Into the world of the Houses of Parliament: 1 month down

So before I know it, I’ve spent one month working at POST (the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology) and what a month it’s been! Leaving Exeter and moving back to the big smoke, working in a new office with new colleagues, and breaking out of the academic bubble for a bit. It’s been a bit of a blur, but so far so good…

I’m working at POST as part of a fellowship which is supported by the British Ecological Society and allows me to work there for 3 months to write a POSTnote. In case you’re wondering what POST or a POSTnote is, let me fill you in. POST is essentially parliament’s in-house source of science advice, providing independent and balanced analyses of public policy issues related to science and technology. By doing this, it provides MPs and Peers with information in an accessible and timely way that can help to increase understanding and awareness on often-complex topics. A board of parliamentarians and external experts oversees the work of POST. And, a myth buster – we don’t actually work inside Westminster Palace – we work further up the road. So not quite as fancy as you might imagine, but we do get a hall pass for the whole estate!

POSTnotes are one of the main mechanisms through which POST provides this information, and these are four-page briefings that summarise current knowledge on a topic. To go about producing one is a well-formulated step-by-step process that I’m currently in the middle of. It normally starts with a desk based literature review to help develop the scope of the POSTnote and get you up to speed on what topics you’ll cover. The next step, which I’m doing at the moment, involves interviewing relevant stakeholders from academia, industry, government and the third sector to get their perspectives and essentially help to flesh the POSTnote out. I’m really enjoying this part!

When I first found out I had got the fellowship (which, by the way, was my second time applying so always worth persevering for something you want!), it was still a bit uncertain as to what my topic would be about. But luckily for me – and it was a bit pot luck really – the topic is Fisheries Management! I can’t begin to tell you how unbelievably exciting it is to be a fisheries scientist working in Parliament at such a time when fisheries really is such a hot topic. It’s not often that fisheries have quite the interest and debate they are receiving at the moment, so it’s super interesting to be working right in the middle of it. The scope of the note is quite broad (you can get an idea of what I’m writing about here) and whilst Brexit is an inevitable focus I am keen to try and keep wider governmental policies and agendas in mind so that it has a bit more longevity. Trying to fit everything into 4 pages is going to be a huge challenge!

As part of the work I’m really fortunate to be able to interview loads of different people and having an @parliament.uk email address means you can contact people right at the top and talk to them, which is something you don’t get to do everyday! I’ve spoken to lots of lovely people already, and it’s been interesting to hear their views and perspectives. Aside from doing interviews, I’ve also managed to go to some events and meetings to help broaden my understanding of the topics and get more information. I attended the Best Practices in World Fisheries conference in which we heard about different fisheries management systems from around the world and considered how some of their practices may be incorporated into future UK management. It was a great event with many different people from various sectors, which made for some thought-provoking conversations. I also went to the Seafish Common Languages meeting which they hold a few times a year, which gave me a good opportunity to network and also hear views from the seafood sector which I haven’t until this point had much involvement with.

Aside from these meetings, I couldn’t not talk about the fact that I also have a free hall pass for all of Westminster! It’s so exciting! I can’t believe that I can turn up to debates or events that are happening within the palace – it’s a real privilege I’m still pinching myself about. In November there were a few things on that I went to – an event showcasing Brexit related social and economic research in Portcullis House, a debate about ‘The UK’s involvement in degradation of the marine environment’, and the first opening session for the EFRA committee’s inquiry on ‘Fisheries’. I sadly missed their next oral evidence session, but that’s what Parliament TV is for!

It’s nice to say that the ‘Blue Planet effect’ is live and kicking in Westminster – so many MPs have referenced it! It’s also been eye opening, particularly at the marine degradation debate, about how well informed some MPs are about some of these marine issues. Before I started working here I obviously knew that they had a huge amount of different things to be dealing with, but now I’m exposed to the daily updates about what’s happening across Westminster each day, through emails or flashing up on screens in the office, it’s given me a new appreciation for the variety and  amount of things they have to consider. It was encouraging to see many MPs speaking passionately about the marine environment, and it also made me realise just how important it is to communicate science issues effectively to ensure they are heard or considered – something I’m hoping to learn more about whilst I’m here!

