Rebecca von Hellfeld
Tell us about your role at the National Decommissioning Centre.
I focus on the potential implications of contaminants associated with offshore infrastructures and their impact on future economies and communities. With a lot of research determining the ecological use of such structures in the marine environment, it is important to understand whether adsorbed contaminants that remain post-cleaning could pose a risk for the marine ecosystem. My current ‘contaminant of choice’ is mercury because one of its forms, methylmercury, bioaccumulates and biomagnifies, as well as being a known neurotoxicant. Mercury is a naturally occurring heavy metal that is associated with hydrocarbon reservoirs and is adsorbed on extraction pipelines over time. Although cleaning methods are being trialled, residual mercury remains in pipelines. With the potential for in situ decommissioning of these structures, it is thus vital to understand the behaviour and availability of mercury in the marine environment.
How do you usually start your day?
With an espresso and the morning news, while cuddling my dog Scoby (a very energetic two-year-old springer spaniel). Once I’m in the office, I start with a to-do list for the day and respond to/send emails. I try to keep up-to-date with outreach events, upcoming conferences, and the newest publications, but especially in weeks with more intensive lab work, this falls to the end of the priority list.
What brought you to the National Decommissioning Centre?
My desire to link my understanding of ecotoxicology and the marine environment to a project that would allow me to have a real-world impact. Being in an environment where so many different fields of research and perspectives are combined has really helped me look at a problem from different angles.
What’s your favourite thing about your job/research/project?
It never gets boring. I get to dabble in food web modelling, method development, and following the science where it takes me. The most rewarding thing is getting to put my research out there. I love attending conferences and representing the University, as well as getting my research published and starting a conversation about my findings.
What are your work priorities at the moment?
Discussing how my research could have more impact for stakeholders in different fields. This includes participating in working groups of different advisory bodies and research consortia, as well as direct contact to different marine industries and government departments.
How do you like to relax outside work?
Hiking and being out and about with my dog, gardening, arial fitness, cooking, and reading. I also volunteer for a German marine conservation organisation (DEEPWAVE e.V.), in my free time, which allows me to put scientific findings into a context that everyone can understand and make informed decisions through.
24 May 2023