Sophie Nedelec

Favourite Thing: To be surprised by new ideas on a daily basis.



North Moor Green primary school, Blake school Bridgwater, St Laurence Bradford-on-Avon, Durham University 2006-2009, Bristol University 2010-2015


GCSEs, A levels, Bachelors degree in Zoology (BSc), Master of Science (MSc), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Work History:

University of Exeter

Current Job:

Postdoctoral researcher


University of Exeter

About Me

My friends call me Dr FishFish

I live in Cornwall with my husband Brendan (underwater electrician technician), my 1 year old son Robin and our cat Gato. I love exploring, cycling, walking, climbing, kayaking, swimming, going out on boats, playing games (like sock offs and wheel of misfortune) and eating great food. I have been around the world three times so far, once when I was 18 for fun (I volunteered on elephant, organutan and gibbon conservation projects), once when I was 24 for work (fish and whale projects) and once when I was 27 for work and fun (studied fish on the Great Barrier Reef and in Tahiti and in between traveled New Zealand where I married Brendan on top of a mountain in a helicopter).

My Work

Identifying: Behavioural ecologist

I study animal behaviour to try and understand how humans are changing the natural environment and find ways to protect it for the future. I was inspired to do this when I went to Sumatra (Indonesia) and saw acres and acres of rainforest that had been destroyed and many gibbons in rescue centres because their homes had been chopped down. Closer to home, in England I see less and less natural habitat for wild animals to live in. I have worked on a range of different projects, recently I was a ‘fish botherer’ where I played boat engine noise to fish and watched how they reacted… we found that ship and boat noise is very disturbing and lots of fish get eaten by predators because they are distracted! Now there is a law that says noise in the ocean must not harm marine life (from dolphins to crabs!). At the moment I am investigating what time of day animals in the UK are active (e.g. hedgehogs are nocturnal) so that we can find better ways to protect our biodiversity.

My Typical Day

Reading books and scientific papers about every animal in the UK! Bats, buzzards, badgers, spiders, flies, newts and lizards to name a few!

There are about 26 thousand (26 000) species of animal that live on land in the UK! I found this out by contacting the Natural History Museum – a very friendly man who works there sent me a list. An example of my typical day at the moment: yesterday I got up at 7:30, had porridge for my breakfast, played with Robin for a bit, cycled to the University of Exter Penryn campus where I work and read a paper from 1964 about flying insects that were caught using suction traps (basically like pointing a big hoover pipe in the air). I found out there are 7000 species of flies (!) and most of them are diurnal (active during the daytime) but about 1000 are nocturnal (active at night).

What I'd do with the money

Citizen Science and Youtube animal of the week

It is quite surprising that even in the UK where we have a lot fewer species than in bigger, warmer countries, and a lot more scientists, we still do not know about the activity of most species. If we did know it would help us to farm better and protect endangered species. I would like to get help from schools, conservation clubs and the general public by sending out suction and pitfall traps (which are harmless to animals). These are really easy to use and could be set up either over night or during the day. People could then take pictures of the species that they found and send them to me.

Another way I would like to use the money would be to start a Youtube channel featuring a different animal every week. There are thousands of weird and wonderful animals out there in our own back yards and they all play a part in the web of life that makes the soil we grow our food in. Schools and gardens can be great places for wildlife if we know what to look for and I want to encourage people to explore.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious, conscientious, fun

Who is your favourite singer or band?

That’s a hard question! I like so much different music it depends on my mood… I like Sia, Eva Cassidy, music that makes you want to dance like my DJ friend Waggles makes…

What's your favourite food?

Christmas dinner

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Got a helicopter to the top of a mountain in New Zealand over lake Wakitipu with views of the snow capped Southern Alps.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I didn’t know! I just knew I wanted to be happy, I wanted to explore the world and I wanted to try and make the world a better place.

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Of course! Not for anything serious though. In primary school I got told off for asking too many questions… but I think you can never ask too many questions!!

What was your favourite subject at school?

It was always changing, I liked art, drama, biology, dance, french, maths…

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

Published papers that will help conservation.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My biology teacher at school, the volunteer projects I worked on after school, my supervisors during my degree, masters and PhD.

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

Probably a conservation project manager.

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

For humans to appreciate the natural world and our tiny place in it, for my work to be worthwhile even though my place in the world is tiny, and for a happy life with my family and friends

Tell us a joke.

What do you call a fish with a tie? soFISHticated

Other stuff

Work photos: