Gemma Cripps

Great time chatting to you all! sorry i didn't get around to answering all your Q's, there will be time in the ASK session- see you then!

Favourite Thing: (1) Out on the boat, collecting samples from the sea- nothing beats a bit of boat work (even when its pouring down with rain!) (2) Being in the lab, looking down the microscope to see the tiny organisms that we have collected in our sea-samples. Some of these species are too small for the human eye to see, so we need to use microscopes to see them . My favourite sea creature is called a “copepod” , they can be smaller in size than a pin head! Have a look at some of photos of these beautiful creatures in my images . (3) Looking after your sea creatures. Often you keep the creatures you have collected from the sea for a period of time, so you can study them. This involves feeding them, changing their water and making sure the light in the room matches their natural environment. I love to do this because you get to understand and appreciate how these beautiful and mysterious creatures live, function and behave.



Ditcham Park School (1998- 2003), Havant College (2003-2005), Plymouth University (2005-2008 and 2009-2010), and Swansea University (2011-2015).


Doctorate in Marine Climate Change, Masters in Marine Biology, Degree in Marine Biodiversity, A-Levels in Geography, Chemistry and Biology, AS-Levels in Environmental Science

Work History:

PhD student: Swansea University and Plymouth Marine Laboratory (2011- 2014), Plymouth museum (2010), National Marine Aquarium (2008) and in between studies I worked in 6 different bars, 2 restaurants, Marks and Spencers, The Co-op, and lots of call centers!

Current Job:

Marine Climate Change Researcher at the National Oceanography Centre


Southampton University

Me and my work

I research how climate change will affect marine species within the marine food web.

I research how the carbon dioxide produced by humans can affect marine life.

  • Humans produce carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels. We all burn fossil fuels every day! For example, we burn fossil fuels when we get in our cars and travel to school/work, when we put the heating on at night-time, and when we charge our mobile phones.
  • The carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels goes into the atmosphere. Some of this carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere and acts like a blanket for the earth, causing it to warm up. When the earth warms up like this, we call it global warming. It is not just the earth that heats up, our oceans warm up too and we call this ocean warming. This can cause ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise.
  • Not all of the carbon dioxide produced by humans stays in the atmosphere;some of it also gets absorbed by the oceans. When carbon dioxide gets absorbed into the ocean it reacts with the seawater and makes it more acidic, we call this ocean acidification. Both ocean acidification and ocean warming are climate change effects on our oceans. These effects are getting worse, as we are all burning more and more fossil fuels each day.


My role is to explore how ocean acidification and ocean warming are affecting our marine species and our marine food webs.

  • This is important because we (humans) depend on a healthy marine food web for our food, such as ourfish and chips! In the UK we eat lots of meat, as well as fish, so we can get our protein from the land (e.g., chickens, cows and sheep) as well as the sea (e.g., fish and chips, fish cakes, fish fingers).  BUT in some countries, people rely 100% on fish for their protein intake! So it is important to understand how ocean warming and ocean acidification will effect our marine food webs, and how this will impact on humans.
  • VERY important group of marine species in the marine food web are the “zooplankton”. This group is so important because they are a link between the base of the food chain, the algae, to the higher levels of the food chain, the fish. In other words, the zooplankton eat the algae, and the fish then eat the zooplankton.

algae ——> eaten by zooplankton ——-> eaten by fish

  • Without the zooplankton, the fish would not be able to live (and we would have no fish and chips!).


As a scientist my role is to understand how ocean warming and ocean acidification will effect zooplankton,  fish populations, and humans.

  • I look at this by going out to sea by boat and collecting samples of zooplankton myimage2. We take the zooplankton back to the laboratory and then count all the individuals. We have to do this by looking down a microscope, as most of them are too SMALL to see by eye!
  • We run experiments with the zooplankton we have caught from the sea. We see how they behave to different levels of ocean warming and ocean acidification.
  • After the experiment, we estimate how the behaviour of the zooplankton to ocean warming and ocean acidification could affect fish populations and humans.



My Typical Day

Every day is different! I could be on the boat, in the laboratory running experiments, or at my desk working on my computer.

