Saturday, 17 March 2012

A bit of self-appraisal before my trip to Sharm El Sheikh.

Unfortunately this post was supposed to be my endless ramblings about IUU fishing (that stands for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing for those who don’t know) but I’ve ran out of time. It so far stands at a 500 word rant on how I thing the management of IUU fishing really needs sorting out but since I really should be heading to bed (Egypt tomorrow!) I shall have to leave it until I return… I’ll get there eventually.

Anyway, whilst that idea has well and truly flown out of the window I don’t have anything of interest to say this week except for the fabulous feedback we got on our presentation. I, being an incredibly nervous person, generally dread any element of “public speaking” and so when we had to do our (second) presentation I wanted to drastically improve on my first attempt. One thing that was flagged up was my confidence – I dipped in and out of being confident and incredibly shy, and that whenever I stumbled over my words I struggled to get back into it since I had (essentially) memorised a script. Well, this time round I decided to ditch all of that. Any presentations that I have done prior to this have involved me sitting, looking at myself in a mirror with my stop watch and a scripted presentation, and reading it out-loud over and over again. I didn’t want to do it this time, a) to prove to them that I am capable of doing it and b) to prove to myself that I am actually quite a clever person (I just don’t give myself enough credit)

(There… I said it)

I dealt with the management side of IUU fishing (this is why I needed to finish that one… oh well) and, to be perfectly honest, reading about the subject made my blood boil. It angered me how it was blindingly obvious what needed to be done and how IUU fishing could be dealt with, yet no one was doing it. Obviously I understand that there are various pitfalls generally surrounding politics which, admittedly, I know very little about, but it is such a shame.

Going back to the talk, I rambled. I honestly rambled. I had a glass (or two) of wine before we had to speak to calm the ol’ nerves (it helped, I had a half-pint before my dissertation presentation and that landed me a First so don’t knock it) and I thought that I totally fluffed it up. Well and truly.

The day after we were called back, as a group, to get some feedback from the class and the lecturer (Prof. Callum Roberts) and I was pretty amazed; the comments from the seminar group were generally quite positive and Callum gave some constructive criticism. I was the last speaker so I was the last to receive the feedback (I was getting nervous by this point – I don’t think I had any nails left by the end of it). I expected him to say “it was good, but you were very nervous and spoke awfully quick” – what was said was quite contrary. He said I was a very professional speaker, confident, collected and well organised… I still can’t get over it. From someone who was trying to map the layout of the corridor to suss where the toilet was so I could throw up (been there, done that, and that was only in front of a few group of friends!) to someone who actually did pretty damn good, well, it’s a huge achievement for me.

I guess there has to be some kind of message in all of this, right? I can’t just post some ridiculously egocentric post because that’s just not how I roll… or is it? Maybe we should all be allowed to have the limelight without being criticised for being big-headed. I think it would do us all some good to speak highly of ourselves, a bit of self-appraisal goes a long way. 

Right, I really should wrap it up and log off… It’s nearly 1am and I’ve got to be at Manchester Airport tomorrow for 11am for my trip to Sharm El Sheikh. I’m ridiculously excited but a little bit nervous. I’m going to try and nab some WiFi spots whilst I’m out there to keep people updates on my three-week adventure so I may try and fit in a blog post of what I’ve been doing.

Time to log off… Adios and see you all in three weeks x

Picasso Trigger Fish, Rhinecanthus assasi
Photo by Tim Nicholson

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology at the University of Plymouth - South Africa field course.

What I would give to be back in South Africa with my MBCE group. Fabulous video edited by one of my coursemates from Plymouth (and look at the last still, there's me on the left... okay, I do look like a bit of a loner but we were running away from the sea!)

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Deep, Hull: 'The world's first submarium'

I love aquariums, but then what budding Marine Biologist doesn't? To be completely honest I haven't been to as many aquariums as I would have liked to, some I have visited as a child and only distant memories remain. In the past three years I have only visited three; the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth (since I spent my undergraduate years in that city I had to visit the NMA. Well worth a visit if you're down that end of the country), the Oceanário de Lisboa (or Lisbon's Oceanarium), and more recently The Deep in Hull. The latter educational visit formed part of one of the modules I am taking (Biodiversity and Conservation) at York.

