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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge
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    Dr David Willer

    Department of Zoology,
    The David Attenborough Building
    Pembroke Street
    CB2 3QZ

    Henslow Research Fellow in Zoology



    Degrees & Honours

    • PhD Zoology, University of Cambridge
    • BA & MA Natural Sciences (1st), University of Cambridge

    Research Interests

    David is building and supervising a research team focussed on innovation in underexploited and high potential fish and seafood sectors to benefit human health and environmental sustainability as well as thought leadership to guide policy.

    A key component of work is the development of novel ‘breakthrough’ aquaculture production systems. Much of this work focusses on bivalve shellfish – clams, mussels, and oysters – which are rich in protein, omega-3, and essential micronutrients, and have a lower environmental footprint than meat and many terrestrial crops. For example we are investigating the development of a new ‘Naked Clam’ aquaculture sector, involving shell-less clams which feed on wood and grow an order of magnitude faster than other bivalves. The team is also looking at developing ‘Urban Bivalve’ production systems to enable production of bivalves more rapidly, to a higher quality and food safety level, and to enable access in new locations. David collaborates with innovative global food manufacturers on research across the supply chain to help bring bivalve-based foods to the consumer mass market.

    David also looks at mechanisms that could be used to drive demand of sustainable nutritious fish and seafood in place of other meat and fish products. Behavioural choice experiments have been run across University Canteens, aiming to find ways to increase consumption of sustainable bivalves and low-trophic fish. Other areas under investigation include the importance of processing to drive mass-market consumption of bivalves, the role of fish and seafood in mother, baby and brain health, and systems to drive consumption of underutilised components and by-products of fish and seafood.

    David works extensively on thought leading policy related projects which aim to improve the global sustainability and performance of fishery and aquaculture food systems.  This includes developing new metrics and tools to assess production efficiency and footprint in for example in high-value finfish aquaculture and cephalopod fisheries.  It also includes projects aiming to better define our global marine activities in order to more effectively enforce policy. This work also helps to inform team work on seafood production and demand to ensure that it is highly relevant and makes wise use of resources.


    David maintains a passion for fitness and the outdoors, competes in multisport and adventure races, and is a Health Coach and Mountain Leader. David enjoys supervising students and seeing them achieve their potential through research projects. He believes ‘effective research culture should promote breakthrough innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, focussed on output with high societal benefit and researcher wellbeing as part of a vibrant scientific community.’