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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My First Paper.

Just like the first day of school and the first piece of art you bring home, your first paper as a scientist is a pretty big deal and I am super excited about mine. This paper will always be very special to me as it is the first piece of work that I a fully sending out into the world with my colleagues to be continually and forever more judged by my peers.

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Ta-Dah!

This paper is also from a project exceedingly close to my heart it is a topic that I have been interested in for a long time and the road to its completion was not always smooth but what is life without a challenge and out of it has come a piece of work that myself and my colleagues are exceptionally proud of.

The paper is:

Wellard, R., Erbe, C., Fouda, L., Blewitt, M., (2015), Vocalisation of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the Bremer Canyon, Western Australia. PLoS ONE 10(9)

It is the result of two years of data collection to look at the different vocalisations produced by the killer whale population in the Bremer Canyon, Western Australia. My involvement was full time in the second year, where I was involved in data collection, data analysis and manuscript preparation.

What did we see I hear you wondering out loud…? Well we used K-Means clustering analysis to group the calls into categories with the most similar acoustic features. We looked at whistles (frequency modulated, tonal sounds, with or without harmonic overtones) and burst pulses (consist of rapidly repeated pulses with inter-pulse intervals shorter than in echolocation click trains). We did also detect clicks while collecting data however they were not a focus of this paper. Through the analysis the calls have been separated into nine different Bremer Canyon call groups four for whistles, three for burst pulses, one for whistles that are pulsed in the middle, and the final group consists of burst pulse to whistle transitions and vice versa.

This paper is unique in that it is the first paper to describe the vocalisation of killer whales in Australia. The vocalisations are the topic of my colleague Bec Wellard’s PhD and there will, I am sure, be many more exciting developments to come in the realm of Australian killer whale acoustics. My focus is now shifting more in the direction of ecology, population studies and conservation so keep your eyes peeled to see what comes with that.

Some of the Bremer Canyon Killer Whales. ©Leila Fouda

Some of the Bremer Canyon Killer Whales. ©Leila Fouda

How did you feel after your first paper was published? Did you keep a close eye on citation indexes and metrics? Was it a thrill or a relief once the paper was submitted and accepted?

I know I am definitely looking forward to working fully on my next paper now!


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