Category Archives: MSc

4 year structured PhD position (funded)

There is a huge resource of biological recording data being collected by a wide range of people: for example, citizen scientists, specialist recording volunteers, scientific field data. These data contain valuable information on ecosystem biodiversity and how it is changing through time. However, the data also contain many confounding factors, such as variation from place to place in the intensity of recording (the recorder effort). How best should these data be used to guide conservation and policy? Are these data reliable for detecting changes in a species’ numbers? How does citizen biological recording data compare to targeted monitoring schemes?

This PhD will study assess existing approaches to the analysis of biological recording data that aim to correct for confounding factors (e.g. FRESCALO, Good-Turing estimators or occupancy-detection models), develop new spatial statistics for estimating species richness and species turnover and apply these approaches to biological records data in Ireland.

The PhD candidate will be based at UCD for 4-years. The candidate should have a minimum of a 2.1 undergraduate science degree (or equivalent) with a strong quantitative background (a BSc. in a quantitative subject or a biological science degree with evidence of strong quantitative skills). The student will have the chance to work with the three postdocs on the project, the three PIs and project collaborators.

The PhD is under the supervision Dr Jon Yearsley (UCD), with co-supervisors Dr Tomas Murray (National Biodiversity Data Centre) and Dr Dinara Sadykova (Queen’s University Belfast). The PhD position is in collaboration with the National Biodiversity Data Centre in Waterford (http://www.biodiversityireland.ie/), and will involve a work placement at the data centre.

The position comes with a consumables budget, a stipend of 18,000 euro per year and 5,500 euro per year towards fees.

For further details of this post please contact: Jon Yearsley (Jon.Yearsley@ucd.ie)

To apply

To apply, send a current CV and a covering letter be sent to Jon Yearsley (Jon.Yearsley@ucd.ie) by Monday 21st December 2016

Sharks, skates and rays In the Offshore Region and Coastal zone of Scotland – Shark Tagging Database Developer

mastslogoclean

Announcement of Opportunity The MASTS Community Project SIORC announces a 3-month paid internship to overhaul a database on shark tagging data. The project is jointly funded by the MASTS Coastal Zone and Fisheries Fora. The internship is a unique opportunity to work with Scotland’s leading angling community the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network (SSACN), SIORC, and MASTS to enhance SSACN’s tagging database and increase user uptake for improved conservation and management of elasmobranchs.

Background Catch-and-release of sharks by sea anglers allows valuable data to be collected such as species, sex, size, and location, and recaptures yield data on migration, growth, health, and fidelity to an area. Between 2000 and 2016, the UK Shark Tagging Programme (UKSTP) built up over 17,000 data entries, the ownership and management of which has been transferred to the Scottish Shark Tagging Programme (run by SSACN) and the two data sets now need to be merged and standardised to maximise its utility for science, conservation and management of elasmobranchs. Data are mostly from 3 species of high value to anglers, including tope, blue shark and smoothhound. SSACN understands that anglers could be incentivised to continue to donate data if they could see their data being used and valued. The first step in addressing this issue is to overhaul SSACN’s dataset into a format that enhances user uptake.

Internship  The intern will receive training about angling data, sharks, and the database from SSACN and SIORC. The intern is expected to work at his or her own workplace 2-3 days/week fulltime on the project, and submit weekly updates and monthly progress reports to SIORC and SSACN to be shared with the Coastal Zone and Fisheries Fora. The intern will be tasked with standardising the database, producing a new online Google Earth tool and presenting the cleaned up database and map product at a dedicated MASTS half-day workshop that the intern will lead. The intern will be paid a fixed amount of £1,000 per month for 3 months, with payment upon receipt of a deliverable at the end of each month. Start date is flexible but anticipated to be 1 January 2017.

To apply Applicants must be affiliated to a MASTS institute (MASTS alumni included). Preference will be given to students and early career researchers. No experience with sharks is necessary, but interns must have strong skills in ArcGIS or QGIS, Google Earth, database management, working independently and must be confident public speakers.

