Rachel Louise Gunn -logo.png


PhD: Student at Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) at Lancaster Unversity Impact of coral reef fish personalities on species persistence under environmental change: Lancaster University, Envision NERC funded project, October 2018- April 2022. Fieldwork funded by Operation Wallacea

Masters:  MSc Marine Biology, September 2016- September 2017, Bangor University: Distinction

·         Thesis: Are we Making a Difference? An Assessment of the Status of the Invasive Lionfish (Pterois volitans) in the Cayman Islands in Relation to Management Efforts. (received grade of 80%)

Bachelors: BSc Hons Zoology, September 2013- June 2016, University of Nottingham: 2:1


Gunn, R.L., Turner, J.R., McCoy, C. & Johnson, B (advanced prep). Are we Making a Difference? An Assessment of the Status of the Invasive Lionfish (Pterois volitans) in the Cayman Islands in Relation to Management Efforts.

Relevant experience

  • Reef Ecology Lecturer: Operation Wallacea, Utila, Summer 2018

    Responsible for the organisation and running of the ‘Reef Ecology’ course at the coral view research centre

    ·         Ran an 8 part lecture series on general reef ecology, plus identification lectures and workshops prior to students completing an ID test.

    ·         Responsible for dive operations associated with the course, leading fish, coral, algae and invertebrate identification dives and snorkels, as well as in water practicals allowing students to practice reef ecology skills.

    Masters thesis: Are we Making a Difference? An Assessment of the Status of the Invasive Lionfish (Pterois volitans) in the Cayman Islands in Relation to Management Efforts, June-August 2017

    ·         Led data collection in collaboration with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment via SCUBA transect surveys, behavioural observations, density estimates, dissections and stomach content analyses.


    Research assistant: various projects, Operation Wallacea, Utila, Honduras, 2015

    ·         Assisted visiting dissertation students with marine fieldwork e.g., underwater surveys of coral bleaching, coral disease.

    ·         Completed a marine expedition with PADI dive training, marine ecology course, and key identification skills for Caribbean coral, algae, fish and invertebrate species.


    Demonstrator: Lancaster University, paid position

    ·         Assist in various undergraduate module practical courses, including fish behaviour surveys and mapping future distributions of coral reefs

    Outreach: Various and ongoing, both UK and internationally

    ·         Ran a lionfish workshop for a local summer school at the Cayman Islands Department of Environment

    ·         School presentations: Science talks in two high schools across the UK, aimed at engaging young people in the importance of marine conservation

    ·         Science talk: Presented masters thesis research to students at the Coral view research station in Utila as part of reef ecology lecturer role with Operation Wallacea


    Volunteer: Conservation careers blogger

    ·         Interview current academics and conservationist with interviews presented on the conservation careers website and my own conservation website.

    ·         Interviews include John Aitchison, wildlife cameraman for numerous BBC wildlife documentaries, Dan Exton, head of research at Operation Wallacea and Ian Drysdale, Honduras coordinator of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People initiative.

    Volunteer: Capture our Coast, March-September 2018

    ·         Conducted shore surveys for a long term monitoring programme,  including monitoring invasive species on rocky shores, such as Hemigrapsus spp. (Asian shore crab and Brush clawed shore crab) and Styela clava (Leathery sea squirt).

    Volunteer: National Trust, vegetation monitoring surveyor, April-June 2018

    ·         Assisted in vegetation monitoring surveys involving the identification of vegetation across moorland habitats

    Internship: Zambia, July 2012

    ·         Completed an expedition with Exodus, a conservation organisation (or whatever it is, for context). Included nature walks involving the identification of local wildlife and the searching for and removing poacher traps.

    ·         Attended lectures on local wildlife and their protection, and management of local nature reserves

    Internship: Blue Planet Aquarium, April 2012

    ·         Completed work experience as an intern. Shadowed the Head Zoologist, to gain valuable insight into the care of the aquatic life: both biological needs and the water quality and control.

 Research skills

Analytical: Geographic Information Systems (GIS), specifically in relation to distance sampling work, mapping survey sites and MPAs, and identifying distribution hot spots for deep water corals; spatial statistics; multivariate statistics for community analysis; Population Viability Analysis (PVA).

Software and Programming: R software for statistical computing, ArcGIS, Primer, SPSS, Distance5

Fieldwork: Leading dives for marine ecology courses in Utila, with Operation Wallacea: 3D modelling, fish UVC, transect surveys. SCUBA transect surveys within numerous marine habitats (Reefs, seagrass, mangroves, sinkholes and patch reefs), sandy shore habitat surveys and the processing and identification of associated organic samples, land and boat based cetacean surveys (Seawatch foundation), benthic grab sampling (RV Prince Madog), fishery population dynamics (fish collection, sorting, aging and sexing, RV Prince Madog), rocky shore invasive species surveys (Capture our coast), insect biodiversity surveys, behavioural surveys and monitoring using chicks as a model organism.


  • European Coral Reef Symposium, Oxford, Dec 2017, poster and speed talk (~600 international attendees).

Other professional skills and activities

  • Courses: Geographical Information systems training course (Beginner- Advanced), Project management for wildlife conservation, PMWC course (Beginner- Advanced).

  • Dive qualifications: PADI Divemaster (PADI #385507, 200+ dives), Master SCUBA diver (Navigation, Nitrox, Photography, Fish ID and Deep specialties), Emergency First Responder. 

  • Leadership: Organised and led dive teams for Masters thesis data collection and surveys in the Cayman Islands; President of a student led project at the University of Nottingham that successfully raised funds for an education centre in Tanzania (2015-2016), organised meetings, and delivered fundraising events.

  • Community outreach: Speaking to students in schools (Lancaster and Nottingham) about my own experience and how to achieve a career in conservation and research). Organised and ran a lionfish workshop at the Cayman Islands Department of Environment for summer school students aged 5-11; presented a short talk on protecting reefs from lionfish and then ran an interactive lionfish dissection. Assisted with the annual lionfish derby in Utila, Honduras, overseeing students dissecting lionfish.

  • Teaching experience: Lecturing experience with Operation Wallacea, assistant for SCUBA diving courses in both the UK and Tenerife; 8 years of youth work teaching experience for varied ages between 5-16.

Rachel Louise Gunn -logo.png