The Last Two Years!

Wow! So the last time I blogged was over two years ago! I am rather shocked. I have kept the publication and media pages up to date but outside of that I did fall off the blog bandwagon. It wasn’t intentional, but as I was fighting to find science jobs and get more relevant experience I lost heart a little bit!

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Broadhaven Bay, Ireland. ©Leila Fouda

Between February 2016 and September 2017 I worked in a variety of positions. I was a research assistant at Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy, University College Cork where I assisted in surveying marine mammals from a land based station in Broadhaven Bay following the installation of a gas pipeline. I was an aerial survey observer and research assistant at The Ocean Cleanup Foundation. I flew on surveys over the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to enable the quantification of large plastic debris. Most recently I joined Dr. Helen Bailey’s lab at the University of Maryland Centre for Environmental Science (UMCES) at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory (CBL). At CBL I explored the effect of

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Ocean Force One – The Ocean Cleanup. ©Leila Fouda

background noise levels on dolphin acoustics and as part of the ChesapeakeDolphinWatch team to further our understanding of when, where, and why bottlenose dolphins visit the Chesapeake Bay through citizen science, acoustic monitoring, and aerial surveys.

It wasn’t all fun and science though. I also worked as a waitress for several months, which was great for boosting my bank balance and building my small talk and communications skills. I was also very briefly one of the best up-sellers in the company “Yes, you do want cheese and avocado on that!”. However, I desperately missed working in my passion.

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A C-Pod used to detect dolphin echolocating in the Chesapeake Bay. ©Leila Fouda

I continued to network and apply for different PhD opportunities, but the marine sciences and in particular those that focus on marine megafauna are fraught with intense competition for limited funds! In late 2016 I came across the London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership. A unique and highly regarded PhD programme funded by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) that was accepting applicants for its fourth year starting 2017. I nervously applied and was granted an interview. I will never be swayed from the opinion that it was the worst interview I have ever given in my life, but thankfully my research experience, application, and the jumble of words that tumbled out of mouth spoke for themselves as I was offered a place!

This programme has six months of training and project development which I have just completed and am now starting my PhD entitled: “Linking Feeding Ecology and Population Dynamics in Sea Turtles: From Genes to Ecosystems” with Dr. Christophe Eizaguirre and Dr. Gail Schofield at Queen Mary University of London. I will delve into the details at a later date but for now, I am back and ready to science.

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Ready for this exciting new chapter (Soda Lake, Amboy). ©Leila Fouda


You can also follow along on the Deep Blue Conversations Facebook Page. I post interesting articles related to marine conservation, share awesome stories as well as photos from the marine conservation and environmental world in general. Come on over and have a look! I also have Twitter come and join the conversation you can find me as @Leila_Lula

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Riveting Reads.

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{Via}

A weekly post of riveting reads from my travels around the internet this week! A selection of links, blogs, news articles, scholarly articles and images I am currently loving.

Statistics Can Be Misleading: See how with this TED talk by Mark Liddell.

New Paper By My Friend Dr. Kate Sprogis (and MUCRU): On the sex differences in abundance, movements, and survival of bottlenose dolphins off south-west Australia. The article is Open Access so go and read it now!

Common Misconceptions About Evolution: Always good to have a refresher and to know how to address peoples most common confusions.

Funny Take On The New Old Spice Advert: Six ways the ad violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Absolutely Horrific Public Behaviour: An endangered Franciscana dolphin in Argentine has died after it washed up and beach-goers jostled to take selfies with it. Heartbreaking.

The First Elephant Orphanage Is To Open In Tanzania: Due to renewed and intense poaching the centre will be opened to rescue, rehabilitate, and eventually release elephants which have been separated from their mothers at a young age.

What have you been reading this week? Let me know in the comments below.


You can also follow along on the Deep Blue Conversations Facebook Page. I post interesting articles related to marine conservation, share awesome stories as well as photos from the marine conservation and environmental world in general. Come on over and have a look! I also have Twitter come and join the conversation you can find me as @Leila_Lula!

Learning The Full Monty

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The Monty Python* that is and by Python I mean the programming language.

