Tag Archives: Portsmouth

Isle of Wight Marine Mammal Survey

One of the things I was super keen to do this summer was get out to explore the waters around the Isle of Wight. There have been several media reports of dolphins and seals around the island. Locals tell me they often see porpoises relatively close to shore. Plus there are even some potential whale sightings.

The plan was to spend a couple of weeks living out on the island with some student volunteers, visiting two cliff-top vantage points to keep watch for marine mammals. Throughout the summer, we were also planning to take the lovely new IMS research vessel Noctiluca out for some boat-based surveys.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 seems to have other ideas regarding my dreams of a field season…

But this doesn’t mean that research has to stop! Instead, my MSc student Robyne Castles has developed an online questionnaire to collect some local knowledge about marine mammal occurrence around the Isle of Wight:

https://bit.ly/iowmarinemammals

The questionnaire asks when and where people have seen marine mammals in the past, along with any details about the species, behaviour, and time spent in the area. Although we’d obviously love to collect as much information as possible, every little bit helps!

IoW Grid Map

This gridded map helps people identify where they saw a marine mammal. For example, square G3 for sightings near Ryde. 

Marine mammals play an important role in the ecosystem, but also face many threats to their survival. So it is important to understand where and when these animals are occurring around the Isle of Wight and the Solent. We know that harbour porpoises, bottlenose dolphins, harbour seals and grey seals use this area – but otherwise, our information is pretty limited.

By using local knowledge to create a map of historic marine mammal sightings, we will know how to best focus our future research efforts. This online survey is a crucial first step in developing a broader research program to study marine mammal ecology in this area.

So when we are eventually allowed back out on the water, we’ll know exactly where to go!

 

New Job!

I am excited to announce that I have a new job! Starting in August, I will be a Lecturer in Marine Biology at the University of Portsmouth. This means a big change in more ways than one, as – after 8yrs down under – we will be moving back to the UK.

I think our friends and families on both sides of the world are still in shock, with one side having given up hope of us returning and the other thinking they’d managed to claim us for keeps. I’m still feeling pretty shocked myself, alternating between being Extremely Excited  and Totally Terrified. The positives are obviously the idea of going home and being closer to family, all to do a job that sounds perfect for me. I love teaching, and this position will allow me to broaden that by developing new materials and supervising students, as well as continuing my research activities. However, moving means saying goodbye to some amazing people, a big lifestyle change, and an overwhelming amount of logistics. As I wander around our house, mentally categorising items as ‘sell’ or ‘ship’, I can’t help but think how much simpler it was when we first came out here with just a backpack each. If it wasn’t for the fact we’re going to need so many layers whilst our internal thermostats adjust, that might still be an option.

close up photo of three sweatshirts

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

What makes the logistics particularly challenging is that neither of us have ever actually been to Portsmouth before. The whole hiring process (including an interview, a mock lecture, and a presentation about my research) was all conducted over skype. So whilst all these virtual meetings have gone well and my new colleagues seem lovely, it is still a bit disconcerting to be moving to the otherside of the world to a place you’ve never been. Although saying that, I did the same thing in 2010 by coming to Australia… Maybe I’m just getting old.

However, this issue will soon be rectified! Phil and I are both presenting at the International Statistical Ecology Conference next month, which conveniently enough is being held in St Andrews. This not only allows us both to tie in a trip to see our parents, but means we’ll also have the chance to visit our new home.

It does mean my life at the moment has been pretty FIFO (Australianism: fly-in, fly-out). Last month I was over in the US to present my research at the Acoustical Society of America conference in Minnesota. After a 27hr flight and 13hr time difference, I had an amazing trip despite being wrecked by jetlag. The fact that I was only there for a week meant that by the time my body clock got its act together it was time to go home and spend another week temporally confused! Now, after a month back home, we’ll be heading to Europe for a month, followed by a month back in Oz before the Big Move over to Portsmouth. Crikey.

It is a lot to take in, but there is no doubt in my mind that this going to be a great experience! So stay tuned for posts about moving dramas, culture shock, and academic adventures!