Brazilian adventures

So this blog post is going to be fun to write given it’s all about the place I’ve just been to, which was Brazil! Pretty awesome right?! Sometimes I really have to pinch myself to believe that my PhD can offer me opportunities such as visiting the country I have had at the top of my bucket list since I was about 5 years old!

I was there for a whole month, 3 weeks of which I was lucky enough to go traveling and the other 8 days or so attending the awesome IMBER ClimEco summer school, which is held every 2 years at various exciting places around the world. The summer school was entitled ‘Towards more resilient oceans: Predicting and projecting future changes in the ocean and their impacts on human societies’, so pretty much right up my street! Needless to say I was excited to attend, and I had every reason to be as it was a fantastic week learning a range of topics and meeting some fabulous people.

In total there were around 60 students from 37 countries, which in itself was incredibly interesting getting to meet them all and share stories. The first day kicked off with a poster session in the evening which was a good chance to hear about everyone’s work and also discuss my own project and get some ideas! The majority of the week was spent having lectures on a range of topics from climate projections and uncertainty to modeling marine ecosystems, to fisheries economics, social science research methods and also some early career type lectures. The lecturers were all great, and it was pretty cool to hear from the likes of Beth Fulton, Rashid Sumaila, Laurent Bopp and Ingrid van Putten who all do some really exciting work.

There were also opportunities for more interactive and group work, with guidance from teachers Paul Suprenand, Maria Grazia Pennino and Christopher Cvitanovic who covered GAMs, Ecopath with EcoSim, some social science methods and also how to put together a research impact plan. We were also set a task during the week to try and develop a model using whatever software we wanted to model an aspect of any marine ecosystem/species. We split into groups and my group decided to try and model how fishermen would respond to spatial distribution changes in their target species as a result of climate change. With the help of Maria and another lecturer Priscila Lopes, we managed to get the GAM model up and running to predict future changes in summer flounder (a species found on the north east US coast and for which we had a good dataset to use). The next part of the project was a little trickier however in that we couldn’t quite get the NetLogo software to work (for which we wanted to create an individual based model to look at fishermen’s behaviour)…. We came up with a beautiful conceptual model but sadly couldn’t make it into reality in the space of a few hours!! Until next time hey….

It was a whirlwind of a course – covering so many different subjects and methodologies left our brains a bit full by the end of each day, but it wasn’t toooo bad given we could go for a swim in the sea at lunchtime and eat lovely Brazilian food in the evening! Plus we had a great day out mid-course to the beautiful Pipa beach, as well as to the world’s largest cashew nut tree… By the end of the course I was really sad to leave – I had a really brilliant time, and I particularly enjoyed meeting so many people who were all working on really cool marine-fishy things around the world. A huge shout out to Lisa who organised everything and all the lecturers for giving up their time to teach! It was great! Plus it has given me a big ounce of motivation, which I think has been very useful helping to get me back into office life here in Exeter!

Apart from the summer school, I also managed to go exploring around Brazil for 3ish weeks, which was simply amazing. Although I’ve been to quite a few places over the last 2 years with my PhD, I’ve never had more than 5 consecutive days off from doing work, and I have always taken my laptop with me everywhere to catch up on emails in the evening or do a little bit of work here and there. For this trip I decided I really wanted to just chill out and forget everything work related for a few weeks – not an opportunity I give myself much during my PhD and something to take advantage of before the heavy work starts for me later on this year! So, I left the laptop at home (I hired one for the course), turned off emails and completely switched off!

I would totally recommend any fellow PhDer to try and do this at some point if they can – take an extended time off work (longer than a week I’d say if possible), ditch the laptop and switch off! It was been really worthwhile for me at least – my batteries are re-charged, my mind refreshed and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into my work again! My models are finally up and running and I start my fieldwork in the next month or so, so things are getting a bit exciting!!

Until next month, here are some pictures from my trip of a lifetime… And also, a thanks to all the incredible people I met whilst I was there!


Iguazu Falls – simply amazing


Getting to see the olympic torch in Paraty!


A beautiful beach somewhere on Ilha Grande


No trip to Brazil would be complete without visiting this guy…


Sugarloaf mountain!


Some very weird fish at the market in Manaus – any ideas?!


The amazing Amazon rainforest


Good haul fishing – a range of piranhas to cook for dinner!


The beach in Natal near to where our summer school was held – convenient for lunchtime swimming!


Day trip to Pipa beach


My lovely group!


See, I did do some work…

Group pic at Pipa beach


The whole group!


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