Sunday, 22 March 2015

Back where it all started: Marine Biology at the Millport Marine Station

All the way back in 2001 I started my undergraduate degree in Aquatic Bioscience (I know, it's fancy!) at Glasgow University. I had gone to uni specifically to study marine and freshwater ecology, but because the first two years of the (four-year) degree focussed on a broad range of general biology subjects, it was only in 3rd year that we got to start studying anything related to marine ecology. It was a long time coming, but it was awesome to get started and our field trip to the Millport Marine Biology station (on the Island of Cumbrae) was a big part of that. It involved a stupid amount of work, but we were learning real marine ecology in the field for the first time, and that was pretty awesome. So, when I was asked if I wanted to go back this year as one of the course tutors, it was a pretty easy decision to make!

Sandy shore surveys at Kames  Bay. Click for larger version.

So last Saturday, I headed down to Cumbrae with 5 other staff, ready to teach 73 undergraduates about coastal ecology. To say the schedule was packed is a bit of an understatement, with the course content covering rocky & sandy shore surveys, plankton surveys, trawl surveys, microbiology labs, mark-recapture experiments and foraging observations on oystercatchers over a mere 6 days! On top of all that, they also had to keep daily group blogs (which was admittedly tricky without a good internet connection) and produce a short video describing a scientific paper in a creative and entertaining way, while also making time for lectures, briefings, cake and alcohol. Despite all that, the level of enthusiasm and excitement the students brought to the work made the entire course so easy to teach it was awesome.

We did a LOT of science this week. Click for a larger image.

After 12 years in research studying the macrofauna living in deep-water corals, parasites in Icelandic cod, the langoustine trawl fisheries along the west coast of Scotland, and human impacts on deep-sea fish communities (and all the stress of a PhD when things are going badly), coming back to this course was a really cool reminder of why I started out on this career path in the first place. And that is to say nothing about the awesome folk I've studied with, worked with and been cruise buddies with! It's been a long and slightly random journey at times to reach this point, but I wouldn't change a thing.