Thursday 6 February 2014

Changing homes (not just the lobsters.. )

Home sweet home. My favourite sand dunes at Oxwich.
So, as ever, here I was promising to keep up with my blog but failing miserably! I've been back well over a month now, and it's been hectic to say the least.

To give you all a bit of a whirldwind tour of my life over the past few weeks, it has consisted of a job interview 2 days after landing in Heathrow, getting said job (wahoo!) and moving house to the Student Village. This is because the job was a live-in dealio (Welfare Warden with the university), which is perfect timing as a job-less self funded PhD student returning from an expensive trip.

I've been doing a lot of demonstrating and marking (Level 1 Cell Biology, Animal diversity, Bioethics and Plant Physiology) and have even given lectures to third year students (Level 3 Diseases of Aquatic Animals), a presentation called 'The diseases of the large-clawed lobsters, Homaridae.' -if you want a copy, just get in touch! Aside from all the extra curricular stuff I have sent off 2 papers for publication (shell disease work which I did during the first/second year of my PhD), one of which was published last week, and am currently writing one from some work I did just before Canada on lobster blood physiology. Phew!

Christmas came and went at a rate of knots (slow down, time!), and as I am now officially a third year PhD student, the panic has set in slightly. After the guys in Canada sent the samples which I had been working on over there, I have been trying to optimise a DNA extraction method in order to get total DNA of pathogens from lobster blood (bacterial, viral and eukaryotic), and spiking control blood with different concentrations of pathogens to work out how sensitive my extraction is. After 4 weeks of tweaking different things - it worked. I rephrase that... IT REALLY ACTUALLY WORKED, YES!! (This is how I felt, but there was nobody in the lab to share my excitement with, so the world will have to do!) I felt like I wanted to move Christmas back a week, and finish all of my extractions (all 611 of them) before I went home... what a scrooge!

Hotpod Yoga Pod much like Ana's... 
In other news - if you know me then you'll know I've been a fan of yoga since I started a class in my first year, but when I travelled to India in 2010 and discovered the joys of Ashtanga, it really started. Whilst in Canada I discovered the Charlottetown Moksha yoga school, which is 'hot yoga' - a sort of vinyasa flow yoga in 39 degree (celcius!) heat - a lot of traditional 'yogis' see this franchise as a bit of a commercial rip off, but considering I hadn't had a solid practise in a few months, I thought it would be nice to get into a routine again, and the heat really helped with relaxing and my flexibility. Back here in Swansea, my yoga teacher at the YMCA in Swansea, Ana Chidzoy, recently bought a giant pop up hot yoga tent and has started offering Hotpod Yoga - similar to the yoga I did in Canada, but the studio is not heated, just the tent is - this gives it a cosier, relaxed atmosphere and it's pretty dark, so you don't feel like you're being watched by anyone. The yoga is a mixture of Ashtanga, vinyasa flow and some Yin, Ana likes to mix it up with each session, and each week there is a different essential oil in the aroma diffusers in the pod - this week, it was Eucalyptus, with all the colds flying around it was nice to be able to breathe. Obviously as I am now in the last year of my PhD, things can get a little intense sometimes, so it's nice to take an hour or so out of each day, relax, let go of any stress or worries.

I have also been doing a lot of walking and exploring - I recently walked from Mumbles to Oxwich with a new PhD student in our department who has come from doing an MRes at the Exeter University's Falmouth campus to study vulture behaviour.

I have also been having some fun with my baby lobsters. Since getting them in June last year they are ever-growing, and I am trying to speed up the process in order to get them to experimental size. I modified some pipette tip boxes and filled them with gravel, which gave the lobsters something to occupy themselves with. It has been stated in literature that they will not develop their classic 'cutter' and 'crusher' claws without things to manipulate - so I decided to observe them over a few weeks. What I saw was really fun and interesting, they love moving their piles of gravel, and even though they are so small, the difference weekly was striking. Check out the following pictures where you can see their handiwork - much like little interior decorators!

DIY lobster homes..

Immediately after re-housing the lobsters into their new tip-box homes.

After 1 week.

After 2 weeks.

After 3 weeks.

After 4 weeks. 

Cool how it changes week by week, hey?! Since I took these photos over a month long period, the lobsters have grown significantly, started developing their claw differentiations, so they've had to be re-housed yet again.

So much room for activities!!
Anyhow, that's 4 months in a nutshell... stay tuned for another blog about my most recent paper, lobster invasive species and disease susceptibility... Exciting!

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