Can't believe it... I had some stiff competition! Thank you everyone for a wonderful two weeks! :D
Jordanhill School, Glasgow, 1997-2003
I did a degree in Zoology (the study of animals) at the University of Glasgow from 2003-2007. Now I’m doing a PhD there, from 2008-2011.
In between studying, I’ve worked in offices, bars, Topshop and at science festivals. I was also a voluntary research assistant on expeditions to Trinidad (where I studied tree frogs, so cute!) and Cyprus where I patrolled beaches to protect sea turtles.
I’m in my final year of a PhD. When I finish, I’m going to call myself Dr Crayfish.
University of Glasgow
Favourite thing to do in my job: Being outside and studying weird and wonderful animals in their natural environment.
I study crayfish, which are lobster-like animals that live in freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers.
Check out this video I made for a quick introduction to the animal I study!
If you can’t use youtube, it’s also available here.
I’ve been asking the other scientists in my department some of your questions! Here’s what they came up with:
More about the signal crayfish
The species of crayfish that I’m most interested in is called the North American signal crayfish. Signal crayfish come from North America but were introduced by humans to Britain in the 1970s for ‘crayfish farming’. Unfortunately, lots of crayfish escaped from the farms and there are now wild populations all over the place!
Introducing a non-native species to a new ecosystem can be very dangerous for the native plants and animals already living there. The grey squirrel, for example, was brought to Britain from America and has caused a massive decline in the number of native red squirrels. In Australia, the introduction of non-native cane toads, rabbits and foxes has caused many problems.
At the moment we don’t know very much about how the signal crayfish affects our ecosystems…. so I’m doing a PhD (three years of research!), to find out more!
As well as the signal crayfish, I’ve done some studies on the white-clawed crayfish – a very endangered species that is native to Britain but threatened by the spread of the signal crayfish!
If you were a crayfish, which species would you be? I made a quiz to help you find out. Click here!
My Typical Day
My day is different depending on the time of year. In the summer, I’m out in the field, hunting for crayfish… in the winter, I’m at my computer, writing about crayfish!
For a tour of my office, check this out:
And for a tour of the zoology museum, beside where I work, watch this!
During the autumn and winter, I spend most of my time in front of a computer, writing up my results, drinking cups of tea, eating freddos, sneaking onto facebook and reading scientific papers. Sometimes I do indoor experiments too and watch how crayfish behave in tanks.
When I’m working at my computer, I like to listen to music. They Might Be Giants (the band who did the theme tune to ‘Malcolm in the Middle’) have done loooaods of songs about science!! Check this out:
Every day, I water my sunflower (I’m organising a competition at uni at the moemnt), there’s a blog here: http://sunniestsunflower.blogspot.com/ hope mine wins!! 🙂
The best time of year is spring/summer when I get to work outside! Here’s a typical summer’s day:
9 am – get my checklist of field equipment together. This might include: wellies, waders, warm clothes and waterproofs, buckets, nets, measuring tape, crayfish traps, bait (usually cat food!), insect repellent, string, packed lunch, lifejacket AND most importantly, field assistants (usually friends!).
Me in my waders… it looks like I have elephant legs!
10 am – drive to my field site… some of the places I work are quite far away, so a lot of my day is spent travelling. I always try and make sure I have good CDs in the car.
Loch Croispol, one of my field sites in the north of Scotland. It’s just beside the village of Durness, which is where John Lennon used to go on holiday!
Checking some traps on the River Clyde
12-2 pm – fieldwork! The type of work I do varies a lot. One summer, I tracked the movements of crayfish in the River Clyde by attaching tiny radio-tags to them. The tags give out a signal which can be picked up with a big antenna – if I move the antenna around, I can figure out where the crayfish is. Another summer, I trapped crayfish and marked them using nail polish as part of a mark and recapture project, which allowed me to figure out how many crayfish were living in a loch. I’ve also done electro-fishing, which involves zapping an electric current through a stream, which stuns crayfish and fish and makes it easy to catch them.
Left: One of my marked crayfish (check out the pink nail polish!). Right: I practised how to use my radio tracking equipment by testing it out on my friends in the park!
2-2.30 pm – my favourite part of the day, lunch!
I love a good baguette
2.30-5 pm – more fieldwork before the long drive home
7 pm –I finally get home and eat a massive, tasty dinner in front of the TV (Come Dine with Me, Misfits or America’s Next Top Model usually do the trick). All that fresh air makes you hungry!
What I'd do with the prize money
I’d give a school a big batch of fish eggs! We’d look after them, learn about their life cycle, then release the baby fish into the local river after hatching.
A lot of people live beside or near rivers but don’t know very much about what lives in them! I’d like to change that by allowing school pupils to do some hands-on conservation of an important freshwater fish – the brown trout. Brown trout are large fish that are common across the UK. They are important predators in river ecosystems and feed on invertebrates (small bugs in the river bed) and other, smaller fish.
I would use the money to buy trout eggs, which I would give to school pupils to rear in the classroom in a mini aquarium for seven weeks. In the wild, many eggs die or are eaten by other animals (including crayfish!). The eggs will be much safer if we keep them in the classroom. The pupils would be responsible for making sure that the eggs were kept at the right temperature and well looked after.
After the eggs have hatched into baby fish or ‘fry’, we would take them down to the nearest river to be released and have a party to celebrate! While at the river, we’d also take samples of other animals, to let everyone see what lives there. I think everyone would benefit from learning more about brown trout and other river life and enjoy taking part in real, hands-on conservation!
<– Tony the Trout
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
friendly, creative…. silly!
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Last autumn, I was lucky enough to go to a crayfish conference in France, where I met crayfish scientists from all over Europe! I did a presentation of my results and met some fantastic people (all crayfish geeks!) from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Ireland, Romania, Norway, Sweden, Lithuania, Croatia… the list goes on! We talked about crayfish, went on a field trip and (best of all) had a massive party!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I got into trouble for changing a teacher’s computer screensaver when he wasn’t looking. He didn’t know how to change it back… I thought it was funny but he was pretty annoyed! I was also in trouble in music for not practising my clarinet enough. Other than that, I was as good as gold! :)
Who is your favourite singer or band?
The Beatles are my all-time faves but if I want a good dance, then LCD Soundsystem or David Guetta
What is the most fun thing you've done?
That’s a really difficult question! My first trip to Glastonbury festival was really amazing… I saw loads of bands (including some secret gigs!), played in the mud, danced at a silent disco, sang along to guitar at a campfire, ate some fantastic food and made some great new friends. I’d love to go back.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I’d want superpowers! Firstly, the power to teleport anywhere in the world. Secondly, the ability to speak and understand any language (including animals!). And thirdly…time travel! I’d go back to the 1960s and see The Beatles. And if I was brave enough, the Jurassic Period to go on a dinosaur safari!
Tell us a joke.
What’s worse than finding a caterpillar in your salad? Finding half a caterpillar in your salad.