Enjoying the sunshine back at Bath Uni!
Education:Dubai College, UAE; Winton School, Andover, UK; Cricklade College, Andover, UK; Winchester School of Art, UK; Southampton University, UK; Sussex University, UK; Bath University, UK
Qualifications:PreDegree Diploma in Fine Art Painting; 4-year Masters of Oceanography; PGCE in Secondary Science Teaching (Physics); (almost) a PhD in Phytoplankton Dynamics
Work History:Physical Oceanographer at Emu Ltd Environmental Surveyors; Assistant Head of Science / Head of Physics at Oriel High School, Crawley; Presenter / Educational consultant at Incredible Oceans
Post-graduate researcher in Phytoplankton Dynamics
Despite being a marine biologist, I am in the Architecture & Civil Engineering Department at University of Bath. A lot of my research can be applied to water quality and water management in reservoirs as plankton can produce nasty chemicals in water that make it taste gross. So i work alongside other civil engineers to find ways of improving water quality.
My connections to STFC science and technology:
I was invited to speak at the STFC with a public science talk called Exploring The Deep: ocean vs space. It looked at which environment is harder to visit; turns out it's harder to explore underwater!
Favourite thing to do in my job: Visit countries all over the world, speaking to people & messing around on boats
I live in Bristol but work in Bath so I have to cycle up the steepest hill ever to get up to Bath Uni. I enjoy playing guitar and used to play in a punk band; we toured Europe 4 times (3 times we only used public transport). I have recently learned to freedive (hardcore snorkelling) and have held my breath for 3mins 32seconds. I can also burp on command.
I look at how the shape of plankton helps them survive in different environments
Plankton are tiny plants and animals that live in the world’s waterways; every river, lake, puddle, pond, sea and ocean has got plankton floating in it. I study PHYTOplankton which are the microscopic plants. Phytoplankton produce 80% of the oxygen that keeps us alive, form the basis of 99.9% marine food webs, form clouds and reduce the effect of global warming by absorbing CO2. So they’re pretty important.
I’m trying to find out how their shape plays a part in helping different species survive in different environments. I get populations of phytoplankton and put them in large tanks called mesocosms. I then subject them to different conditions and see which species survive. I then scan and count them using different types of microscopes. I am hoping to produce 3D printed models of different species so I can test how different shapes perform hydrodynamically. Fingers crossed it’ll work!
I have recently come back from working in the Weddell Sea (nr Antarctica) with the British Antarctic Survey where I was learning new techniques to measure mixing in the ocean. We accidentally discovered an underwater mountain the size of one of the Alps.
My Typical Day
Processing data and writing stuff!
Being a marine scientist, you tend to spend an intensive period out in the field gathering data. Sometimes, you are working as part of a team to sample things for 24-hours a day over a two-week period. Once you have your data, it’s a case of trying to see if there’s a pattern or a story in what you measured.
This can involve a lot of time staring at a computer screen or holed up in a lab as you process all the data you’ve got. Some of the data sets we produce are so large that they won’t even fit in Excel; most of them are multidimensional (difficult to imagine with a tiny human brain) so I have to write computer code to help me process all the data and see if there’s any patterns!
What I'd do with the prize money
An awesome plankton show in schools!
I’ve put together a talk called “Sea Soup – why you should care about plankton” – I performed it at Cheltenham Science Festival and Wilderness Festival. It involves dressing up in silly costumes and showing off how amazing plankton are. It is accompanied by an awesome plankton workshop where pupils get to analyse seawater and discover the plankton that lives in there using microscopes. I would use the prize money to take my talk / workshop to as many deserving schools as possible!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
excitable, easily distracted
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
growing up next to the sea in Dubai
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
I wanted to work in the dump
Were you ever in trouble at school?
All the time
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
At the moment, I'm loving the new Bilge Pump album
What's your favourite food?
Ceviche (raw fish that is "cooked" using lemon juice) or oysters
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Toured across the Balkan states with my punk band
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To lead a happy & worthwhile life; to understand maths better; for my hair to grow back
Tell us a joke.
Knock knock. (who's there?). Europe. (Europe who?). No; you're a poo!