Please send a letter of interest, your cv, and supporting statement from your supervisor allowing you to undertake the internship to SIORC co-ordinators, Dr. James Thorburn (j.thorburn@gmx.co.uk) and Dr. Lea-Anne Henry (l.henry@ed.ac.uk).

 

Link

One of our previous students Richard Cottrell  had his masters dissertation work published. His wife thought it was a bit impenetrable so she created this poem for his family.

http://farcefacts.tumblr.com/

Minke Whale Necropsy in the Eden Estuary

Balaenoptera acutorostrata? That sounds like hakuna matata!”

After an incredible time sailing around the sunny Hebrides on the Silurian, the MSc Marine Mammal Science class was back in St Andrews and ready to get stuck into our research theses for the final 3 months of the Masters course.

I’d just gotten off the bus, after traveling back from the Isle of Mull that afternoon, and was slowly walking home when my phone dinged and I saw a message saying “Minke Whale stranded on West Sands”.

After checking with classmates that it wasn’t a belated April Fools joke, a group of us jumped in the car and made our way to beach. At the very end of West Sands beach, we found a small huddle of people around the stranded whale. We were all sad to see that the Minke whaMinkeWhaleEntanlementMarks_SMASSle was already dead.

The corpse looked relatively fresh, with limited signs of decay or bloating. Initial observations made by the group pointed out signs of possible entanglement – most notably of which was a deep abrasion on the whales’ caudal peduncle (where the tail meets the body) as well as bruising and abrasions on its tail.

The tide was coming in so we all headed back home and waited with anticipation for the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme team to arrive from Inverness the following day to do a necropsy (i.e. an animal autopsy).

The tides moved the Minke Whale into the Eden Estuary overnight. Thus, upon arriving on Thursday morning, we waded out to the Minke whale and Kelly Macleod (Senior Marine Species Advisor at JIMG_0834_ClairEversNCC) tied a rope around its tail. We gently pulled the whale closer to shore in order to secure it in shallow water.

I had expected the whale to be heavy and difficult to maneuver, however the decomposing corpse had started to inflate with gas and thus it floated with surprising ease across the water surface. It was strange to think that it was easier to maneuver the whale than it was to simply stay warm in the nippy North Sea.

The team from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) arrived in the afternoon and set to work on taking the necessary measurements, skin and blubber samples from the Minke Whale.MinkeWhale_SMASS

Staff and students from the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) donned blue plastic gloves – ready to help in any way we could – and watched in fascination as the SMASS team investigated the carcass.

Some notable memories of the day –

  • People’s reaction to the rotting gas being released from the whale. Whilst this is not a very jovial thought or memory, it definitely had an immediate effect on the onlookers as the whooshing noise and pungent smell had people quickly shimmying upwind.
  • Seeing the lungs immersed in a substantial amount of seawater within the whale. These observations were consistent with the animal becoming caught in a rope and, being unable to surface and breathe, quickly drowning.
  • Noting that the muscle was not as dark as that of the Pilot Whales (which we had seen during the necropsy in October). We realized that this is due to the fact Minke whales do not generally dive as deep as pilot whales and thus do not need to store as much myoglobin (and thus oxygen) in their body.
  • Cutting into the whale’s eye and exploring the lens held within – which was slightly cloudy (an indication of cataracts).
  • Exploring internal sections of the whale – including the ‘pluck’ (composed of the trachea, heart and lungs), pelvic bones, inner ear bone and goose beak (a modified larynx).

The SMASS team concluded that the sub-adult Minke whale died of recent, acute entanglement and otherwise appeared to be healthy – however they highlighted that it is important to confirm this with additional testing (from the samples they had taken).

For example – looking at the contents within the whale’s stomach can reveal what the Minke whale had recently been eating and eMinkeWhale_0867_ClairEversxamination of the inner ear bone can indicate the extent of underwater noise that the whale had been exposed to.

Additionally, a necropsy can provide insight into the whale’s general health by assessing its body condition, signs of disease and the presence and abundance of parasites.