For now I think I’ve filled you in enough – December looks full of more interviews, some more debates and even some carols in Westminster Hall! And today I’m off to watch PMQs! Quickly though as a bit of a side note, I also wanted to mention the other thing I did this month which was to attend an ICES course in Copenhagen as part of my PhD work. The course was focused on Bayesian Network Analysis and has been something that’s been on my ‘to-do’ list for a while. It gave me a really good initial understanding of what BNs actually are, the contexts which you can use it in and lots of ideas for future projects! I would definitely recommend the course to anyone interested in learning Bayesian, it wasn’t as scary as I initially thought…!

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Sun, sea, science and sloths

My last post was quite a while ago now so I thought it was about time to catch up on what I’ve been up to. The last few months have been a little busy, with lots of things going on with different deadlines and to do lists!

Something that I really enjoyed doing towards the end of the summer was to do a bit of public engagement at some local seafood festivals. I’ve always been a bit nervous doing this kind of thing – the imposter syndrome was holding me back and what happened if someone asked me something I didn’t know the answer to?! However, the prospect of being able to go to a variety of fish festivals in Cornwall and Devon was too tempting and so I decided to put myself outside of my comfort zone and go for it! I’m so glad I did as I had a great time! It was pretty tiring, but it was also so fun to talk to different people and engage them in our work. And it turned out I did know a bit more than I thought I did…

The first place we went was to Newlyn fish festival, where myself and my colleague Nigel Sainsbury and supervisor Rachel Turner had a stall about ‘Fisheries in the Future’. We had two main activities, namely a wave tank borrowed from the engineering department which we used to demonstrate changing storminess and the effect that could have on fishing, and a ‘hook the fish’ game to entice people to come over so we could chat about climate change and its impacts. We also had a board for people to put post-it notes on about what they thought were big issues for fisheries in the future. This resulted in quite a few different responses, a common one being plastic and wider pollution, but also some issues regarding wider management and sustainability.

I then took the stall to Brixham’s FishStock, minus the wave machine, and did the same thing there. Both events were really well attended and I had a lot of fun talking to people. It was nice to see people interested in our work and I enjoyed spreading the word! I would encourage any researchers to do this sort of thing if they can as I found it really rewarding and was a good way to break out of the academic bubble for a little while. I also definitely recommend going to those fish festivals – they were fantastic and had lots of yummy, local seafood!

Between organising those events and doing my normal PhD research, I was also busy preparing for the ICES Annual Science Conference in September where I had been accepted to give a talk. Ek! It was one of my PhD goals when I first started to eventually do a talk at this conference so I was both really excited and also pretty nervous! It was touch a go for a little while as to whether we would all end up going there as the hurricane season got a little crazy and the conference was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. However, we got the go ahead and before I knew it I was on a plane headed for Miami!

After a day to catch up on jet lag and chill out on the beach, the conference got into full swing and it was time for some science. My talk wasn’t until the last day in the last session, which was a bit annoying but at least allowed me the rest of the conference to relax into and figure out. It was my first time going to an ICES conference, so I was a little unsure what to expect. However, it turned out to be way better than I thought – there were lots of interesting sessions, it was super friendly and there was plenty of time put aside for discussions either in the breaks or in their ‘open sessions’. I haven’t been to a conference with open sessions before but I really liked them – they were an opportunity to focus down on a topic and talk to others about it in a relaxed environment. I think that was a really nice quality of the whole meeting – it was relaxed and friendly and you felt you could approach anyone if you had something that you wanted to ask them. Particularly useful for someone who hasn’t been to one of these conferences before! I also took part in the mentor scheme whilst I was there which was a great way to meet other scientists, early career or otherwise, and also find out more about ICES or ask any other burning questions.

It finally then came to the last day of the conference and my talk! I was put in the session ‘Projected impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems, wild captured and cultured fisheries, and fishery dependent communities’. It was a really interesting session, starting out with a focus more on the biogeochemical changes associated with climate change in our seas, before moving towards projections on species and then ultimately on communities and society. I got a lot of ideas during the session for future work, and it was also helpful to hear about other projects happening around the world to address some of these issues. I gave my talk in the afternoon, and I think it went ok! I went a bit fast as I was nervous, but overall I enjoyed giving it and had some people come to talk to me at the end which was nice. It felt good to cross that off my ‘PhD bucket list’!

With the end of the conference came the beginning of my holiday, which I had been looking forward to for a long time – it was time to go to Central America! After putting on my ‘out of office’ email and saying goodbye to new and old friends with a drink (or three, four…) the next day I got up bright and early to fly to Guatemala. I travelled for around 3 weeks down to Costa Rica, and had the most amazing time. I even saw sloths!! Sloths! Sooooo cool!!!

