Octavia Brayley


  • Co-head of Education and Outreach, 2023-2024
  • Education Officer, 2022-2023



I am a PhD student at the University of Birmingham and British Antarctic where I am investigating the effects of an invasive species of insect, Eretmoptera murphyi, on the ecology of Signy Island in Antarctica. My research utilises biogeochemical techniques to analyse soil samples to investigate how E.murphyi (originally native to South Georgia) is impacting the island’s terrestrial nutrient availability, DNA sequencing and “omics” technologies to identify specific genes that enable the insects to survive in such extreme conditions, and to analyse the gut microbiome of E.murphyi for the identification of specific bacteria that facilitate its role as a decomposer. I also hope to make predictions about how climate change may affect the distribution of this invasive species and to work with stakeholders to develop new strategies to mitigate future invasions occurring along the continent.

Alongside my PhD, I work as a science tutor and I have six years of experience, including teaching Biology at Harrow School in London from 2021-22. Alongside this role, I am also a school governor at King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls in Birmingham, a STEM ambassador, and I lecture internationally on cruise lines to large audiences on polar biology, climate change, and other wildlife-related topics. Additionally, I’m a passionate animal rights activist and I was recently a volunteer writer for Sentient Media.

I’m thrilled to be working with the UKPN team as the Co-Head of Education this year. We will be working on educational resources for primary and secondary schools that will soon be accessible on the UKPN website, we are excited to continue working on our Antarctic Flag and Polar Pen Pals projects, and we will be working with the social media officer to create some engaging and informative polar content. We also have an exciting new connection with Polar Educators International and we are excited to see what associated opportunities and ideas arise throughout the year.