It was a very surreal and sad event, especially after we all had had such incredible encounters with Minke whales just a few days previously on the West Coast.

Alas, entanglement is the most common cause of death diagnosed in Minke whales, causing around 32% of mortalities for the species and most frequently in creel lines. Whale entanglement is a worldwide problem and it is therefore imperative to examine such cases when possible to better understand how we might be able to help prevent such occurrences in the future.

More news on the great work done by the Scottish MariMinkeWhale_0840_ClairEversne Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) can be found on their facebook page.

Information on how to report a stranding in the UK can be found at the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation website.

Written by Riona Bray

P.S. And yes, the whale (and we) made the news:

the Daily Mail

the Courier

 

Surveying marine mammals on the Scottish West Coast

Each year our MSc MMS students get to spend several days aboard the HWDT‘s research vessel Silurian to learn visual and acoustic surveying techniques and contribute to the long-term data set that the HWDT has collated over the last 13+ years. Here are the reports from each of the student groups:

Silurian Group 1

After a fairly arduous day’s travel, we made it to the port in Tobermory where we soon found the Silurian and hopped on board. We met the crew of HWDT science officer Dr Conor Ryan, first mate Mikey, and skipper Edd, and were given a tour of our accommodation for the next 3 days. Conor then gave us a quick talk about our roles during the ship surveys while Mikey served up the first of our many top notch meals aboard the Silurian.

Harbour porpoise ((c) HWDT)

The next day, we were up early and eager to start our surveys. Right off the start, sightings of occasional harbour seals, grey seals and harbour porpoise gave us a hint of what the trip had in store, as did the seemingly endless flow of snacks and sandwiches! Luckily, a lack of any strong winds meant we were able to make our way right up to the Isle of Skye where we spent our second night, passing between the isles of Eigg and Rùm. On approach to Skye and Soay, our first large cetacean, a young minke whale, appeared just off the bows, accompanied by a large number of harbour porpoises. Although usually shy animals, the porpoises did not seem to be affected by the presence of our boat, giving us a rare opportunity to see these animals up close. The minke whale was similarly obliging, giving us plenty of opportunity for some photos – only once we’d come off effort of course. The day ended fittingly as we moored in front of the stunning scenery of Skye.

Common dolphins ((c) HWDT)

The next day, we were again fortunate with the weather, meaning we could pass the Isle of Canna then head back towards Eigg. The day started much like the previous one had ended, with the young minke whale sighted again in much the same area as we had first found it. The day continued in much the same vein as the first, with frequent harbour porpoise, harbour and grey seal sightings along our course. As we began to turn towards Eigg, we came across a small pod of between 5-10 common dolphin, including at least one mother-calf pair, who followed the boat and even started bow-riding.

That evening, we decided to head into Eigg to see what island life was like. Sadly, the shop was closed, but luckily the pub was still open, with around 15 of the island’s 87 inhabitants enjoying the evening sun. After a quick drink and discussion with the locals, we headed back to the Silurian for the customary “plankton party”, an examination of the less visible local marine life under microscope. Another full day of sightings in the bag, we hit our bunks sad in the knowledge that it was our last night aboard.

However, our luck hung around right to the very end. As we returned to Tobermory, greeted by near perfect sighting conditions, we spotted a full grown minke whale, once again accompanied by a cohort of harbour porpoises. This rounded off a truly fantastic trip, a great way to end the taught section of the master’s program. Huge thanks are in order for such a successful trip. Conor imparted a vast amount of knowledge of the local wildlife, Mikey kept us very well fed throughout the trip (including 2 homemade cakes!), and personally I have to thank Edd for vastly expanding my paltry knowledge of knots while aboard. It’s fair to say that our shipmates were a huge part of making this trip special. Many thanks also to our MSc and the University of St Andrews for making the trip possible. Having returned to St Andrews, I’m already missing being out at sea, and of course the second breakfasts. But we’ve all returned refreshed and ready to get our research projects underway!

