Jan 06 2020


David Morritt


Professor David Morritt, Department of Biological Sciences, will be delivering his inaugural lecture, 'From the Severn to the Thames: Challenges to aquatic life', on Thursday 23 January at 6.15pm in the Shilling Building Auditorium. We recently caught up with David to find out more about the upcoming lecture and what inspired his research into aquatic pollutants. 

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your role within the Department of Biological Sciences?

I am a Professor of Marine Biology. I am currently on sabbatical but prior to this I was Head of the old School of Biological Sciences. Despite being on sabbatical, I have still been teaching my courses, namely a Marine Biology field course in Scotland and a final year course in Marine Ecology and Biodiversity. I also have a number of graduate students working on various aspects of plastics pollution in aquatic environments.

2. On Thursday 23 January, you will be delivering your inaugural lecture, ‘From the Severn to the Thames: Challenges to aquatic life’. What will be discussed in this lecture?

Aquatic life faces many challenges, both natural and man-made. From investigating responses of marine organisms to environmental stresses, to movement patterns and foraging behaviour through to studying the effects of pollutants and the biology of invasive species, the journey takes us from the Severn to the Thames via a number of overseas detours. The main emphasis of the lecture focuses on the topical issue of plastics pollution, considers the impacts on organisms and the environment and, in the process, illustrates the role of serendipity in science.

3. What inspired your research into aquatic pollutants?

I have long been interested in how aquatic organisms cope with natural environmental stresses but since moving to Royal Holloway, and working with others, I became concerned by the impacts of pollutants in aquatic environments. Initially this included heavy metals, organic pollutants and endocrine disrupting chemicals but latterly my eyes were opened to the shocking level of plastic pollution in the River Thames (and elsewhere). This has subsequently become the main focus of my research and I hope that through our work we can encourage people to consider their use of plastics and their behaviour when it comes to reusing, recycling and disposing of plastic products given the impacts that plastic products are having on our environment.

4. What do you enjoy most about working at Royal Holloway and within the Department of Biological Sciences?

The friendly collegiate atmosphere and fantastic campus of the College and the support, friendship and interaction with excellent colleagues in the Department of Biological Sciences. I would also say that I enjoy working with students at all levels, whether teaching or collaborating on research projects. I have now been at Royal Holloway for over 22 years so things must be pretty good!

5. Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I have had an allotment for well over ten years which is a year-round commitment and a good way to relax. I also enjoy cooking – occasionally even things that I have grown on the allotment!