Nicolas Biber

I'm a signal crayfish :D

Favourite Thing: I love spending time outside collecting data, because that’s where things really happen, and you look at things quite differently if the purpose is to get useful information.



I attended primary and secondary in my home town Rheinfelden in Switzerland from 1988 to 1997. Then I attended high school in Basel, Switzerland.


I studied Biology at the University of Basel in Switzerland from 2002 to 2009, since 2009 I study marine sciences at the University of Plymouth.

Work History:

I had various positions at my former university, I also worked in security. Before I started studying biology I worked for a bank.


At the University of Plymouth

Current Job:

I am a research assistant in my department.

Me and my work

I look at plastic rubbish in the environment, what happens to it and what effect it might have on the environment.

My project consists of three parts. In the first part I search beaches around Southwest England for plastic debris, and I try to find out why certain beaches have more plastic than others on them. The second part is an experiment I run to see what happens to different types of plastics when they are exposed in the environment. I chose to expose them ashore, in fresh water and in the ocean. In the third part I look at mussels and cockles to see how many tiny plastic particles they eat.

My Typical Day

I spend a lot of time measuring samples I collect in the field and trying to find out what these measurements are telling me.

The first thing I do when I get into work is starting my computer because I have to check who wants to get in touch with me. Once I have done that I would usually put my lab coat on and disappear into one of our labs. My work can change every day. Sometimes I prepare the animal samples I have collected for dissection, then I actually dissect the animals, then I look at them using a special microscope that makes the plastic bits I am looking for apparent. Sometimes I spend a lot of time analyzing the material samples I have exposed in the environment to see if they have become more fragile or if they have lost weight or changed their molecules.

I also spend much of my time making calculations with the measurements I take in the field and in the lab. They help me make a link between effects I observe in my samples and possible causes for them. These links are very important because they help us not only see things happen but also understand why they happen, and this information I then write in reports (which I also spend a lot of time doing).

We have breaks at work for coffee and for lunch, I enjoy these breaks beacause they bring us together and we can discuss our work and also other things.

What I'd do with the money

I would like to put up an exhibit on plastics in the environment at a museum, or maybe at the National Marine Aquarium.

I would design a panel that explains the issue my work is dealing with, how research can help addressing this issue and how we all can do something about it. I would have a display made with some of my samples to go with the panel, because it’s a lot more exciting to look at the real thing than just at a description and pictures of it.

It’s important for me to tell people who would see the exhibit how they can help addressing this problem and even how they can help research on it.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

stubborn committed perceptive

Who is your favourite singer or band?

The Wallace Collection

What is the most fun thing you've done?


If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

I don’t like wishing for things, I prefer relying on myself

What did you want to be after you left school?

A biologist

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Sure, who wasn’t ;)

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I spent three months in Benin working in a Rain Forest

Tell us a joke.

Two peanuts were walking down the street, and one was assaulted … peanut.