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Ecology and Conservation

Dr Sarah Nelms

Dr Sarah Nelms


 Stella Turk Building 


University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, TR10 9FE


I am a Lecturer within the University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation.  My research focuses on the issue of plastic pollution within marine and coastal environments, and its impacts on marine vertebrates such as turtles, seabirds and marine mammals. 

Broad research specialisms:

  • Marine conservation
  • Marine vertebrate ecology
  • Microplastics and marine litter
  • Trophic interactions
  • Ecotoxicology



2015 - 2019 PhD Biological Sciences, Plymouth Marine Labatory and University of Exeter
2014 MSc Conservation and Biodiversity, University of Exeter (Penryn campus)
2007 BSc (Hons) Environmental Biology, Universty of Plymouth

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Research projects

Please see my Google Scholar page for an up-to-date list of my publications - 

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Journal articles

Witt M, Godley B, Pikesley S (In Press). A novel approach to estimate the distribution, density and at-sea risks of a centrally-placed mobile marine vertebrate. Biological Conservation
Nelms S, Godley B, Richardson P, Eyles L, Solandt J-L, Selley H, Witt M (In Press). Investigating the distribution and regional occurrence of anthropogenic litter in English Marine Protected Areas using 25 years of citizen-science beach clean data. Environmental Pollution
Godley BJ, Witt MJ, Galloway TS, Nelms SE, Coombes C, Foster LC, Lindeque PK (In Press). Marine anthropogenic litter on British beaches: a 10-year nationwide assessment using citizen science data. Science of the Total Environment
Duncan E, Davies A, Brooks A, Wahidunnessa Chowdhury G, Godley B, Jambeck J, Maddalene T, Napper I, Nelms S, Rackstraw C, et al (In Press). Message in a bottle: open source technology to track the movement of plastic pollution. PLoS One
Omeyer L, Godley B (In Press). Priorities to inform research on marine plastic pollution in Southeast Asia. Science of the Total Environment
Garrard SL, Clark JR, Martin N, Nelms SE, Botterell ZLR, Cole M, Coppock RL, Galloway TS, Green DS, Jones M, et al (2024). Identifying potential high-risk zones for land-derived plastic litter to marine megafauna and key habitats within the North Atlantic. Sci Total Environ, 922 Abstract.  Author URL.
Botterell ZLR, Ribeiro F, Alarcón-Ruales D, Alfaro E, Alfaro-Shigueto J, Allan N, Becerra N, Braunholtz L, Cardenas-Diaz S, de Veer D, et al (2024). Plastic pollution transcends marine protected area boundaries in the eastern tropical and south-eastern Pacific. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 201, 116271-116271.
Omeyer LCM, Duncan EM, Aiemsomboon K, Beaumont N, Bureekul S, Cao B, Carrasco LR, Chavanich S, Clark JR, Cordova MR, et al (2023). Corrigendum to “Priorities to inform research on marine plastic pollution in Southeast Asia” [Sci. Total Environ. volume 841 (2022) Article 156704] (Science of the Total Environment (2022) 841, (S0048969722038013), (10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.156704)). Science of the Total Environment, 857 Abstract.
Fuentes M, McMichael E, Kot C, Silver-Gorges I, Wallace B, Godley B, Brooks A, Ceriani S, Cortés-Gómez A, Dawson T, et al (2023). Key issues in assessing threats to sea turtles: knowledge gaps and future directions. Endangered Species Research, 52, 303-341.
Emberson-Marl H, Coppock RL, Cole M, Godley BJ, Mimpriss N, Nelms SE, Lindeque PK (2023). Microplastics in the Arctic: a transect through the Barents Sea. Frontiers in Marine Science, 10
Napper IE, Baroth A, Barrett AC, Bhola S, Chowdhury GW, Davies BFR, Duncan EM, Kumar S, Nelms SE, Niloy MNH, et al (2023). The distribution and characterisation of microplastics in air, surface water and sediment within a major river system. Sci Total Environ, 901 Abstract.  Author URL.
Clark L, Allen R, Botterell ZLR, Callejo B, Godley BJ, Henry C, Santillo D, Nelms SE (2023). Using citizen science to understand floating plastic debris distribution and abundance: a case study from the North Cornish coast (United Kingdom). Marine Pollution Bulletin, 194, 115314-115314.
Duncan EM, Davies A, Brooks A, Chowdhury GW, Godley BJ, Jambeck J, Maddalene T, Napper I, Nelms SE, Rackstraw C, et al (2022). Correction: Message in a bottle: Open source technology to track the movement of plastic pollution. PLOS ONE, 17(5).
