Saturday 21 September 2013

I'm here, I'm here, I'm here!

So, I got here in one piece.

As per usual, I left all of my travel arrangements until last minute, I only yesterday bought my Canadian dollars, and bus home from the airport in November.... doh.

Me and the lobbies having our close up.
Eventful week, having to travel home to get some essentials, say goodbye to family and friends, and then on Wednesday, perhaps a little stupidly, I had agreed (weeks ago) to take part in filming for a commercial for Swansea University. Only realising how close to my departure date it was at the weekend, I started to panic a bit. I spent 12 hours being followed around Swansea by a camera crew (insert red face here) - but it was a lovely day and we managed to get out on the departmental boat; Noctiluca, to get some shots of me 'catching' some lobsters, and measuring them, before they were taken back to my lab.

My unorganised-ness doesn't extend to everything, I have been lucky enough to be able to organise a volunteer to look after my lobsters whilst I'm away. Sarah, a Marine Biologist entering her third year, is going to be feeding and checking on them with the help of Amanda, another PhD student in my lab, so I don't have to worry about the welfare of my 'babies'.

Smallest plane in the world.
Anyway, back to Canada! After a 5am start, bus to Heathrow from Swansea, then flight to Charlottetown via Halifax, I am currently sat in a beautiful room sipping green tea and nibbling on a Hershey bar (priorities, guys), however, being me, I've had a couple of mishaps already - first I forgot to pick up my Canadian money from the travelex shop before I went through security in Heathrow... and only remembered when I was sat at my boarding gate, 20 minutes before the flight (Apparently you're only allowed to pick up money from the designated shop...), but after a mini panic and a visit to 3 different travelex shops I found a nice man who managed to log into the system and retrieve my money.

The flight to Charlottetown from halifax was on the TINIEST plane I have EVER seen! It only had 18 seats and one pilot, and I was sat with a bunch of ladies on a hen-do, so funny!

Zephyr, one of my hosts cats.
I've already ventured out to the supermarket to get some supplies, and I'm going to a farmers market tomorrow, on the recommendation of Lyndsey, my host. I am also joining a yoga class, it's 'hot yoga' - so a bit like bikram... I've done it before and not really enjoyed it, but she said this isn't quite sauna-hot, and that I should give it a go and see if I like it.. exciting! 

I am getting a little nervous about going to University on Monday. I skyped Professor Greenwood yesterday, and we spoke about real-time PCR, and some new techniques I might be learning, so I'm really excited to see what he has in store for me.

Persephone, the other cat.
I should probably take a moment to tell you all what it is exactly that I am doing in Canada... as you know I'm interested in all things lobster, especially disease. There is a devastating disease called Gaffkaemia (Gaffkemia if you're American), which affects lobsters in both the US and UK. It is caused by a bacteria, Aerococcus viridans var. homari, is extremely contagious and is exacerbated by warmer temperatures, so thrives in lobster impounds. There are all sorts of antibiotics and contingency plans available as it is a well studied area, but there is one thing that I am particularly interested in, and that is virulence. The bacterium seems to have a virulent and avirulent form, and as thus far, there is no screening method which can differentiate between the two. PCR, and gaff broth (PEA or Phenylethyl alcohol broth) are methods used to test for the disease, however I have found that the broth gives alot of false negatives and vice versa, and the PCR is not sensitive enough to differentiate between virulence. Prof. Greenwood and his team have been looking at Gaffkaemia for a few years and I am keen to learn anything about the disease, including new screening techniques that I may use back home.

This weekend I plan to explore the Island a little, and do some reading before I begin work on Monday, so I will keep you all updated...

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