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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How Do You Find Focus?

A little change of pace with this post as I reach out to you. Yes You, out there!

How do you find focus and keep it? What do you do in order to keep going on one topic for hours? Especially in this world of continuous bombardment from social media, 24 hour news and a growing inability to “switch off” from everything.

You all know I love what I do as a career. I do however find it a struggle to focus sometimes. Some days I find it so hard to keep my focus on the task at hand even when I am so interested in the topic. Other times I do just fine and at crutch time there is no stopping me. However, I wish I had that momentum every day…maybe that is quite a BIG ask! I do hate being disappointed in myself and am probably pretty hard on myself too.

So What Helps You?

Running/Exercise?

A run in the morning use to help me I think or it was a placebo effect of thinking it would help so it helped…Buuuuut at the moment my ankles are not a fan of the whole running thing (Doctors appointment to be booked!) but, I think there is a chance that I am actually missing it! Do you run or do other workouts that keep you going and help you focus?

Morning Run - Feels good, helps you focus?

Morning Run – Feels good, helps you focus?

What about a good snack?

I know that having nibbles and making sure that I don’t get hungry (HANGRY!) is key to keeping going! However, sitting and eating all day somedays isn’t the healthiest (will need to get on that running again!) even if I do try to choose healthy snacks sometimes it is hard to resist…:

Not the healthier choice this one but they sure were yummy!

Not the healthier choice this one but they sure were yummy!

Little Tipple?

What about when you work late into the evening? Do you find a little tipple helps of hinders? DIVE IN DEEPER HERE

What’s In A Vessel?

I have had the opportunity to work on a few different platforms during my brief time as a marine biologist and all of them have their ups and downs; with some I favour over others. In this post I thought I would go into a little detail on the pros and cons of different vessel sizes.

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View from a small vessel with a gray whale off the bow.

Small Vessel

From small vessels which vary between little “tinnys” to high powered ribs you are close to the water level and therefore closer to your species of study.

Using small vessels you can more easily manoeuvre in your study area and conduct focal follows, take samples (such as blow or faecal samples) and switch off your engines. They enable you to travel into areas that would otherwise be impossible with something larger including shallow channels, small inlets and waterways between islands.

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View from the stern of a small boat.

They are cheaper to run and you don’t need to have a full crew and Captain, it can just be you (with the correct license and permits) alongside whomever you are collecting data with. You will cover a smaller area over a days research and are a slave to how much fuel you can carry and the weather conditions. If your vessel is completely open then you will also be personally impacted by the elements, think soggy trousers and chilly toes!

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Example of a large research vessel.

Large Vessel

From large vessels you are on a much higher platform. You can see a greater distance and can usually travel a lot further off shore, over a longer time period and in more adverse weather conditions.
DIVE IN DEEPER HERE

My Conservation Careers Interview

Back in December 2013 I as approached my Nick Askew of Conservation Careers website. He asked if I would be willing to share my conservation career story for his growing career information website. Of course, I agreed as I am happy to get my story out there and hope it helps other who are starting out in this field or who think it may be the one for them.

That's me looking pretty snazzy!It was really great to talk about what I have done so far in my short career, how I started out, and to share advice as well as any difficulties I have come across while I have worked to grow as a scientist. I did this with the hope that it can help and inspire budding marine biologists and conservation scientists in the world.

You can read my full interview here → How To Start Out In Marine Biology?

My big piece of advice that I gave and stand by is this:

DIVE IN DEEPER HERE