Emily Cunningham Sicily Portrait - Copy

Working towards thriving coasts, seas and coastal communities.

Recognised as a “30 under 30” global environmental leader by the NAAEE
Winner national Rising Star Awards 2021 – Charity and Not-for-Profit
Co-founder of the #Motion4theOcean initiative

Emily is a marine and coastal specialist at the forefront of driving positive change for our ocean and all of us that depend on it. She has a strong track-record in the development of pioneering projects that engage people with our ocean and its protection; securing over £5m in funding for inclusive marine and coastal conservation projects in the UK. Emily is a Trustee of the UK’s leading marine charity, Marine Conservation Society and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Emily is a co-founder of the #Motion4theOcean initiative. Alongside fellow ocean experts, Dr Pamela Buchan and Nicola Bridge (Ocean Conservation Trust), Emily co-authored a model “Motion for the Ocean” – an evidence-based blueprint for local ocean action.  Eleven councils, together serving 1.6 million people, have so far made an Ocean Recovery Declaration using the Motion for the Ocean – positive news for ocean health and the coastal communities that depend on it.

Emily is a credible ocean advocate, as comfortable speaking to a school group as to a TV crew or a government Minister. She has appeared on national TV & radio and written for various magazines discussing the issues of the day. Watch her speak at the International Marine Conservation Congress here and on a national Sky News interview here. She is committed to recognising when to use her voice and when to pass the mic.

She shares her adventures on Marine Biology Life.

Key Achievements & Recent Work

  • Highly Commended – “Inspirational Person” category at the UK’s national Flood and Coast Excellence Awards, June 2022 for her work inspiring and facilitating nature-positive local policy and practice. 
  • Co-founded the Motion for the Ocean iniative, co-authoring the model #Motion4theOcean and supporting local authorities in the development of local Ocean Recovery Declarations (2021 – present)
  • 2021 Winner – Rising Star Awards – Charity and Not-for-Profit Category for her work for England’s coast and its communities.
  • Recognised as one of “30 under 30” global environmental leaders in 2020 by the North American Association for Environment Education. Emily was selected for her work to enable a wider range of people to enjoy and take action to protect our coasts and seas.
  • Led the LGA Coastal Special Interest Group, a group of 57 local authorities serving 60% of England’s coastline and 16 million people (2019-2022). Emily positioned the group as an influential and respected voice on coastal issues, co-founded the national OneCoast coalition and was joint Secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Coastal Communities.
  • Developed a £5m programme of marine conservation and education projects, the first of its kind in the UK (2016-2019)
    Emily led the programme development process, securing match funding and writing the successful Stage 1 application, securing £250,000 in development funding. She was then appointed as an advisor to the Partnership Board and contributed significantly to the documentation for the full Stage 2 bid. This pioneering scheme was awarded £2.78m funding in March 2020, see here.
  • Developed a major new conservation project on the Dee Estuary (2018-2021)
    Emily was commissioned to advise on project development and community consultation, and to write the (successful) Stage 1 funding bid. The project was awarded £101,400 development funding in late 2018. Emily was then a professional advisor to the development team and a full application was submitted in May 2021. £540,000 was awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in September 2021. Read the Stage 1 announcement here, including a quote from Emily.
  • Published new research on UK humpback whales with all data collected by volunteers. This research reported on the first ever photo-ID match of a UK humpback whale to their Arctic feeding grounds and suggests that British seas act as a migratory stopover/alternative destination for migrating humpback whales. Read Emily’s paper, published in Marine Biodiversity Records, here.
  • Co-led research expeditions to Sicily and the Azores to collect samples for the study of population genetics of Bottlenose Dolphins and Yellowmouth Barracuda.
  • Led a marine ecology field course in Indonesia (2019)
    Emily delivered lectures and led surveys covering the ecology and conservation of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses and sea turtles.
  • Emily has presented her work at the UK’s Coastal Futures Conference, the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5) in Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo) and at the 2018 European Marine Science Educators Association (EMSEA) conference in Newcastle (England).


Say hello

Contact emily@emilycunningham.co.uk

Emily’s in depth and practical knowledge of marine conservation has provided invaluable insight to SeaScapes.  During our scoping meetings, I appreciate Emily’s encouraging and attentive approach, which often results in innovative ideas and solutions being developed.  I could not be more pleased with her suggestions and guidance and I feel comforted being in expert hands. Emily is destined for great things and will no doubt be a forerunner in the marine conservation industry.

Veronica Rudd, SeaScapes Development Manager
Emily is an advisor to the SeaScapes Partnership Board and Development Team.


Client Feedback

Emily is an inspiring young marine professional. Her passion, knowledge and commitment to marine wildlife is admirable. I have worked with Emily on a variety of coastal projects and each time she has proven herself to be dependable, organised and delivers quality pieces of work. As a marine conservationist, Emily has found her ultimate purpose in life – she loves it, is great at it, gets paid for it… and the world needs it!

Sarah Bennett, Area Manager, Cheshire Wildlife Trust
Emily worked with Cheshire Wildlife Trust to develop a programme of projects, providing guidance on community consultation and writing the Stage 1 bid.


Client Feedback