An Essex graduate has been named as one of the BBC’s 100 Women of 2023 for her work in environmental conservation.

Marine scientist and Essex graduate, Dr Leanne Cullen-Unsworth, is one of the founders and current CEO of Project Seagrass, one of the UK's first seagrass restoration schemes.

She obtained her PhD in Biological Sciences in 2007 and has since dedicated her career to studying the importance of seagrass systems across the world.

She said: “My seagrass journey actually started during my PhD research out of the University of Essex.

“I connected with seagrass accidentally, back in the early 2000s researching marine resource use patterns in the Wakatobi in Indonesia for my PhD.

“I had no idea that seagrass was relied on by so many people, and that it sustained life and lifestyles to such an extent.

“Everywhere there is seagrass, there are people that depend on it.

“Now is the time for us to work even harder at sharing our message on the importance of nature for humanity and why we need to do more to protect and repair our beautiful world.

“Seagrass for me is an ideal example of a habitat that we can use to clearly demonstrate human-nature compatibility, because we’re not something separate from nature, we are a part of it."

Project Seagrass works to improve the process of restoring seagrass by using a remote-control robot to plant seeds, a method which could create a blueprint to help other countries restore their underwater meadows.

Dr Cullen-Unsworth added: “It blows my mind a little bit how far we’ve come in the past ten years, and how much the profile of seagrass has been raised since my PhD days.

“I'm now driven to keep fighting for our beautiful world by my own children, and their generation who continually inspire me.”

Seagrass meadows support healthy fishing grounds, providing essential nourishment to nearly three billion people, besides yielding 50 per cent of animal protein to 400 million people in developing nations.

A third of the world's seagrass meadows have disappeared over the past century.