Group 1 (Sheyka, Clare W., Caroline, Lainie, Marco and Aran)

 

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Silurian & common dolphins ((c) HWDT)

Silurian Group 2
After a long day of travelling, we were welcomed to the Isle of Mull and the Silurian by a delicious homemade dinner on the boat. We then headed to the pub to have a farewell drink with the first group. On the first day at sea we headed around the Isle of Mull and towards the south west of the island. Within an hour of surveying wehad already spotted a minke whale. As we continued our journey we started to see a few dolphins and we soon realised we had a pod of over 300 common dolphins surrounding the boat. They were bow riding and leaping in the air! Amazing!

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Risso’s dolphins ((c) HWDT)

Not knowing how we could top our first day, we were off to a good start on day two when a minke whale was spotted as we sailed towards Tiree. It surfaced quite close to the boat, giving everyone a great view of the shiny grey body! It all went quiet for a few hours but then far in the distance tall dorsal fins were sighted. As we approached with fingers crossed that it could be Risso’s dolphins we saw the scarred bodies and blunt faces, and our hopes were confirmed. There were 15 dolphins leaping, tail slapping and swimming close to the boat. It was truly fantastic! But how would that be topped by day 3? Well…..flat, calm, glassy seas and a super pod containing hundreds of common dolphins bow riding and whistling next to the boat did the trick!

Our trip on the Silurian exceeded all expectations: not only were the sightings and sea conditions amazing but the crew wSilurianGr2_0641ere warm, friendly and extremely welcoming! Frazer, Ed and Mikey were brilliant; cups of tea were delivered throughout the day to keep us going, cakes were baked, the second breakfasts were always delicious, and during dinners and evenings we were entertained by some hilarious stories! The trip would not have been the same without them! So thanks HWDT, Silurian and the crew for a lovely trip!

Group 2 (Sarah, Miranda, Raffaela, Janneke and Clare O.)

 

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Minke whale ((c) Clair Evers)

Silurian Group 3

Group three had a memorable trip full of marine mammals, island adventures, swimming, and getting splashed (or soaked) on the bow while surveying. We encountered a really friendly minke whale who swam around the Silurian. We got a great view of its characteristic white pectoral fins and even got a glimpse of its face as it lifted its jaw out of the water. More importantly, we all got great pictures of the dorsal fin which can be used to ID individuals. We were also blessed with a group of over 100 bow-riding common dolphins full of many mother-calf pairs. Other sightings included multiple porpoises. We also saw

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Common dolphins ((c) Clair Evers)

many grey seals and one harbour seal. All of us furthered our birding skills by identifying the wide range of birds present around the Scottish Isles. We identified guillemots, fulmars, gannets, razorbills, and terns. To the acoustics students’ delight we got to see porpoise clicks on PAMGuard and heard lots of snapping shrimp.

 We were so exhausted by our intense surveying that we even forgot our fellow classmate up the mast in the crows nest after an eventful day of sightings (ooops!).  We landed on both Canna and Coll islands. Interestingly, Canna has an honesty shop that is open to tourists and islanders which we got to explore. We also stumbled upon a small museum on Canna which displayed many island treasures such as pottery and work by the local school children.

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The curious otter ((c) Clair Evers)

 We were all sad to leave the Silurian and its lovely crew but were delighted to discover our hostel in Craignure was surrounded by more wildlife! We were super lucky and spotted an otter who proceeded to gulp down a fish in front of our unblinking eyes. After retiring for the evening in the hostel common room the owner let us know that there was a deer in the ocean! It was a great end to such a wonderful trip.

 Group 3 (Riona, Jo, Pauline, Sam, Alicia and Claire)

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It’s all about networking!

Madeira_2631_MarcoCasoliEvery year, at some point during March/April, scientists gather in a European country to take part in the European Cetacean Society (ECS) conference. This year the conference was held on the beautiful island of Madeira and a few of us marine mammal Master’s students decided to go. It was an incredible experience, we got to explore a new place, meet great fellow students from other countries and talk to some of the biggest names in cetacean science.

We wanted to give you all a little practical guide on what to expect and some tips on making the most of the conference experience!

