale from injury zones which can occur during piling at offshore wind farms. We collaborated with Marine Conservation Research and undertook fieldwork in Iceland using a series of controlled exposure experiments to measure responses of animals to ADDs. I presented the work at several conferences and it has also now been published in scientific literature.

QWhat role can your profession play in the fight against climate change? How can your profession make a difference?

The generation of power from renewable sources is a key target in the fight against climate change. I work as part of a team that supports wind farm developers navigate through the consenting process and deliver advice on how to manage risks with respect to marine mammals so that the project can go ahead in an ecologically responsible way.

One of the aspects of our assessment is to consider the project in the context of a ‘future baseline’, in other words, what would the distribution and abundance of marine mammals look like because of factors such as climate change? It is important to recognise these shifts in ecology and present the information in a scientifically robust way.

QWhat was your career path to get to where you are today?

I have a BSc honours degree in Applied Marine Biology, and progressed through academia doing a Masters of Research in Marine Ecology and Environmental Management and finally a PhD at the University of Cambridge. My academic background gave me a sound knowledge of the principles of ecological fieldwork, analyses and technical reporting and I would recommend to anyone who would like to pursue the technical side of consulting (e.g. as a specialist rather than a project manager) to do a higher academic qualification in a relevant subject.

QWhat do you enjoy most about your role?

I enjoy the diversity of the work from week to week and the opportunities to work with different specialists and in different countries. For example, I am collaborating with our colleagues in Australia to provide support for a wind farm project in South Korea.

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Tessa McGarry

Principal Advisor

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