So, after a month away from the desk it’s back to it. But not for long – I have until the end of the month here in Exeter before I move to London to start my placement with the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology. I am super excited (and also nervous!) to start and to move back to the big smoke for a while. Stay tuned for updates for me navigating the political world and finding the right room in Westminster palace…

 

Early start for Newlyn fish festival…

Another beautiful day in Brixham!

Not a bad place for a conference!

Holiday time…

 

SLOTHS!!!!

Cefas summer sampling

Another year, another Cefas survey. I’ve recently got back from helping out on the July survey, which I first took part in 2015, and I’m happy to say I’ve got my land legs back! For this trip we set sail from Portland and spent two weeks sampling in the eastern English Channel and the southern North Sea, going along the English and French coasts and spending a day in Belgium too. There are multiple aims for this trip, but the first and foremost is to collect high quality data for the sole and plaice stocks within the region, which can then be fed into stock advice and assessments for this area.

Having done a few surveys now, it was pretty easy to get back into the swing of things and it felt really great to get back out to sea and see some fish! The species we caught were pretty much what we expected/ what has been caught previously in other trips, including sole, plaice, brill, turbot, haddock, John dory, dab, poor cod, flounder, bib, gurnards – the list goes on! In my mind at least we seemed to catch quite a lot of turbots and brills this year, as well as lots of weever fish (not sure how this stands trends wise, I’ve only done the survey twice).  We also got some species that I hadn’t seen before – a Montagu’s seasnail (this was a fish, not a snail) which was tiny and very cute, some two-spotted cling-fish (again, cute and tiny), and lots of mantis shrimp which were fun to look at. Similarly to 2015, we also got lots of baby cuttlefish which were really, really cute and I could have watched them for hours!

I enjoyed getting a bit more involved in the benthos sampling this year too (which basically means looking at all the teeny tiny stuff that’s on the sea floor) and learning about some of the species. You certainly need very good ID skills and a specialist knowledge for that part of the sampling and it always impresses me how people on board are able to tell the difference between what looks like (to me at least) the same piece of seaweed or tiny crab. I also felt that I’ve improved on my otolithing (taking the otoliths, which are like tiny ear bones, from the fish) and maturing and sexing of fish. I’m certainly not as quick as some of the other Cefas staff but I managed to get otoliths from a 2.5cm dab this year so I gave myself a pat on the back for that one!!

Taking this information, which is done for many of the species we catch, helps to provide important insights about the status and health of the stock; for example the age structure and the spawning stock biomass (i.e. the total weight of fish in a stock that are old enough to spawn). This data is given over to ICES – the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea – who collate this with information from other surveys to generate stock advice and assessments. These assessments are then ultimately used as part of the process for determining the fishing quotas for fish stocks within the North East Atlantic region. The really cool thing about this data though (I think anyway) is that it is also freely available online! This means that not only can the data be used for the important process of stock assessments and quota setting, but also in wider scientific research regarding the marine environment and fish stocks. I myself use a range of the survey data from all around the British Isles in my work and it is a fantastic resource to use. Working on the boat is a nice way for me to give something back after using so much of this data within my own work.

After two weeks and with lots of empty sweet and biscuit packets in tow, it was time to head back and dock into Lowestoft. It was a really fun trip, despite not getting much sunny weather that I was promised! A trip to the pub helped to diminish any sad feelings of the survey being over as for me I fear this could be my last trip. As the PhD ramps up into the final stages I feel I should hang up the oilies for a while and get more comfortable in the office chair, much to my disapproval! I’ve absolutely loved spending some of my time during my studies aboard the Cefas Endeavour. She is a great ship to be on, with wonderful crew and lots of friendly Cefas staff to work and relax with. A big thank you to all who have let me on these trips (you know who you are!) – it has been amazing! So to finish, have a look at some of the cool species we caught – I didn’t take as many photos this year given I already have lots of pictures from previous surveys, but I thought I’d share some more anyway!

 

 

Fresh perspectives on fisheries science: attending my first social science conference

Earlier this month I got the opportunity to go to the MARE conference in Amsterdam. This marine event that has long been on my calendar since I started my PhD and finally this year I got the chance to go! I’m so glad I did – it was a really friendly, interesting and fun conference which has left me inspired and with a new energy to get analysing all of my interview data!

