Lucy Smith

Lucy Smith


I graduated from the University of Essex in 2021 with a first-class BSc in Marine Biology. During my time there I developed an interest in ecological statistics and its applications, and conducted my undergraduate research project modelling factors influencing otolith (earstone) deformities in California Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha).

I went on to graduate with an MSc in Statistical Ecology in 2022 from the University of St Andrews, which allowed me to further explore the intersection between statistics and ecology, with a focus on the application of modern ecological modelling techniques. My MSc dissertation focussed on evaluating minimum sample sizes required to produce reliable population trend estimates, as a tool to assess the potential usefulness of citizen science data in estimating population trends for otherwise un-monitored bird populations.

After a short stint as a statistical analyst at the Home Office, I look forward to returning to my roots to take up a PhD position in the Ecology and Environmental Microbiology Group at the University of Essex.

Lucy Smith

PhD title: "Using biochronologies and chemical tracers to track salmon movements and growth in a changing world"

Salmon have great cultural, economic, and ecological value, yet they are experiencing unprecedented declines. Changes in the marine environment are often cited as the primary cause of population crashes, yet we still have large gaps in our understanding about their migration pathways and foraging strategies at sea. We also have large gaps in our understanding about how the freshwater phase of the lifecycle affects marine survival (so-called “carryover effects”).

This PhD project will use archival tissues (otoliths, eye lenses, scales) that encompass both freshwater and marine phases to understand the factors driving life history choices and mortality in salmon. Specifically, I will use otolith and eye lens biochronologies and chemical tracers in Atlantic and Pacific salmon from multiple populations to reconstruct patterns in habitat use, migration phenology, growth rate and diet. I will use these data to explore intraspecific variation in movement and growth to reveal carryover effects and identify factors associated with poor survival in salmon.

Awards and prizes

Abel-Imray Project prize (University of Essex) – Most outstanding final year project in an Environmental and Conservation-based course.

Environmental Conservation Prize (University of Essex) – Most outstanding performance in an Environmental and Conservation-based course.