Jones JS, Guézou A, Medor S, Nickson C, Savage G, Alarcón-Ruales D, Galloway TS, Muñoz-Pérez JP, Nelms SE, Porter A, et al (2022). Microplastic distribution and composition on two Galápagos island beaches, Ecuador: Verifying the use of citizen science derived data in long-term monitoring. Environmental Pollution, 311, 120011-120011.
Youngblood K, Brooks A, Das N, Singh A, Sultana M, Verma G, Zakir T, Chowdhury GW, Duncan E, Khatoon H, et al (2022). Rapid Characterization of Macroplastic Input and Leakage in the Ganges River Basin. Environ Sci Technol, 56(7), 4029-4038. Abstract.  Author URL.
Nelms SE, Easman E, Anderson N, Berg M, Coates S, Crosby A, Eisfeld-Pierantonio S, Eyles L, Flux T, Gilford E, et al (2022). The role of citizen science in addressing plastic pollution: Challenges and opportunities. Environmental Science and Policy, 128, 14-23. Abstract.
Zantis LJ, Bosker T, Lawler F, Nelms SE, O'Rorke R, Constantine R, Sewell M, Carroll EL (2021). Assessing microplastic exposure of large marine filter-feeders. The Science of the Total Environment, 818
Stockin KA, Pantos O, Betty EL, Pawley MDM, Doake F, Masterton H, Palmer EI, Perrott MR, Nelms SE, Machovsky-Capuska GE, et al (2021). Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) analysis identifies microplastics in stranded common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) from New Zealand waters. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 173(Pt B).
Nelms SE, Alfaro-Shigueto J, Arnould JPY, Avila IC, Nash SB, Campbell E, Carter MID, Collins T, Currey RJC, Domit C, et al (2021). Marine mammal conservation: over the horizon. Endangered Species Research, 44, 291-325. Abstract.
Zantis LJ, Carroll EL, Nelms SE, Bosker T (2021). Marine mammals and microplastics: a systematic review and call for standardisation. Environmental Pollution, 269 Abstract.
Chowdhury GW, Koldewey HJ, Duncan E, Napper IE, Niloy MNH, Nelms SE, Sarker S, Bhola S, Nishat B (2021). Plastic pollution in aquatic systems in Bangladesh: a review of current knowledge. Sci Total Environ, 761 Abstract.  Author URL.
Nelms SE, Duncan EM, Patel S, Badola R, Bhola S, Chakma S, Chowdhury GW, Godley BJ, Haque AB, Johnson JA, et al (2021). Riverine plastic pollution from fisheries: Insights from the Ganges River system. Science of the Total Environment, 756, 143305-143305.
Napper IE, Baroth A, Barrett AC, Bhola S, Chowdhury GW, Davies BFR, Duncan EM, Kumar S, Nelms SE, Hasan Niloy MN, et al (2021). The abundance and characteristics of microplastics in surface water in the transboundary Ganges River. Environmental Pollution, 274, 116348-116348.
Senko JF, Nelms SE, Reavis JL, Witherington B, Godley BJ, Wallace BP (2020). Understanding individual and population-level effects of plastic pollution on marine megafauna. Endangered Species Research, 43, 234-252. Abstract.
Elliott BW, Read AJ, Godley BJ, Nelms SE, Nowacek DP (2019). Critical information gaps remain in understanding impacts of industrial seismic surveys on marine vertebrates. Endangered Species Research, 39, 247-254. Abstract.
Nelms SE, Barnett J, Brownlow A, Davison NJ, Deaville R, Galloway TS, Lindeque PK, Santillo D, Godley BJ (2019). Microplastics in marine mammals stranded around the British coast: ubiquitous but transitory?. Scientific Reports, 9(1). Abstract.
Nelms SE, Parry HE, Bennett KA, Galloway TS, Godley BJ, Santillo D, Lindeque PK (2019). What goes in, must come out: Combining scat-based molecular diet analysis and quantification of ingested microplastics in a marine top predator. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 10(10), 1712-1722. Abstract.
Nelms SE, Galloway TS, Godley BJ, Jarvis DS, Lindeque PK (2018). Investigating microplastic trophic transfer in marine top predators. Environmental Pollution, 238, 999-1007. Abstract.
Nelms SE, Duncan EM, Broderick AC, Galloway TS, Godfrey MH, Hamann M, Lindeque PK, Godley BJ (2016). Plastic and marine turtles: a review and call for research. ICES JOURNAL OF MARINE SCIENCE, 73(2), 165-181.  Author URL.
Nelms SE, Piniak WED, Weir CR, Godley BJ (2016). Seismic surveys and marine turtles: an underestimated global threat?. Biological Conservation, 193, 49-65. Abstract.


Nelms SE, Clark BL, Duncan EM, Germanov E, Godley BJ, Parton KJ, Pham CK, Rodríguez Y (2023). Plastic Pollution and Marine Megafauna: Recent Advances and Future Directions. In  (Ed) Plastic Pollution in the Global Ocean, World Scientific Publishing, 97-138.

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