Third year fun and fishy festivals

Well it’s been a while since I wrote on here… In fact, I think my last post was about my trip to Brazil, which now feels like a lifetime ago!

The last few months have been generally been a mixture of work, some conferences, lots of writing and the sudden realisation I am now in my third year! Oh god, where did time go?! I came back from Brazil with a lot of motivation so I really tried to capitalise on it for as long as I could. I managed to get my modelling work almost completely wrapped up and done – YAY! – which has generated some interesting results which I will be sharing soon (I hope!). Towards the end of September I also attended an aquatic macroecology meeting in London which was really awesome and got to hear from the likes of William Cheung, Julia Blanchard and Miguel Araújo discussing research in this growing topic.

After a good month or so however, I fell into a bit of a rut and for the next few weeks I struggled to get a huge amount done. I think PhDs are always full of ups and downs, and sometimes when I get a bit stuck I feel that the best thing to do is to change tact. So that’s what I did, and so for a few weeks I got stuck into my interviews, piloting them and also researching Brixham more broadly so that in the new year I can hit the ground running and interview as many fishermen as possible! I’m really excited about starting this aspect of my research and putting it into ‘real world’ context, so we shall see how it goes! So far I’ve had fun with it so I’m looking forward to the new year.

Another thing that now as a third year PhD student I’ve become increasingly aware of is the need to get writing! The familiar joke that always goes round in academic circles of ‘shouldn’t you be writing?’ certainty rings very true these days. With that in mind I decided to take an early start to the Christmas holidays and go home and get writing! A two week ‘writing retreat’ later, with lots of cups of tea, no social interaction and some pony therapy in between, finally resulted in a completed draft chapter, which feels good! I would definitely recommend it to any fellow PhDers to just focus on one thing and write, I think it’s been really beneficial. It’s been nice to draw a line under something, even if it is the first of many drafts, and the best thing was that I managed to get it all done before the British Ecological Society’s annual meeting. Win! The next few days were then spent at the meeting in Liverpool presenting my work, catching up with colleagues and hearing from lots of cool science. They had two great marine sessions this year which was also good to see, and I also got to meet Daniel Pauly which was pretty great!

In between the data analysis, interviewing and writing these last few months I’ve also managed to go to not one but three fish festivals in and around Devon! I love how much fisheries are part of the culture down here in the south west – very different from my home town on the Wirral, and so I’ve been looking forward to going to these fish festivals for a while. I managed to convince my friends to come along too, and we were rewarded with delicious seafood and maritime merriment – what more could you want?!

The first we went to was the wonderful FishStock in Brixham – a big seafood festival that had a really great atmosphere and a fabulous fish market stall with loads of fish to buy and take home to cook (I got some red gurnard which was very yummy!). The next festival also in September was the Exmouth mussel festival. Those mussels were some of the tastiest I’ve had, so delicious and washed down with some Devon gin and tonic – even better! However, the best festival was yet to come – a pretty long road trip in mid November up to the north coast to the tiny fishing village of Clovelly. Such a cute little place! It happened to be the 10th anniversary of their annual Herring festival, celebrating the history of the village and the herring fishery.

There was mulled wine, cakes, fudge, live music and of course, herring! In so many ways – pickled, fried in oats, smoked, stargazy pie… So of course we tried it in every way! I think my favourite was when it was fried in oats. Very yummy indeed. There were also some great bands playing, including Dan Britton and Chris Conway who played a sobering but beautiful song version of a poem written about the great storm of 1838 in which 21 fishermen from Clovelly were lost at sea. Listening to it also made the work of the RNLI and the Fishermen’s Mission, for which donations were being collected at all of the festivals, even more poignant and a reminder of the risks fishermen still take today in order to catch the fish that ends up on our plates and at the local chippy.

And so that brings us up to this week, with just a few days to go until Christmas! I can’t believe that I’ve done another year of PhDing – time seems to go so fast and like the previous years it’s been a whirlwind of scientific discovery and adventure, ups and downs, and record breaking amounts of cups of tea. All I can say is bring on 2017!!

Mussels in Exmouth

Mussels in Exmouth

Plymouth trip for some interview piloting

Plymouth trip for some interview piloting

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Brixham day trip!

Brixham day trip!

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Clovelly herring festival!

Clovelly herring festival!

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Presenting some of my work at the BES conference

Presenting some of my work at the BES conference

Meeting Daniel Pauly at the British Ecological Society!

Meeting Daniel Pauly at the British Ecological Society!

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