A PhD student undertaking a project in shellfish aquaculture has won the Lantra Learner of the Year Award for Higher Education, a category supported by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC).
Kati Michalek, originally from Germany and now living in Oban, is undertaking her PhD study – part of the pan-European project, Calcium in a Changing Environment (CACHE) – through the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and the Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI (SAMS).
It is anticipated that Kati’s PhD study, which examines levels of calcification and selection in farmed vs wild Blue Mussels in naturally varying habitats, will help increase understanding of the impact of changing climate conditions on the performance and shell production of four commercially important species.
In attendance at the awards ceremony to see Kati receive her accolade was SAIC CEO Heather Jones, who said: “Kati’s PhD study is the perfect example of why it is vital that we continue to encourage bright young minds into aquaculture. The Scottish shellfish sector has huge scope for growth, potentially producing up to 21,000 tonnes of mussels per annum by 2030. In order to achieve these levels however, shellfish farmers need access to focused research, such as Kati’s, that addresses knowledge gaps and drives innovation.”
Also amongst the audience was SAIC Aquaculture Innovation Manager and Skills Ambassador Cori Critchlow-Watton, who added: “Lantra is one of several leading skills organisations that SAIC is working with to not only attract younger generations into the sector but also equip them with the industry awareness they need to progress in their careers.”
The 2017 Awards, which recognised exceptional talent and willingness to learn across 13 different categories, saw Jack Fraser of Inverness College UHI and Marine Harvest (Scotland), and John Blance of NAFC Marine Centre UHI and Grieg Seafood, crowned winner and runner-up respectively in the Aquaculture Learner of the Year category.
Jack went on to make it the double by beating off the land-based competition to win overall Modern Apprentice of the Year – the first time that the title has gone to an aquaculture learner – while the much-coveted overall Learner of the Year Award went to Emma Staniforth of Forest Enterprise Scotland.