The theme of the conference was ‘Dealing with Marine Mobilities’, so just a slightly broad remit! As such, it exposed me to a number of new topics, some of which I had very little experience of. A few particular highlights for me included hearing about modern slavery in the fishing industry from Prof Christina Stringer, being taken aboard European cargo-ships through the story telling of anthropologist Johanna Markkula, being told about the role of drama and dance in connecting communities to their past maritime heritage, as well as hearing about the psychological coping mechanisms Alaskan fishermen use whilst at sea.

The range and breadth of the conference was inspiring whilst at times also overwhelming – there were so many interesting sessions which inevitably couldn’t all be attended! I focused most of my attention to fisheries sessions given it’s my main research area, but I also attended a few outside of my own remit. I myself spoke in one of the ‘Coastal threats and vulnerability’ sessions to talk about my research that I have been undertaking regarding UK fishermen’s perceptions of climate change and its potential future impact on fisheries in the south-west UK region. I admit I was a bit nervous – it was my first 15-minute talk at an international conference and I wasn’t entirely sure how to pitch it given that I’m not a social scientist and haven’t attended a social science orientated conference before. However, it went really well and I got some useful feedback and ideas that I am hoping will help take my research forward!

Some of the other sessions that I attended were run by other researchers from Exeter University. One of my supervisors Rachel Turner, alongside Lucy Szaboova, held a great session surrounding ‘Health and the hidden vulnerability in fishing communities’. A range of talks in this session with case studies from Cornwall, North and North-West Ireland and Australia demonstrated the importance of understanding the health of fishermen, both physical and mental, and how this can be tackled. Discussions surrounded the culture of silence that exists within many fishing communities regarding health issues, particularly mental health, the accessibility of health care for fishermen who often work difficult and long hours, and the perspectives from which we can view these issues e.g. from wellbeing or economic viewpoints.

Carole White of UEA and Madeleine Gustavsson of Exeter University ran a session entitled ‘A future for fishing? Intergenerational perspectives on social (im)mobilities and fishing identities’. I found this session particularly thought provoking in part because it emerged as a theme within my own work with fishermen and the wider industry in Brixham. Currently there is a lack of recruitment into the fishing industry in many parts of the globe, and the talks at this session helped to explore current trends, some of the reasons behind this and what initiatives there are or could be developed to help address these issues.

Overall I found this a really great conference, particularly as an early career researcher due its openness and supportive atmosphere. Some other reflections I’ve had can be summed up in my typical blog post list style:

  • The marine environment is pretty complicated and has lots of stakeholders! Obvious, and I kind of knew this already, but getting out of the fisheries bubble for a few days made me realise that lots of other industries rely on the marine environment. I’ll leave the marine spatial planning to someone else though I think….!

 

  • Social scientists are a fun and friendly bunch. I was a bit nervous about attending as I felt that I might be a bit out of place as an ecologist, but I soon felt at ease. I particularly enjoyed the boat ride winding through Amsterdam’s canals to reach the conference on the first day – great ice breaker!

 

  • There are many research perspectives that can be harnessed to approach similar problems. I often am guilty of thinking from my ecological perspective, but it was really refreshing to be exposed to the ways other researchers are thinking about and addressing similar research questions. I guess the challenge is utilising all of these in the best way to make effective change!

 

  • Social scientists (incl. (and not limited to) anthropologists, sociologists, human geographers etc) are really great storytellers. Something that really stood out to me was the way people talked about their research – there was much more emphasise on the narratives and wider story of the research people had undertaken. So natural scientists take note! Stories, experiences and narratives are much more compelling and engaging than simple research messages (I think at least).

I think I’ve rambled on enough now, suffice to say it was a great conference and I would encourage others, including those with non social science backgrounds, to attend. Here’s to 2019!

Some self reflections in the Stedelijk Museum after the conference – would recommend a visit!

 

Summer fun at Brixham trawler race

So earlier this month I went to Brixham trawler race! What is that I hear you cry? Well, to sum it up, it’s pretty much a race in the bay between Brixham and Torquay where the trawler boats from Brixham go out, have a race round, and then come back for a BBQ and lots of booze! I managed to win a competition to go out on a huge Dutch trawler called the Arandjan, who had come over specifically for the race, and even had a live band on the boat after we docked! I invited my friend to come with me and we had the best day – the weather was perfect, everyone was in high spirits and we ate and drank till we were merry. We didn’t win but we still had fun!