>> First of all, make sure you check the deadlines for early bird (usually around January) and late (usually around February) online registration, as well as student support awards, so you can get your tickets at a discounted price! If you forget however, don’t worry, you can always pay a bit more and register in person at the venue.<<

Before the start of the ECS conference itself, which lasts 3 days, scientists and other people responsible for the event organise 2 days of a wide variety of workshops. The workshops offer everyone the chance to learn about something new they have never heard of/seen before, to learn specialised skills required for many scientists (from using R to how to help disentangle a whale from a net!), to share views and advice on specific delicate topics (such as attending strandings), to learn how to communicate science to the general public (working on whale watching tours), and even some interesting policy and legislation related workshops that help you finally understand how the law in this marine science world actually works in Europe!

>> We recommend that you check the list of workshops as early as possible, so you can choose the one you want to attend and make sure you get a spot, as some of them have limited spaces, especially the free student workshops! <<2016-03-14_AliciaCardona (2)

Each year the conference is focused on a specific theme, this year’s was “Into the deep: Research and Conservation on Oceanic Marine Mammals”. The best talks are accepted to be presented, they are chosen based on their relation to this theme and are split into categories: behaviour, ecology, physiology, conservation, etc. One of the best things about this conferences is that you get to learn about current research advances in different marine science topics (mostly on cetaceans, but they also often include other marine mammals) and learn all about state-of-the-art scientific investigations presenting the latest findings or new techniques to the scientific community.

There are also 5-minute ‘short’ talks and scientific poster sessions. These offer a great opportunity for students to share their work, like their undergraduate/master’s thesis, with other scientists who will often give you advice or even offer to collaborate with you in one way or another!

>> If you’re thinking of presenting your research work either as a talk or a poster, make sure you check the abstracts’ submission deadline well in advance, as this usually falls around October of the previous year to the conference (so keep an eye on the deadline coming this October for the 2017 conference) 😉posters <<

The talks and posters also offer you the chance to learn about new topics or get more specific knowledge on those that you already know you want to specialise in. Whether you have a specific area of interest or are just interested in everything related to marine mammals, all of these events give you the opportunity to learn something new about your species of interest or pique your interest in something you’ve never considered before, you never know what they might surprise you with until you see it!

All of the talks are timetabled and can be found in the programme posted online in advance and that you also get upon registering at the venue. This means you can pick and choose which talks you want to attend. If, like us, you are into all things related to marine mammals, you will find yourself staying for every talk, even the ones you thought you might not be interested in!

>> We recommend that you take a good look at this at least the week before the conference so you can plan your days well in advance and make sure you don’t miss those workshops or talks/posters you are so interested in 😉 <<Madeira_AliciaCardona

In between the long conference days there are always coffee breaks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. However, these are quite short and give you just enough time to grab a drink and try and find that researcher you really want to meet and ask a million questions: NETWORKING TIME! Make sure you know who you are introducing yourself to, that you clearly let them know what you are interested in and that you ask them the most important questions for you, and never forget to exchange contact details before they disappear (or if you have a business card already, all the better!).

>> Think about who you would like to talk to before going, getting hold of people isn’t as easy as it seems, so make sure you make the most of talking to them! <<Madeira_2634-AliciaCardona

It really is one of the main aspects of these conferences… it is actually soooo important to keep up with everyone in this small cetacean scientific community! You can make important new contacts with students and researchers, who could even possibly end up being your future employers!!! Fellow students or recently graduated students can give you great insight into how they got where they are and give you tips on how to gain more experience (and don’t forget that you may end up working on a research project with these people!). Researchers have experience and knowledge that they enjoy sharing, make the most of it! Sharing information and interests is the best way to get connected with the scientific community, and it will help you find future employments.

Lunch breaks are over an hour, but don’t let that fool you, between talking to colleagues and finding somewhere to eat (and getting the bill!) that time can disappear and you will probably find yourself running back to the venue to try and make it to the next talk.

