Monday 19 August 2013

An afterthought...

Clonk and I, pre release, Oxwich bay.
So after my super successful first blog (64 page views in an hour wahoooo), I thought I should explain a little about the title of my blog. Self explanatory, but also a cute story.

During my undergraduate degree, Dr. Emma Wootton, a postdoc in my lab was my 'mentor' (basically she told me what to do and taught me to love all things lobster), and introduced me to a Swansea lobster, which she had named Clonk.

All of the lobsters in our aquarium were either from the Lundy Island MCZ, or born at the Padstow Lobster Hatchery and reared in CSAR, the university's aquaculture facility. The only lobsters that were reported to have the parasites seemed to be the Lundy ones, so to test this theory, Emma got hold of a lobster from the Swansea area and brought him back.

However, it seemed that he didn't want to moult, so we couldn't check him for the parasites (visible on the gills only), and when he did, he did it in the dead of night, usually on a weekend, so that nobody was there to check, and then ate his moult before we arrived on the Monday. Basically, he was a right pain!

At first, Clonk was put in the big tank with all the other wild caught lobsters (banded, of course), but after a few weeks we had to put him in solitary confinement. Not only did he start fights with nearly all of the other lobsters, he stole their food too. Long story short, ASBO lobster was put in his own tank, where he happily munched on mussels by himself, regained his claw power after having his bands taken off, and clonked the side of the tank loudly whenever anyone went into the 'lobster room', because he was an attention seeking little monster.

Foot Clonk.
Naturally, when it came to me getting my first ever tattoo, it had to be a lobster, and who else better than Clonk to be the star of the show? After a drunken discussion with friends one evening about how I should definitely man up, stop talking about getting one, and just get one, I took a photo of my beloved lobster to the tattoo shop and 24 hours later was branded for life (Eek!).

At the end of May, Emma left the university for a career in horticulture, her other passion in life, and we were all very sad to see her go. She agreed that she would miss us too, but mainly the lobsters, as they are much easier to get on with than humans, and it came to my attention that we had been holding onto Clonk a little too long. The parasite experiments were long over, and since we couldn't release the Lundy ones around Swansea, the only one we could release was Clonk. I figured that he was the most aggressive lobster ever, so he would definitely be able to look after himself, and I v-notched him just to be sure he wouldn't end up back in the pot straight away.

As ever the social media fanatic, I decided to document his journey to freedom, along with some friends so that I could show the world, but mainly Emma, his final journey, via youtube ...

As usual.. you can tweet me @_CharlotteEve_, or check me out on LinkedIn.

The life and times of lobster girl...

Okay so I know I've been threatening to start up a blog for quite a while, but this time I really mean it! What is this change of heart in aid of, I hear you ask? Well, I only went and got a travel scholarship didn't I... Clever girl. But first, for those who don't know me... let me introduce myself.

To my friends back home it may seem that I have been partying in Swansea for the last *ahem*.. 6 years, but in amongst all that dancing, beach BBQ-ing and surfing, I managed to obtain a Biology degree (hurrah!) and am now well on my way to getting a PhD and becoming a doctor (Oooh!).

Sampling on a commercial fishing vessel near Devon.
On the other side of things, there are my friends in Swansea, who simply know me as 'Lobster girl.. that girl that does lobster stuff... the one with the lobster tattoo!' No, I am not some sort of magical superhero with giant claws for weapons, but a lobster pathologist looking into all things fatal and disastrous to our beloved European lobster (Homarus gammarus, for you science geeks out there). I am passionate about disease susceptibility, with special reference to impacts of invasive species (yes, I'm talking about you, you pesky Americans). I am also a huge supporter of sustainable fisheries, rather than banning fishing altogether (sorry Hugh)... and am interested in the implementation of MPA's, especially how disease susceptibility might change within conservation areas.

How did I get into this line of work? Well, it's all down to my lovely supervisor, Prof. Andrew Rowley (who never updates his website, it seems), who offered me a lobster project for my dissertation as I neared the end of my bachelors degree, simply for being in his office at the right time, looking at a 'new' parasite that fishermen had been finding on lobsters around a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). Naturally, the two modules I had decided against taking that year were Parasitology and Cell and Immunobiology, so as you can see, it started off well. Not.

Lobster research in the UK is limited, the real hub of activity is based at IMR, Norway, whereas American lobster research is a vast area, spanning all over the US and Canada. As I started my PhD my first 'project' was a collaboration with the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts, where they are nearly as lobster mad as me. It was a match made in heaven.

Some of my baby research subjects. 
At the moment I am back to looking at parasites (should have taken that module...), which is really interesting, and I will keep you updated, but I am also starting up a new collaboration with the AVC Lobster Science Centre, in Canada, this coming fall.

I have been lucky enough to get two travel scholarships, one from the Society of Biology  and one from Climate Change Consortium for Wales (C3W),  and so I commence my travels in September. On top of the trip to Canada I am heading down to NEAQ to tie up some loose ends, and having a cheeky couple of nights in NYC before heading to Virginia to visit my amazing friends Tessa and Rebecca, who interned this summer at our department in Swansea.

I do hope to keep everyone updated with my antics (and frantic preparation, packing and tie-ing up of loose ends here at Swansea), but guaranteed I will forget and you will be reading my next blog at some point in 2015.

In the meantime, you can tweet me @_CharlotteEve_, or check me out on LinkedIn.