Here’s some pictures from the race. You can see drone footage of the race here

 

Fieldwork diaries volume 3: learning what fisheries are really about

Well I did it! After almost 5 months of fieldwork I have finally finished. The last interview has been written up and transcribed and now there is just the small task of analysing all of this awesome information. I can honestly say that this fieldwork has been the best thing I’ve done in my PhD. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been hard work and I’ve been pretty anxious about it at times, but I have learnt SO much and have met truly lovely people. From the fishermen to vessel owners, the fish ‘n’ chip shop owners to the boat managers, all have been enthusiastic, passionate and brilliantly honest. I couldn’t have hoped for more.

Looking back, when I set out doing this fieldwork I hadn’t really got a full understanding of fisheries and their importance. Sure I’d met a few fishermen and been out on their boats, and I’ve visited fishing villages around the UK on various summer holidays and watched the boats as I’ve eaten an ice cream. I’ve also read textbooks about fisheries, studied them during my undergraduate and masters degrees, and now actively do research on them. But I didn’t really know what fisheries were truly about until I started this fieldwork, and really I’ve only just scratched the surface. It’s so much more than fish. It’s communities, livelihoods, family, friendship. It’s the waking up at silly o’clock to set out on a fishing trip, risking life and limb to try and catch enough fish to pay your wages to support your family. It’s persistence, determination, sheer doggedness at going day after day, week after week, often on your own and sometimes with little financial return. I remember someone saying that Brixham fishermen were tenacious, gritty hunter gatherers of the sea. I think they were right.

It’s this community and heritage that I have most enjoyed getting to know these past months. Brixham is built upon fishing; the industry is woven into its history and way of being. Anyone you speak to or come across in Brixham has some connection to the sea and its fishermen; an anecdote about their grandfathers’ adventures on the old Brixham sailing trawlers, tales of bountiful fishing trips with baskets full of black gold, a eulogy of a loved one sadly lost at sea. Fishing is in many ways the lifeblood of Brixham. Without it it would be a very different place.

This sense of community has been wonderful to witness and be a small part of. From the early morning jokes and teasing in the fish market to the chitchat in cafes throughout the day, the group discussions and conversations at the quayside to debates in the pub. Everyone knows everyone here, whether that be a good or bad thing! There is a big sense of camaraderie, people are willing to help each other out, and they are proud and passionate about what they do. People want a sustainable industry, they hope for a new fishing generation to get involved, and wish for good times ahead.

This passion is infectious. It gives me optimism. I think we too often receive negative stories about the industry, of stocks overfished beyond their means. Whilst this is true for many, there are positive stories to be told and many of these fishermen are actively working to be more sustainable. I’ve been told about initiatives such as Project 50%, Discardless and Fishing for Litter. Causes for some #oceanoptimism I’d say. People have confided in me their hopes and fears for the future of fishing. They want a sustainable industry with thriving fish stocks and happy fishermen. So do I. There is still the need it appears, despite age-old lamenting, for scientists, fishermen and managers to talk and work together on issues to achieve these aims, putting biases aside. Easier said than done I know, but this issue of communication came up time and time again throughout my time here.

You’re probably reading this and thinking that I am romanticising this industry and my time spent in Brixham. Maybe I am a bit. But, sometimes I think we need to. Being a scientist working on fisheries, we can get caught up in the quotas and fish and money and sectors. Whilst obviously important, there’s more to it than that. Fisheries are about people and heritage, community and friendships, and people’s interconnectedness with the sea and Mother Nature that few are lucky enough to have. I hope that I can continue to be involved with the fishing industry throughout my research and beyond – I am hooked.

So. To finish. All I can really say is a thank you to everyone that I met and who helped me with this work. Thank you for welcoming me, for your honesty and showing me what it means to be part of a fishing community. To put it simply, it has been a wonderful time. Now it’s time to persuade some people to let me on their boats…

Finally, here are some snaps of my final few weeks in Brixham and a trip out cuttlefishing (thanks Gary!)

Finishing off fieldwork with a well deserved glass of wine and some grilled mackerel!

Fieldwork diaries volume 2: Am I a local yet?!

