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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Crying is allowed.

I cry when I’m happy and I cry when I angry, I cry with laughter and I cry with frustration but this does but make me a weaker person or less good and what I do! When a woman cries though people freak out… why o’ why are women all hysterical, is she trying to get attention, is she not getting her own way and manipulating you. I’m here to tell you that this is in fact not the case I am not a hysterical women if bring salty tears with my emotions.

I was reading a post on Dynamic Ecology by Meghan Duffy entitled “There is crying in science. That’s okay” and it really resonated with me. After an emotional week of; missing my family and boyfriend, having some disappointing news and, being insulted about my surfboard mounting technique (after a frustrating hour trying to learn in some sloppy waves), I had cried or welled up a fair few times. For a second I worried that this could be seen as weakness but, I don’t feel weak when I cry I feel all the emotions I mentioned above but never weak or that I can’t go on.

If we’re going to have more women in science – and I hope we will – we’re going to have more crying in science”. one of Meghan Duffy from Dynamic Ecology’s mentors.

{Via}

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Megan links to an article that includes the unique case of Ben Barres who transitioned from female to male and noticed that with the transition and his increase in testosterone he lost the ability to cry easily. So I am innately built to cry more as a woman and due to my lower levels of testosterone I can’t control the tears that flow sometimes. Therefore, if I ever cry in your office or on your shoulder remember that I am releasing my emotions (good and bad) about the current situation and my life. I am not trying to manipulate your feelings. I also hope that in years to come I remember this simple thing if I am lucky enough to have student who come to me for advice or questions and get emotional. I hope that I don’t think that they are trying to manipulate my feelings and opinions of them and remember I am lucky they feel comfortable in my presence.

So let there be crying in science and in the world. Whether you are woman or a man who is crying it does not matter and it is okay. Let those emotions out, allow the release of your feelings and just cry. It makes you human it allows you to be who you are and it is not a sign of weakness. Remember…Crying Is Allowed.


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!

Best! Day! EVER! – An Awe-Inspiring Day In The Field.

So every single day feels special and amazing when I get to be on the water researching killer whales! However, yesterday we had the day to top all days, the day that was better than any other day I have ever experienced on or off the water, potentially the best day of my life (too much…I think not!).

We had the most amazingly large pod of killer whales swimming in a long (slightly dispersed) line ahead of us 15-20+ individuals it was breathtaking, there was a mix of bulls, calfs, females and sub-adult males. It was mind blowing, I had tingles all over and felt so lucky to be in the presence of such an awe-inspiring sight. It truly took my breath away.

Six Individuals Surfacing To Breathe From Our Large Pod Encounter!

Six Individuals Surfacing To Breathe. A Snapshot From Our Large Pod Encounter!

But that ladies and gentlemen wasn’t even the best part. Just when we thought the best day of our lives couldn’t get any better we had a new encounter, something we had never seen before, a pod with a bull, three falcate fins (females or sub-adult males) and….FIVE, yes five, calves! What was going on? Was this an offshoot of the bigger pod like a nursery or creche for the calves? We don’t know, though that seems like one possible explanation. But boy do we want to find out more about this interesting pod composition. Let’s hope we get a repeat encounter before the season is over.

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Three Of The Calves In The Pod Surfacing Together.

The soundtrap which, I discussed last week was out during this whole encounter so *fingers crossed* we have got some interesting acoustics to  analyse from this very interesting pod composition. We will know once we get back to Perth and take the many hours to sit down and go through the hours of acoustic recordings from the soundtrap while also reading the spectrograms to ensure we don’t miss any faint calls that require amplification.

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In Sync! Look At Their Beautiful Light Grey Saddle Patches.

Many thanks to Naturaliste Charters and Riggs Australia for allowing us space on their vessels. Further thanks to the Centre for Marine Science and Technology at Curtin University for equipment loan and support.


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!

Hello 2015! What An Exciting Year I Hope You Will Be!

Welcome back to Deep Blue Conversations! I hope you all had an relaxing holiday break and have already dived back head first into the New Year!

My New Year started of much more leisurely with a tour around Scotland with my boyfriend before he had to head off back to work and I had to start getting ready for……

*DRUM ROLL PLEASE*….

Australia From Space.

Yes…AUSTRALIA! Western Australia (WA) to be exact.

I won a grant alongside a leading colleague who I hope will be my supervisor one day. This grant will allow us to collect data (acoustic, photo-ID, behavioural) on killer whales (Orcinus orca) alongside other large predators, and cetaceans in the Bremer Canyon, over a four week period.

Bremer Bay. The gateway to the Bremer Canyon!

Bremer Bay. The gateway to the Bremer Canyon!

I am so unbelievably excited, I can’t believe how lucky I am to be able to collect data on a project I believe in and have helped to create. This year I hope will be amazing; I will improve my skill set, aim to get some papers under my belt (tea dress), and apply for more funding and scholarships (as a more qualified researcher) to do a PhD!!

I will aim to maintain one to two posts a week on here to update you all on how our research is going, the data we are collecting and methods as well as how I am faring in the Australian heat!!

I fly to Australia on Monday evening and ,20 hours and 20 minutes later, I will arrive in Perth, WA!

Watch Out 2015, Here We Gooooo!

Killer whale in the Bremer Canyon. Image: http://www.whales-australia.com.au

Killer whale in the Bremer Canyon. Image: http://www.whales-australia.com.au


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!