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Meet the scientist awarded the first Trevor Platt Fellowship: Gayathra Bandara

7 October 2023

We would like to wish a warm welcome to Gayathra Bandara - the first scientist to be awarded the Trevor Platt Fellowship. As part of the Fellowship, Gayathra is currently working with us at Plymouth Marine Laboratory on a placement to further develop his knowledge and experience in marine science, in his pursuit of a PhD. 
Above: Gayathra Bandara speaking at Institute of Oceanology in Qingdao, China during the subsurface mooring observation training course

Above: Gayathra Bandara speaking at Institute of Oceanology in Qingdao, China during the subsurface mooring observation training course 

The Trevor Platt Fellowship was created in memory of our late friend and colleague Professor Trevor Platt FRS FRCS. Trevor was distinguished for his fundamental contributions to many aspects of oceanography and in recent years, to limnology as well. He was committed to the stewardship of the ocean. He was also a firm believer in sharing his knowledge, nurturing the next generation of scientists and above all, providing encouragement and guidance to countless young researchers.  

To that end, PML launched the first Trevor Platt Fellowship last year (2022), and Gayathra Bandara - a Sri Lankan Marine Biologist and Conservationist - was successful in his application, becoming the first ever Trevor Platt Fellow. 

PML has recently launched the 2nd Trevor Platt Fellowship, with a deadline to apply by 15th December 2023, find out more and apply here >> 

Gayathra kindly agreed to take time out of his busy schedule to sit down with us, so that we could get to know him a little better. We first wished him a big welcome to the laboratory, then asked him to tell us a little more about how he heard about the Fellowship and why he applied. 

"I first came across the Trevor Platt Fellowship on LinkedIn. Initially, I was hesitant about applying as many fellowships tend to be geared towards Ph.D. or post-doctoral students. At the time, I was fully immersed in my master's thesis, which kept me quite occupied. However, after a conversation with my mentors, they strongly encouraged me to pursue the fellowship. They emphasized the immense value of working with an esteemed organization like PML and how this experience would bridge the gap between my master's and future Ph.D. studies.”  

“Moreover, I wanted to pursue a PhD on deep sea diversity and was looking to get some training on novel genetic applications. And surprisingly PML had a long-term study on marine benthos and a proficient genetic team to support my aspirations. Hence, despite my busy schedule, I decided to apply, driven by the remarkable opportunities it presented.” 

We’re so glad that he did decide to apply! We next asked Gayathra to tell us a little more about his previous experience and his journey to this fellowship. 

“Certainly! My path to the Trevor Platt Fellowship is deeply rooted in my passion for marine science. I began my journey by studying marine science at the Ocean University of Sri Lanka.” 

[Gayathra graduated from the University with a first-class honours in B.Sc. in Fisheries and Marine Sciences specialising in Ocean Sciences.] 

“After that, I worked as a teaching assistant at Wayamba University of Sri Lanka. Additionally, I gained valuable experience by collaborating with leading conservation NGOs such as the High Seas Youth Alliance, Global Youth Biodiversity Network, and the Young Zoologist Association of Sri Lanka.” 

Above: Gayathra on a boat after a survey in remote Kayankerni coral reef in Eastern Sri Lanka 

“Before joining PML, I pursued a master's degree in International Marine Biological Resources (IMBRSea), a program offered by 11 European Universities in 7 different countries. This diverse educational background allowed me to travel, learn, and work in various environments and fields.” 


Above: Photos of Gayathra during the Annual Baltic Acoustic Spring Survey (BASS) 2022 onboard "RV Walter Herwig III". The first photo shows Gayathra receiving the CTD after deployment. The second shows Gayathra reading CTD data. 

Gayathra has certainly been busy! We next asked him if he could tell us more about his Fellowship at PML and what it involves, who he is working with, and what he hopes to achieve during his time here. 

“At PML, I have the privilege of working alongside a dynamic team of researchers who share my passion for ocean conservation. My current research focus centres on studying the impact of climate-driven adverse weather events on marine benthos, a crucial area of study given the rapid environmental changes our oceans are experiencing. My host at PML is Dr. Karen Tait, and our goal is to contribute valuable insights to our understanding of how marine benthic communities adapt to a changing world.” 

“I am actively seeking opportunities to collaborate with scientists who specialize in deep-sea diversity. The deep ocean remains one of the least explored and understood frontiers on our planet, with a significant knowledge gap waiting to be filled.” 

Considering Gayathra’s experience and success at such a young age, we’re confident he will achieve great things. In fact, he is already a Youth Ambassador with the High Seas Alliance. We asked him to tell us a little more about what this involves. 

“Serving as a Youth Ambassador with the High Seas Alliance is an incredible honour. This role involves active engagement with a global community of young advocates who share a deep commitment to preserving the high seas, a vast and largely unprotected part of our ocean. As a Youth Ambassador, my responsibilities include participating in advocacy efforts, raising awareness about the importance of the new high seas treaty, high seas protection, and contributing to the development of policies that will ensure the preservation of these critical ocean areas. Additionally, a significant part of my role involves engaging with youth around the world, providing encouragement and support to inspire them to become future champions of ocean conservation.”  


Above: Gayathra speaking at Chinese Academy of Sciences about the impacts of deep-sea mining 

He also has a big event coming up this month, attending the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Open Science Conference (OSC) in Rwanda, on the 23rd October, where he is giving a presentation on the ’Impact of climate change on behaviour of marine mammals’, as well as talking about how youth can engage in conservation amongst other topics. We asked him if he could tell us a little more about his presentations and what he hopes to achieve at the conference. 

“I am eagerly looking forward to the upcoming WCRP Open Science Conference in Rwanda. During this event, I will be delivering a presentation that delves into the 'Impact of climate change on the behaviour of marine mammals.' My objective is to shed light on how these majestic creatures are responding to the profound environmental shifts caused by climate change. This presentation serves as an opportunity to emphasize the urgency of protecting their habitats and underscores the intricate interconnections within marine ecosystems.” 

“Furthermore, I will be engaging in discussions on how youth can actively participate in conservation efforts. I firmly believe that the energy, creativity, and determination of young people are invaluable assets in addressing the complex challenges our planet faces. At the conference, I hope to inspire and collaborate with fellow researchers, policymakers, and youth advocates, with the shared aim of driving meaningful change in the fields of climate and ocean conservation.” 


Above: Gayathra speaking at the subsurface mooring observation training course 

Lastly, we wanted to find out more about Gayathra – the person behind the science. We asked him how he is settling into life in Plymouth, and what he gets up to in his free time. 

“Plymouth has been an exceptional experience thus far! The city's rich marine heritage, coupled with its vibrant scientific community, has made it an ideal location for my research. I deeply appreciate the welcoming and collaborative atmosphere at PML, and the breathtaking coastal surroundings have been a constant source of inspiration. Plymouth is truly Britain's Ocean City, and I feel fortunate to be part of this marine-focused community.” 

“Beyond my work, I am an ardent nature enthusiast. I take pleasure in exploring the local coastal areas, embarking on hikes in the beautiful countryside, and practicing underwater photography to capture the stunning beauty of marine life. Additionally, I enjoy engaging in community outreach activities and organizing educational programs to raise awareness about marine conservation among local residents. Plymouth's proximity to the ocean provides endless opportunities for both professional and leisure pursuits, making it an ideal fit for someone with a deep passion for marine science and conservation, like myself.” 


Related information

PML launches 2nd Trevor Platt Fellowship 

Trevor Platt Science Foundation 

High Seas Youth Alliance Ambassador: Gayathra Bandara