So, another month down and I’ve almost got to my target of interviewing 30 fishermen! Spending week in, week out down here, I’m starting to feel like a bit of a local in Brixham – a coveted title that I’m sure I won’t properly achieve but I certainly feel like I know the town pretty well by now! This fieldwork seems to have gone quickly whilst also at times painfully slowly. I started in January in the depths of winter when most of the fleet was tied up at the quay and fishermen were despairing over when they could next get out. Gradually the weather has ebbed away into sunshine and calmer winds, and now the true beginnings of summer seem to be on their way (fingers crossed!). The kiosks are open, ice creams are being served and the high street is buzzing. I have slowly fallen in love with Brixham and the people in it.

But gosh, it’s been a hard slog. The concept of social fieldwork doesn’t seem too difficult when you start off, it’s just talking to people right?! But as I alluded to in my last blog post, and will again now, social fieldwork is hard work! Finding people and pinning them down is a constant up-hill battle, and at times there have been days on end where I have sat in cafes after many rejections anxiously wondering if I’ll ever reach my target. But equally, it’s been extremely rewarding and I absolutely love it. With a bit of persistence and an open mind, the stories I have been told, the people I have met and the things I have been able to see and experience have been brilliantly fascinating and eye opening.

So, as now seems to be custom for my blog posts these days, here’s another list of things I’ve learnt along the way.

1. You drink ridiculous amounts of tea and coffee

I mean, I’m an academic so I drink a lot of caffeine anyway. But during this fieldwork I have drank so much tea I may as well just have it in an IV drip hooked up to my arm.

2. It’s really unpredictable and you’re never sure where you stand

People are difficult creatures to work with, and fishermen are no different. Some weeks I’ve had one interview, other weeks I’ve had six. It’s hard to know exactly how your day or week is going to go and how many people you’ll manage to talk to, which makes planning a bit difficult. You just have to go with the flow, drink more tea (or gin) and just keep pestering people.

3. It’s tiring

Seems a funny one to state, and perhaps surprising given a lot of the time it’s just talking to people in cafes. But interviewing is a totally different thing compared to a normal conversation with someone and it can be very mentally draining. I didn’t expect it to be so tiring, so for anyone reading this about to embark upon social fieldwork, beware!

4. Everyone learns who you are and what you do 

So the thing is, if you hang out in a small town all week, every week for more than a month you start to get to know everyone in that town. Which is great, because everyone I’ve met so far has been really nice. But it’s also a bit disconcerting at times when people come up to you and say things such as ‘I’ve heard about you…’ or, more commonly on the fish quay (in a jokey way, I hope) ‘Oh bloody hell not you again!’ It’s all fun and games going through the initiation of becoming part of the furniture and a Brixham local (a coveted title which I will probably never achieve).

5. It’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster

Like with anything I guess, some days are great and I have the best time. Other days are really hard, particularly if you have a difficult interview or don’t manage to get anybody to talk to. Being able to keep going and push on is really the only way to get through. Gin or cider (or any alcoholic beverage really) often helps.

6. You become a grade A stalker 

Unintentionally, I’ve ended up basically stalking a number of people who I know I really need/want to talk to but as yet don’t know them. It sounds creepy but I wait for these boats to come in by tracking them on marinetraffic.com, and then I further stalk them by watching the quay and walking round hoping to bump into them. In any other context I would seriously question my behaviour but in this it seems perfectly legit. Anything in the name of research, right??

7. People surprise you with their generosity and interest

Some people have quite frankly been an absolute pleasure to meet and talk to. They have been so generous with their time and willingness to share their knowledge, which has been great! I’ve also been given cups of tea, fish, pictures and drawings, trips on boats in addition to countless nuggets of information. Those moments are special.

8. The local cafe becomes your office 

I have one cafe where I continuously work now. I love it. I know the staff and the regular customers and even their dogs. Going back to Exeter is going to be difficult as there won’t be a continuous stream of tea, cake and unsuspecting fishermen walking through the door all the time.

9. You become good at distilling your science into 20 second bitesize chunks

As I wander up to a boat trying to find the skipper, I know that I only have a limited amount of time to try and get that person to be interested in what I have to say and convince them to take part in an interview. Inevitably I have had to learn to distill my scientific research into what is basically a sales pitch.

I’m not entirely sure how much longer I have left of my fieldwork as there are still a few particular boats I’d like to talk to but the fleet is now much harder to reach given the weather is better. Admittedly, I am also in no desperate rush to get back to the office – whilst I’m keen to get down to analysing all this information, I’m also really enjoying meeting so many different people and hearing their stories. Plus the ice cream is pretty good here! I suspect I’ll be done in the next few weeks, so obviously now I’m making sure to also take lots of pictures of this lovely town. Some are below!