14 Feb 2024
by Dr Sam Andrews

Better together: new co-chair encourages relevance and value

Dr Charitha Pattiaratchi, Professor of Coastal Oceanography at the University of Western Australia, joins IMarEST Fellow Tim Chesher as co-chair of the Coastal Science and Engineering Special Interest Group (CSESIG). 

When Charitha (Chari) Pattiaratchi joined the CSESIG two years ago, he found himself connected to a diverse and international community. “[What I’ve enjoyed most is] meeting different people that I would not normally come into contact with, sharing ideas, teaching others, and learning from them,” he explains. 

Those opportunities to meet and interact with others have been, in large part, thanks to Tim Chesher, who has been leading the CSESIG since setting it up in April 2021. 

“Running a SIG is very rewarding, but it does take work, especially if you want the SIG to be active,” says Chesher, who also works full-time at AECOM as the Associate Director - Ports and Marine. 

Keeping an SIG active during and after Covid proved especially challenging.  

“During Covid, everything went very quiet, of course. We started to see fewer people coming to the meetings, and the SIG wasn’t organising as many activities,” Chesher explains. 

Since then, Chesher has been working hard to reboot the SIG and put on extra activities, online lunch-and-learn style events and joint workshops with other SIGs, for example. 

“A lot of the large SIGs have co-chairs, but I’ve been running the CSESIG solo, and it’s a great benefit to have the support and expertise of Professor Chari on board as co-chair.” 

An extra hand on deck 

In mid-2022, Chesher reached out to the CSESIG to see if anyone would be willing to step up and help drive the SIG forward as co-chair. 

“I thought I would put my hand up,” says Pattiaratchi. By late 2022, Pattiaratchi formally accepted the position. “Suddenly, I had this weight lifted off my shoulders,” states Chesher. “It’s going to be a big boost to the SIG. We’ll be able to do a lot more.” 

“Leading and directing [a] SIG that people will feel is valuable to be part of,” is something Pattiaratchi is very much looking forward to. “This means that we have to be proactive to select topics that are of relevance at present.” 

Alongside looking at potential SIG activities, Pattiaratchi says that one of his first tasks as co-chair has been to “learn how the SIGs fall into the general scheme of IMarEST”. With the support of Chesher as well as IMarEST staff, such as Technical and Policy Executive Victoria Mentor, Pattiaratchi is already well on his way. 

Recent activities and on the horizon for 2024 

In the second half of 2023, the CSESIG actively supported a webinar hosted by Fugro and IMarEST on the subject of ‘Tackling risks in coastal infrastructure development’ primarily focused on the offshore renewables sector, with Chesher joining the panel, and SIG member Ed Walker acting as moderator.  

Chesher also gave two lunch-and-learn webinars with IMarEST membership staff to inform IMarEST members at BAE Systems of the procedure for gaining Chartered status, while Walker led an informative webinar on the ‘Evolution in (offshore) UK electricity transmission’. 

“With the support of Chari, the SIG has also commenced revitalising the committee, with a request that these committee members take on a more active role of promoting the core goals of the SIG, primarily to inform and educate,” says Chesher. 

“[In] 2024, we are aiming to hold a webinar on marine plastic in collaboration with the Ocean Plastics and Marine Litter SIG, and we have plans for a webinar on BORA - the Blue Ocean Research Alliance® - so it’s exciting times ahead!” 

Discover more about the CSESIG and how to join


Main image: Dr Charitha Pattiaratchi; credit: Dr Charitha Pattiaratchi