My daily routine varies from day-to-day. That is one of the best parts of the job, no day is ever the same and each day brings you something new and exciting!


If I am out on the boat we would leave quite early so we could get the most of the tides. This job does not have the same hours as you are used to in school. We could leave on the boats at 6am and not get back till 7pm that evening. Each day has a different time-table  and is another part of the job that makes it quite exciting.

When we are on the boats, we will travel to our work station out at sea. Here we will collect the zooplankton samples using a plankton net. These nets are thrown over board and towed behind the boat.  These nets are special because they capture thousands of zooplankton from the sea and concentrate them down into a single cup! The zooplankton are then washed into a big bucket on-board the boat, filled with water and taken back to the laboratory.

At the lab, we identify the number of species we have caught in our sample and then count all the individuals. We do this by using a microscope, as most of the zooplankton are too small to see by eye. When we do look down the microscope there can be thousands of different zooplankton that all look very different, have a look at this link which shows the different type of zooplankton we can see in a drop of seawater down the microscope.


If I am running an experiment I will be in lots of different types of laboratories during the day.

One of the lab rooms is called the algae room, and looks a bit like something off of Dr. Who! This is where we grow the algae to be able to feed our zooplankton. This is called large-scale culturing (and you can see why its called large!). Just 1mL of algae from those big tubes has more than 1 million cells of algae in it. Each algae cell is very small – they are 1000 times smaller than a pin head!

The RAS,  is another lab where we run large scale experiments on our zooplankton and fish in these large 600L tanks. Each one of these tanks could fill your bath at home around 6 times! Running experiments of this size is very hard work, and can often mean coming back during the night time to take a sample or check that the animals within the tanks are OK.

When we run experiments, we use lots of different types of equipment and will often be going from room to room throughout the day. Two examples of equipment I use are described below.

  • Coulter counter: this machine measures how many cells of algae there are in your big bags of algae (remember the Dr. Who photo!)
  • Flow cam: this machine measures the size of each of your zooplankton individuals


When I have a day off from the labs and boat work, I will spend time on my computer writing up the results from my experiments and analysing the data. This is a BIG part of being a scientist. You have a responsibility to write up your results and share them with other colleagues, members of the public and sometimes with the government.

What I'd do with the money

I would use the money to travel to schools, colleges and science fairs to talk about the effects of climate change on marine food webs.

  • I would use the money to travel to schools, colleges and science fairs to talk about the effects of climate change on marine food webs.
  • I would bring in live zooplankton samples from the boats to show people under the microscope. This gives people the chance to see the different type of species we have in our seas. It also will help people understand how important zooplankton are to fish populations, and how this is important to us as humans.
  • This has worked very well in the past, and one suggestion from the public was to record these school and college sessions and use social media, such as tweeter and video-blogging to share with the wider internet community. This is something I would like to do with the prize money.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Enthusiastic, Happy and (a bit) Ditzy

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I don’t really have a favourite band/singer, my music taste changes quite often. At the moment I like Jamie Lawson, Hoizer and Adele

What's your favourite food?

Thai food

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Travelling adventure around Asia

What did you want to be after you left school?

A criminal profiler

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Not really

What was your favourite subject at school?


What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Traveled, worked and befriended people from all over the world.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My Chemistry teacher – she was a very inspirational and strong minded woman.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?


If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

(1&2) To live a happy and healthy life- full of family, friends, laughter and love ( I think that counts as 2 wishes!), and (3) to help push the boundaries of research.

Tell us a joke.

I love cheese jokes (be warned they are not great!)…. (1) What did the cheese say to itself in the mirror?……. Halloumi! (2) What did the queen say when someone threw cheese at her?…..“How dairy!” (3) What kind of cheese do you use to disguise a small horse?…….Mascarpone!

Other stuff

Work photos:

Out on the boat collecting zooplankton myimage2myimage8

In the lab counting the zooplankton

Some examples of copepods, which are a VERY important group of the zooplankton myimage1myimage3myimage4myimage5

Copepods are very small, and some cannot be seen by the naked eye. Have a look at this photo to understand their size myimage6

Copepods eat phytoplankton and microzooplankton (which are even smaller than the copepods) myimage7