Coding was never something that I use to think would be a part of my life! How naive I was! I learnt to use R for statistics during my Masters course which I *surprise surprise* found quite fun (especially when it worked how I expected it to) then during my last year in Australia having a working knowledge of programming became very quickly and clearly a skill I knew I would require to be a successful and competent scientist in the future of marine and conservation science. Initially, I became familiar with MATLAB as it was the main programming language used by my department. However several conversations with a very talented coder and friend led me to Python; it is free, it has wide applicability, and it is growing in popularity as the go to language.

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Python is also meant to be an “easy” programming language to learn! Image: XKCD

So now I’m home in London and I decided that the one big skill I wanted to improve and become more confident in this year was my coding abilities. I knew I would like a structured course and not just self-led learning for code and luckily I came across Udemy having a sale on this course: Complete Python Bootcamp as well as a second course: Learning Python for Data Analysis and Visualization both heavily discounted (~£7 each) and decided to take the plunge. I mean a course for less than the price of two take-out coffees what’s not to like! They also both has good reviews!

I am 40% into the first course, doing one or two lectures a day during the week, and really enjoying it. I feel like I’m understanding concepts that before were both daunting and confusing as well as learning how to write neat annotated code. The first few sections were a good refresher of concepts that I already understood from mathematics or other programming languages I had come across, and now we are starting to get into the more meaty topics with writing your own Functions and soon creating Methods!!

I believe that at the end I will be a better prepared scientist and be able to contribute more to research in the future. Being able to code myself without the reliance on others will be both liberating and dare I say it exciting! I already feel an innate sense of pride at understanding concepts and applying learnt skills to different coding problems.

As I have been learning I was quite interested to come across this article on the BBC saying that in a blind test code written by women was preferred! Which is an interesting turn of events especially as traditionally it as been a rather male dominated domain (note: the study is awaiting peer-review). *FIST PUMP*. I recently came across PyLadies an “international mentorship group with a focus on helping more women become active participants and leaders in the Python open-source community” which I am very excited to explore and then was thrilled to see they have a London Meetup group which, I hope I can join for an event in the not too distant future!

So now here I am learning a new language and doing tasks with computers that I never thought would be part of my life and boy am I glad that I am. The sense of accomplishment when you can code is up there with one of the best feelings! There are lots of free resources out there to try including: codecademy, Coursera, Udemy, Learn Python The Hard Way, the Python website tutorials and even Google has a free introductory Python course!

Do you code? Which language is your preferred one? Any tips for the fledgling coder? Let me know in the comments below!

*Python is named after Monty Python’s Flying Circus and not the reptile!

You can also follow along on the Deep Blue Conversations Facebook Page. I post interesting articles related to marine conservation, share awesome stories as well as photos from the marine conservation and environmental world in general. Come on over and have a look! I also have Twitter come and join the conversation you can find me as @Leila_Lula!

Riveting Reads.

 

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New calf J54 frolicking ©Dave Ellifrit, the Center for Whale Research via Puget Sound Express

A weekly post of riveting reads from my travels around the internet this week! A selection of links, blogs, news articles, scholarly articles and images I am currently loving.

More Sperm Whale Strandings: A total of 30 have now stranded across the UK, The Netherlands and Germany. Scientists at ZSL are at work to see if they can discover why.

Polar Bear Fitness Tracking: Female polar bears wore tracking devices to understand their movements and energy demands. Thinning and retreating sea ice is leading to bears needing to expend more energy to find food.

Southern Resident Killer Whales Baby Boom: Biggest boom since 1977, seen nine new calves since December 2014 and this January however, the sex ratio is inordinately biased towards males. We do not know why.

Le Sigh: Sighing is good for you! Without it your alveoli can collapse and struggle to reinflate themselves. You need to sigh roughly every five minutes (don’t worry it is involuntary!). See a video of Professor Jack Feldman of the University of California, whose team made the discovery, discussing it here.

What have you been reading this week? Let me know in the comments below.


You can also follow along on the Deep Blue Conversations Facebook Page. I post interesting articles related to marine conservation, share awesome stories as well as photos from the marine conservation and environmental world in general. Come on over and have a look! I also have Twitter come and join the conversation you can find me as @Leila_Lula!