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Operation Cetacean; Meet the Team!

If you have followed Conservation Chat UK for some time, you will probably have heard of a little conservation project called Operation Cetacean.

Operation Cetacean was co-founded by Laura Roberts and Stuart Collier in 2017 and is a project which focuses on the harbour porpoises and other cetaceans found in Tor Bay. The purpose for the project is to develop an understanding of how anthropogenic (originating in human activity) and environmental factors impact cetacean presence, behaviour and fitness.

Operation Cetacean wouldn't be possible without the group of enthusiastic, dedicated and passionate people who give up their free time to assist with this research. In this blog we would like to take some time to highlight and celebrate each team member individually; a showcase if you will!

Laura Roberts

Co-Founder & Lead Researcher

Laura began researching the harbour porpoises of Berry Head in 2017 whilst completing her FdSc Animal Science degree. Since discovering some interesting results during a university project, Laura decided to make it her life's mission to learn as much as possible about the porpoises of Berry Head so that they may be better protected. Since then, Laura has completed a BSc Hons in Animal Conservation Science, has had her research published in the Ocean and Coastal Management journal and has formed a group of passionate and dedicated volunteers to assist her with a variety of projects.​

"Studying the harbour porpoises of Berry Head is my passion and obsession. All cetaceans are impacted by a myriad of threats and this particular species needs our help now, more than ever."

Stuart Collier

Co-Founder & Project Manager

Stuart has over 11 years of experience in teaching, and 17 years working in the field of animal science. Stuart was a key contributor to the original method of Operation Cetaceans research and is a co-author of our 2019 publication "The Impacts of Marine Traffic on the Presence and Behaviour of Harbour Porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) in the waters off Berry Head, South-west England" (available on open access). Stuart has completed various marine mammal-related training courses, these include land-based watches with the Sea Watch Foundation and how to record dead cetaceans.​

"I have many years of experience studying cetaceans and believe it is incredibly important that we protect our local wildlife."

Leah Freshwater

Assistant Researcher and Advocate​

Leah graduated from the University of Plymouth with a degree in animal conservation science and had her first experience in cetacean research in 2016 when she went to Tenerife to volunteer with Frontier, to study pilot whales. This experience solidified her desire to be involved in the field of cetology. Since then she has become a Marine Mammal Surveyor with ORCA and has been on several trips with the organization over the last two years. Earlier in 2019, she spent two months in West Wales interning with the Sea Watch Foundation. This entailed researching the local population of bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay.

​"I have had a lifelong obsession with the ocean and marine mammals, and always knew that I wanted to work in marine conservation. I am now a proud member of Operation Cetacean and I am loving it so far. I'm excited to see what the future holds for this project!"

Amanda Brown

Assistant Researcher and Advocate​

Amanda, an Early Years Educator, has a degree in Natural Sciences and previously worked for 10 years as an Aquatic Ecotoxicologist. She came across Operation Cetacean whilst searching for local Citizen Science projects. She joined the team to assist in the collection of land-based survey data and found a group of likeminded individuals with a passion for conservation.

Operation Cetacean has given me a chance to become involved in the field of Science again. Marine conservation has always been a passion of mine, since a very young age. I currently work with Preschool age children, and one of the key things I want to focus on is the transmission of this knowledge to the younger generations. Education outreach is vital to conservation in the long-term. There is so much to learn about the species that frequent our local waters. I’m proud to be a part of this learning.

Kiera Long

Assistant Researcher and Advocate​

Kiera recently graduated at the University of Plymouth with a degree in Ocean Science and Marine Conservation and will soon be undertaking a Marine Science Master’s Degree.. She has had a strong passion for ocean conservation from an early age and has a keen interest in conservation. Keira volunteers as a Marine Mammal Medic for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Marine Mammal Surveyor for ORCA and is a Clean-up Leader for Ocean Mimic. She organizes regular beach cleans in and around Plymouth and the Isle of Wight, with the goal of reducing the volumes of plastic waste polluting our coastlines.

"I grew up on the Isle of Wight and spent most of my days at the beach looking for shells and studying different rocky shore species. I have always known that our oceans need protecting and before coming to University I wasn’t completely sure how I could help and make a difference. My future goal is to work directly with the conservation of cetaceans (particularly Orca).”

Ellie White

Assistant Researcher and Advocate​

Ellie is currently studying Earth and Ocean Science at the University of Brighton, with the goal of undertaking a Marine Conservation Postgraduate Degree. With previous experience in sea turtle conservation she has now extended her passion into protecting cetaceans. With an education in geology, oceanography and marine biology she is particularly interested in the interactions between the physical and biological environments. She regularly participates in Brighton Beach cleans and is a plastic-free advocate on campus.

Operation Cetacean allows me to practice my data collection skills, whilst making a measurable contribution to marine mammal conservation. I am passionate about community outreach and luckily this project actively acknowledges that change comes from educating those that benefit from our stunning coastline.

Ella Case

Assistant Researcher and Advocate​

Ella has recently graduated with a degree in Ocean Sciences from the University of Liverpool. During this degree she developed a wide range of knowledge about the worlds oceans - from how physics results in some areas of the ocean being much more wildlife rich than others, to how climate change may affect Orcas feeding habits. On moving back to Torbay, she was vey excited to find lots of marine conservation projects and jumped at the chance to get involved with Operation Cetacean.

It’s been really exciting to start being able to put my degree into practise. The fact that this fantastic project is about the porpoise right on my doorstep makes it even better. I am looking forward to learning more about the species that frequent Torbay and hoping to spread the word far and wide on what people can do to protect these amazing creatures!

What an amazing team!

If you would like to learn more about Operation Cetacean, you can check them out on our website and on Facebook. You can also support the project in a number of ways:

Operation Cetacean is not a charity, organization or business, and does not receive any funding. You can support this project by donating and contribute towards various costs including; stationary, fuel, PPE and educational resources. Click here to donate to their cause!

If you ever see a cetacean (whale, dolphin, or porpoise) while exploring Torbay, you can let Operation Cetacean know by filling out their online form. Click here to submit a sighting!


Become an active member of the team! Laura is in the process of updating the application process, but for the mean time you can email her detailing your interests and any supporting information. Send your emails to!


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