This was fun guys! Have a nice weekend all!
I went to school in Germany and then studied marine biology in Scotland! I went to Australia to do a masters and now I work in Belfast!
Masters in Marine and Freshwater Biology
I had lots of jobs like working in a cafe, cleaning hotels, working on a farm…. Now I am a marine scientist at Queen’s University Belfast.
I am a marine biologist investigating food webs (who eats who!) in marine environments all around the UK. ***To find out what animal in the sea shore you would be, take the quiz click here***
I am trying to understand how food webs change in different locations and times a year.
The areas I am working in – mud flats and sandy areas – can be quite challenging, check out my work mate Justin trying to remove a pole we stick our nets on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Qoi1wrDU3g
To understand the food webs I have been sampling all over the place, inluding Essex mud flats, Morecambe Bay, huge expanses of white sand, dangerous tides and quick sand.
Lough Foyle, Carlingford lough and Belfast, where we found some amazing species, including the critically endangered European eel:
At the moment I am sampling Lough Carlingford every two months, because I want to understand how the food webs change at different times in the year. I am asking questions like: Are there less animals in winter (I think so!), What are herbivores feeding on in winter when there is no algae (I am not sure!), and when do most animals breed (In late summer I think.).
To understand food webs I need to know which animals live in the mud and the water above I need to catch them. To do that I use nets that I leave out at low tide and then collect after the high tide. To understand what lives in the mud I collect sediment and identify the animals I find in them.
Sometimes I also get to help out with other research projects, some of them in amazing locations like Egypt, Ecuador and Bolivia. Here is a picture of me in a coral reef in Egypt.
My Typical Day
There no such thing as a typical day, every day is different, but there is always a lot to do!
When I am doing fieldwork…
These can be very long days, but its lovely to be out at the seashore when the sun is shining. Sometimes things get quite muddy….
6am: Getting up early and driving to the sampling site. I usually have people helping me out with the fieldwork, because it can be quite exhausting.
8am: Arrive at the site and meet our research partners from the Loughs Agency. These guys are helping us with the sampling. Sometimes we get to drive the Polaris, which is an awesome caterpillar vehicle!
8am – 3pm: Fieldwork: Putting nets out on the mudflat or collecting nets, collecting and sieving mud, getting stuck in mud. We use sledges to transport our materials between the sites.
3-5pm: Drive back home to Belfast.
5-7pm: Having a very big dinner with my field assistants, we deserve it!
In the lab…
I am sharing a lab with other researchers, but have my own little corner where I have all my stuff.
Here a video of my lab:
After coming back from fieldwork there is always a lot work to do! Often I spend days trying to identify tiny worms in the sediment, which can be really difficult. I also have to measure animals caught in the nets (fish and crabs) to find out how big they are and dissect them to check their stomachs to find out what they have been eating. That’s always a little bit smelly and my colleagues avoid the lab when I do that.
In the office…
Whenever I am in the office I work at the computer a lot: typing in results, writing up my work, reading scientific papers and drinking a lot of coffee.
There are about nine other researchers in my office, which is nice (sometimes distracting), because there is always someone to chat with.
What I'd do with the prize money
Get pupils plan and complete their own experiment and bring the mud to schools!
I would ask pupils to split up in teams to conduct their own study allowing them to discover which animals can be found in our coasts!
Together we will think about experiments that will allow us to answer questions like: What lives in sand compared to mud, are there different animals lower on shore than higher on shore, or what animals can be found in summer and winter? I will give pupils given limited time and resources (just like my work!) to plan how they would do field work to answer any questions they are interested in.
Then I would go out to the field to collect the mud and bring it back to school to give pupils the chance to sieve through it and identify the peculiar creepy crawlers in lab to answer the questions they asked.
At the end each group to give a small poster presentation, just like it would be at a real scientific conference!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, creative, chaotic
What did you want to be after you left school?
I always wanted to be marine biologist or an archaeologist.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes, once my teacher called my mum because said in class that I wanted to be a pirate and my best friend and me had drawn up plans for a ship and gotten maps to sail to the Bermuda triangle.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Changes all the time, but Ben Howard at the moment!
What's your favourite food?
Macaroni and cheese, but with lots of vegetables in it.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Surfing in France!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. To be always excited about what I do 2. To have free coffee in any coffee shop in the world 3. To see orcas in the wild
Tell us a joke.
Why did the lobster blush?… Because the sea weed