About 50 of us (there are a lot of us taking the module this year, it's popular!) piled on the coach and we all made our way to the wonderful city of Hull. I saw wonderful, I've never actually been into the city. I did apply to Hull University for my undergrad degree (it was my second choice) but I knew all I wanted to do was go to Plymouth, anyway, I digress. Upon arriving at the aquarium we were greeted by Graham, one of the aquarists working there who took us through their conservation objectives and how they put this message across to the public - appealing to both young and old alike. I really did enjoy his talk, I found it engaging and interesting and I'm impressed at how The Deep has come along since it was built about 10 years ago (off the top of my head, it could be wrong).

Debris art, from marine litter.

After a bit of a briefing as to what we needed to do (after all, the primary reason for visiting was not for fun) we all climbed up to the third and top floor and began our little journey into the deep (excuse the minor pun there). I've got to hand it to them, they are by far one of the best aquariums that I have visited for visual material - it was all so very dramatic and well executed; kids are bound to love it (and face it, you draw a kid in and you'll be surprised how much more they take in).

One of the first rooms you enter...

Two skeletons on the walls as you walk down the first ramp to the first sign of life - it is a walk through time, highlighting the main processes that have occurred since Earth began.

I do think that this first walkway was excellent - there were plenty of things to do with various interactive activities available. We had noted as a class that a lot of time was spent at the start of this 'ramp' through time, and that as soon as you reached the bottom you were rushing through it a little because you could see that there was a fish-exhibition in the next room. Still, very educational!

So here we were, we'd all had a go on one of the interactive activities available (fish racing, trout won every time but no surprise there) and were eager to move on. This was lovely - I think 90% of the group sat on the floor and just watched the fish swim by (typical Marine Biologists eh?) and it really was beautiful. Here are just a few photos that were taken (excuse the quality - my point&shoot didn't want to behave and the iPhone took much better photos (surprisingly) - I wish I had the DSLR)

Blue spotted ray, Taeniura lymma

Lyretail Anthias, Pseudanthias squamipinnis

Lyretail Anthias, Pseudanthias squamipinnis (and some brain coral?)  
Yellow tang, Zebrasoma flavescens

We then moved round to the main tank. This is (according to Wiki so don't shoot me if I get it wrong!) a 10m deep pool with approximately 2,500,000 litres of water (pretty impressive - that's the equivalent of about 10 million cups of tea). I love feature tanks, I really do think they steal the show for any aquarium, and this was no different.

The sawfish, a particular favourite of the group and most of The Deep's visitors it seems...
Extremely bad quality but the two divers in the main tank...
 This tank housed a pretty decent number of sharks - my favourite being the zebra shark (and has been since my visit to Lisbon's aquarium at the end of 2011). At about 2pm they do a shark feeding session where two of the divers go in and (surprise surprise) feed the sharks. Naturally, we all went and watched. It was interesting to hear the talker of the 'show' at least - she was extremely knowledgeable and made everything easy to understand which is prime since there were a lot of younger children about. She mentioned about the issue surrounding shark finning which is great (obviously the practice isn't great, but it was nice to hear someone talk about it in an educational yet passionate way).

I'm afraid I can't remember every room we went in specifically, although they were all excellently presented. Unfortunately we did all believe that the cold-water/deep room seemed a little abandoned. There was a lot of information surrounding the issues of anthropogenic activity in our seas, but the room itself seemed a little dark and (warning: pun!) cold. I guess it matched the nature of the ecosystem as such but I feel that maybe the room would be overlooked by the public. 

Overall it was an excellent experience - I'd like to go again (and am doing soon - next week hopefully if time permits) and I think that the aquarium and charity itself has come a long way to help educate the general public about the major conservation issues. It would have been nice to see more things on what we can actually do to help save the seas as such and one suggestion we have thought of as a group was to do with placement of leaflets. The Marine Stewardship Council 'Good Fish Guide', for example, would have been well placed next to a tank with popular 'restaurant' or 'table' fish, and near the main tank with the sharks it would have been a good idea to place the 'Shark Trust' leaflets.

I need to go now (I've procrastinated far too much lately, and this was another one of those moments). My next blog post is going to be relative to Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing since we covered that in our seminar yesterday (that, to my surprise, went really well. Apparently I am a confident and professional speaker... I obviously hide my nerves well).

I'm going to leave you with a few more photos that I took during the way. Again, apologies for the quality but I hope you enjoy them.

Copperband Butterflyfish, Chelmon rostratus
Tiger Shovelnose Catfish, Phseudoplatystoma fasciatum

Moon jellyfish, Aurelia aurita
Anemone - I'm not sure of the species but it was beautiful.
Blue lobster - unsure of the species?
One of the divers (taken from the tunnel walk-through).