After the poster sessions in the afternoon of the first conference-day, there’s usually a video night event and contest in which researchers and NGOs will delight you with short videos of their amazing work, the most gorgeous crystalline waters they sailed, the cutest animal encounters, a first account of some astonishing behaviour or an unfortunate find at sea. These will all then compete for the best video prize, which together with the prizes for the best research and student’s talks, as well as the best poster, will be announced at the end of the last day.Madeira2_AliciaCardona

On the last day of the conference, during one of the breaks, NGOs and whale watching companies set up presentations about their research and conservation work and ways in which you can get involved. Lots of volunteering opportunities, some internships and even job openings get mentioned during these presentations, so attending may give you an idea of where to go next. This is a unique chance to hear about these almost ‘secret opportunities’ that you can normally only find out about if you know the right person 😉

>> We recommend making an effort to stay and listen to these last short talks! <<

And last but not least, one of the great things of attending these conferences is that you get to travel around! Professors may remind you it’s not the most important part but let’s be honest, there is a big upside to going to conferences, you get an excuse to go travelling to different countries every year!
>> Our recommendation is to go a few days before or stay a few days after the conference (before or after the 2 workshop days+3 conference programme days) to explore the hosting city and surroundings, that way you can definitively cross it off your list (unlike us, who are dying to go back!) 🙂 <<

Here’s all the information you may need to plan your first conference attendance!

We hope this has given you enough reasons to start saving some money and thinking about what you want to do at the next 31st Annual ECS Conference in Denmark!
Hope to see you there! 🙂

Sam Blakeman and Alicia Cardona

MSc Marine Mammal Science students 2015/16

MarcoSamAlicia_CharlesMcGibney

Words from one of our alumni …..

My masters year studying EBMMS at St Andrews and SAMS was a fantastic and incredibly useful investment in my future. While I enjoyed my undergraduate degree in Biology several years earlier, I found myself lacking quantitative skills that were becoming an ever more pressing requirement for career advancement. This course provided an introduction to a variety of research approaches including GIS, statistical and ecosystem modelling and furthered my confidence in mathematical approaches to ecology. Integrating into a busy hub of research allowed me to publish my masters thesis which has since earned me an international PhD scholarship at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies in Tasmania. I would thoroughly recommend the course to anyone pursuing a career in marine science.

Richard Cottrell

Science communication – a message from one of our awesome alumni

How many of you break out in sweat at the mere thought of public speaking? It is one of the most common fears, and it used to affect me. But in 2014, I won an international science communication competition. This is my story.

As a student on the Marine Mammal Science Masters (2008-09), public speaking was my worst nightmare. I would dread the regular seminar sessions, during which we had to peruse a research paper and explain it to the rest of the class. The reading was great, the knowledge expansion was great – but the speaking part? Stuttering my way through someone else’s research whilst my cheeks flushed red and my notes trembling in my hands? No thanks!

The regular exposure to presenting must have paid off, though. After the Masters, I moved to Australia with my partner, both of us in pursuit of PhD projects. Whilst applying for scholarships and volunteering on marine mammal research projects, I was searching for casual work when a friend recommended contacting the local science and discovery centre. Outreach Science Presenters were in demand and I decided to take a chance. To my surprise, I was offered the job and soon found myself trekking around the whole of Western Australia to deliver interactive science shows to some of the most remote schools in the outback. Giving talks became my bread and butter. By stepping on stage six or more times a day, my anxiety started fading away, and the nerves of fear were replaced by nerves of excitement.

So when I commenced my PhD a couple of years later and heard about the 3-Minute-Thesis (3MT) competition, I knew I had to get involved.

3MT is the ultimate exercise in communication for graduate students; it was developed by the University of Queensland back in 2008 and has since then expanded to many other institutions around the world (including the University of St Andrews). The concept? An 80,000-word thesis would take roughly 9 hours to present. The challenge? Explaining yours to a generalist audience in 3 minutes or less.

