Will Burton

Aura Centre for Doctoral Training

in Offshore Wind Energy and the Environment

Cohort 3 Student

Will Burton

Background: Having studied Geology and Physical Geography as an undergraduate at the University of Southampton, my core skills are based around scientific data analysis and interpretation of geological structures. My fascination, however, was borne from an understanding of the evolution of the dynamic Earth-system cycle that maintains conditions for life on our planet through its large, slow, and graceful geological feedbacks. Being part of the National Oceanographic Centre, many of our later studies involved isotopic and microfossil analyses of marine sediment cores. These revealed the profound variety of environmental conditions that occurred as a result of interplays between earth and ecosystem. Observing the disproportionately rapid and widespread effects that humanity is having on our earth system, especially when compared to the rate of other extinction events in the earths past, made me concerned. I resolved to dedicate myself to understanding how we can manage our impacts on the system we depend on, and this in turn inspired me towards the study of socio-ecological systems in my third year.    

Research Interests: Offshore wind provides a glimmer of hope to address the daunting issues of sustainable development in the Anthropocene, and through its Postgraduate Diploma, AURA CDT has provided me with an eclectic understanding of this industry. I want to use this grounding to understand how the pledged expansion of offshore wind in The North Sea may affect other parts of its Socio-Ecological System. My interdisciplinary dissertation revolves around connecting knowledges from different research areas to answer questions of sustainability in the face of a rapidly changing marine environment. I am hoping that my findings can help to inform Marine Spatial Plans already active in the area.     

To do this, I am running focus groups and interviewing experts placed within different North Sea industries and organisations to develop a semi-quantitative Fuzzy Cognitive Map of the relationships between different social, industrial and ecological users of The North Sea. To incorporate spatial and temporal components to my findings I then intend to couple this model to a well-established ecosystem model called Ecopath with EcoSim. With a Dynamical Systems Model built and validated, I then intend to test the effects of different scenarios of offshore wind energy development in the area. 

Why you applied for the Aura CDT: The Aura CDT represents an opportunity to contribute in a useful industry that I think is socially, economically and environmentally crucial for our future. The fact that my PhD will be tackling an important query at the forefront of the offshore wind industry is both intriguing and inspiring.

My Research: Understanding the emergent macro-scale impacts caused by the rapid expansion of Offshore Wind within The North Sea System

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For an informal discussion, call +44 (0) 1482 463331
or contact auracdt@hull.ac.uk