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Betheney Wills

Successful CECAN PhD candidate (University of Surrey), now Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

Betheney’s career started in Marine Biology, with a BSc in Marine Biology and Oceanography from Plymouth University and a MSc in Aquatic Biology and Resource Management from Exeter University. Betheney worked as the Volunteer coordinator and hatchery technician at the National Lobster Hatchery whilst undertaking her MSc research on natural stock enhancement of European Lobster. Prior to her PhD, Betheney worked for the National Oceanography Centre as a Marine Biology Technician, supporting and conducting scientific research in the Aquarium and as crew on research vessels.

Betheney used her skills within and passion for the marine environment to study for a PhD in Sociology at the University of Surrey (April 2017- November 2020). The PhD was based on the 25-Year Environment Plan pilot ‘Pioneers’ and is titled “A case study of the Marine Pioneer: investigating local resource management and natural capital valuation”. The case study incorporated qualitative research methods including semi structured interviews, participant observation, and participatory system mapping to enable an in-depth investigation. Themes explored include adaptive governance, the evolution of natural capital, and systemic change. During her PhD studies Betheney also completed a Global Graduate Award in Sustainability, the STEPS Summer School (Pathways to Sustainability) and presented to diverse audiences at academic and industry events. Also, teaching the module ‘Communicating Research for Policy, Practice and Impact’ which focused on effective evaluation research for policy.

Between April-June 2019 Betheney undertook a policy internship with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), specifically Marine and Fisheries. The internship centred around research to gain a better understanding of fishers’ perceptions of and solutions to Abandoned Lost and Discarded Fishing Gear. Betheney started to work for Defra in February 2020 as a Senior Social Researcher and provides evidence expertise to mostly Offshore Wind, Species Conservation, and Marine Spatial Prioritisation policy areas. Betheney continues to champion to use of system thinking within Defra, as part of the system Community of Practice and co-lead of the Ocean Sustainability system reading group.


Scientific journal: Daniels, C.L., Wills, B., Ruiz-Perez, M., Miles, E., Wilson, R.W. and Boothroyd, D., 2015. Development of sea based container culture for rearing European lobster (Homarus gammarus) around South West England. Aquaculture, 448, pp.186-195.

Seymour, V., Wills, B., Wilkin, P., Burt, P., Ikin, E. and Stevenson, P.C., 2022. Incorporating citizen science to advance the Natural Capital approach. Ecosystem Services54, p.101419.

PhD poster presentation: Please click here to view

Conference blog: Please click here to view



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