First came heats at individual universities, followed by university finals. I not only made it to the Curtin University top ten, but won my heat, the final and the people’s choice award! “Great start!” I thought, before rushing to the other end of the state for fieldwork. Every day, whilst we bumped over the waves searching for dolphins, I would mutter my speech away to myself. Soon I could do it pretty much on default – scanning the ocean, driving the car, making dinner.

The international final came in the form of a Trans-Tasman Competition where representatives from over 40 universities across Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong competed in a wordy battle. The stakes were extremely high! But I love my research, and the opportunity to talk about it to a bunch of fresh minds is so exciting that my allotted time whooshed by, leaving me with a satisfied happy glow.

See Sarah in action at the competition here. -> youtube video

SarahsTalk

From a happy glow to a blush of surprise, I was ecstatic to be chosen as winner of the Trans-Tasman 3MT. I did the whole shocked-face, hug people in neighbouring seats, embarrassing acceptance speech thing. But what really got me buzzed was the accomplishment at having enjoyed something that just a few years ago would have terrified me.

So the moral of this story? Face your fears. Little by little, what petrifies you now could become something you love. If nothing else, practice makes perfect!

Remember that next time you’re asked to give a class seminar.

Sarah Marley

News from Tammi Warrender – EMMS student graduated 2015

I am currently living and working in the Cayman Islands and have been since New Year. I am working for the Cayman Government, Department of Environment (DoE) who are involved in many collaborative and independent research projects. My curiosities still lie with coral reef ecosystems and how they are affected by natural and anthropogenic impacts. Currently, I am investigating the overall impact(s) last year’s globally acute coral bleaching event had on the reefs of the Caymans and following that event through time and space. Furthermore, over the past 2 months I have been working as part of that team with the DoE, Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and Scripps Institute of Oceanography on the Grouper Moon project (http://www.reef.org/programs/grouper_moon) on the sister island of Little Cayman, conducting annual and new research on its fish spawning aggregation site.

Here is a cool grouper spawning video made by Guy Harvey: https://vimeo.com/158103277

And here is a close up video by REEF of one of the Nassau groupers at the spawning site (they are like underwater puppies!!): https://www.facebook.com/REEF.org/videos/10153906019474356/?pnref=story

 

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December 24, 2015

Our Masters alumni rocked marine mammal science! I have just returned from the Society for Marine Mammalogy conference which is the largest biennial gathering of professionals working on, with and around marine mammals. Over 2,500 conference attendees from all over the world gathered in San Francisco (not so sunny all the time California) in the second week of  December, including 40 of our Marine SMMDec2015_P240cMammal Master’s alumni from eight years of St Andrews Marine Mammal Masters. WOW! We managed to get most (sadly not all) together for a quick group photo at the SMRU instrumentation stand – a few showed up later and were added to the crowd :-).

Spot the new faces...

Spot the new faces…

Our amazing alumni (whether at the conference or watching from afar) are all at different stages of their careers with some on post-docs or in leading positions in goverment organisations while the most recent graduates were busy soaking up the vibes of the field and pursuing contacts for possible jobs or PhD positions. It was great to catch up and hear our alumni’s most recent stories (some who could not attend had given me great updates before the conference, more about those in the new year).  Across alumni years new and old contacts were forged. After all, we’re all part of the vibrant St Andrews community. If you add my SMRU colleagues, our PhD students, postdocs and former SMRU folks then I reckon you were never more than 5m away from anyone of the SMRU crowd at the conference, and with our alumni dispersing all over the world we truly have global coverage. I must admit, I was more than a wee bit proud to have been part of our Master’s story since its beginning….

And of course it wasn’t just all social and networking, presenting and discussing science played a very big part too…. our alumni gave talks (11), presented posters (12) and contributed to the pre-conference workshops. Big congrats go to our Master’s alumni Chris McKnight who was runner-up for best PhD-level talk on innovative methods.

It was an action-packed week which ended with a grand finale conference bash in the city hall, and more than one sore head, a crackling voice and serious sleep deprivation…..

Merry Christmas (from Scotland) and may the force be with ya’ll for 2016…..

Sonja (MSc headquarters)