Thursday 3 October 2013

No foxes... but lobsters!

Squirrel. I think.
This week has been a bit crazy, and I'm feeling a super long blog coming on (sorry!), but rejoice, for this time you'll be happy to see that I have curated some photographs! Unfortunately for Luca, there are none of white-tailed foxes, but I do have a squirrel (well, at least I think it's a squirrel - it was rather small, but I'm guessing that's because I'm so used to those huge grey things that run around Singleton Park...). Foxes pending.

I want to start with a bit of a disclaimer... I have been the centre of some media attention these past couple of days, which is great for sharing my research, and I am very happy to share the the stories online, there is one from the University here, and one from the Western Mail here. However, this has also made me realise how the media can twist your words... I would like to say that lobsters DO NOT need 'saving'... in the print version of the Western Mail, it states that I am in Canada to help save the lobsters.. no idea where they got that from. To be honest, lobsters are doing a pretty good job of looking after themselves. I even told the reporter that he wasn't to write anything of that sort, as I am worried about scaremongering fishermen. I would also like to point out that I am working at the foreFRONT of research in my field.. not with the foreRUNNERs.... anyhow, rant over.

I have also been contacted by Wales Online, and the Denbighshire Free Press, so look out for those articles.. (Think I'm a bit scared to be honest..).

The Fall Flavours Farmers Market.
Over the weekend I got to explore a little more - it was the Fall Flavours Farmers Market down town, which was amazing - they had all sorts of food and arts stalls, as well as a petting zoo?! I also took a walk to Victoria Park.. but I am starting to feel a little cabin-fever-ish. PEI is a relatively small island so you'd think that it would be easy to explore via public transport, but it turns out that it's not as easy as you think (unless you have a car, which I don't!). I've heard that other towns worth seeing are Cavendish (of Anne of Green Gables fame), and Souris, both of which are over half an hour away, and there are no local regular buses, only private shuttles which run once or twice a day and are extortionately priced. I mainly want to get out to Souris as I hear it has beautiful beaches, and boat trips that promise whale watching. The fluffy marine biologist in me is dying to get out there! 

The rusty red dirt.
My housemate, Renee, a veterinary student, has just had her car brought up from New Hampshire by her dad, and she has invited me to go apple picking to a place called York this weekend, so I'm excited to go and explore! She also told me it was definitely worth checking out the red cliffs.. but we are yet to discover where they are. The soil on PEI is famous for it's red colour, this is due to the high iron-oxide (rust) content... Adam told me today that it's havoc for cars, and they have to buy second hand cars from off of the island because with the rust, and the sea air... cars don't last long!

Dinner! I mean... research subjects.
So, real highlight of the week so far.... I got to see an American lobster, in the flesh, for the very first time (Oooooooooh, aaaaaaaaah!). Adam, who has been helping me in the lab, brought a male and a female in as we needed some blood for the DNA extractions I am trying to optimise. Naturally, I had my camera handy... and was fascinated. It's cool to be able to see the differences between the lobsters here and the ones back home. Whilst the main difference is the colour (European = blue/black, American = brown/red), there are also other differences, such as the American lobster having an extra spine on the lower rostrum (the 'nose'). The spikes on the claws, as well as the underside of claws, are a bright shade of orange/red, rather than the creamy white/pink colour of the European ones. I couldn't stop looking at them, and as always, got a bit sad when we had to bleed them (I need to man up and be a scientist...).

Since I have never actually eaten lobster before (the horror!), over here they think that's so strange because it's so popular and readily available. I was able to take home the two lobsters, for my dinner.. and Renee has promised to help me cook them (she loves lobster), but I'm not so sure how I feel about eating them! I will keep you posted on dinner plans...

Taking some haemolymph (that's lobster blood).
In other news, the 'science' is going great, I am doing some DNA extractions so I can test some primers, and doing lots of reading. Everyone has been so helpful, and I am actually really excited to go back home and start my experiments, now that I have a solid plan. I am also really excited because I have been in contact with another lobster professor, from Virginia (the last stop of my trip), and we are going to meet and discuss my plans - just so I can have the perspective of another scientist - he might have some additions or changes I could make to my plans, or even just some advice. May seem like overkill, but I just want to make the most out of my time over here... it is, after all, a once in a lifetime experience!

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