Thanks guys, that was fun! hope you ve learned (and will continue to) learn lots about science :)
Lots of schooling in Canada, a little bit in Australia, and now I m in Ireland
Marine biology (pretty much saving the ocean while playing with sea creatures)
I SCUBA dove and sailed around Canada for a very long time!
PhD research in deep-sea coral reef ecology
Trinity College Dublin
Favourite thing to do in science: Exploration! I love exploring the deep-sea. It’s so mysterious, it never gets boring, and every corner I turn leads to a new discovery… sometimes, I even get to name new animals
I use robots to collect and observe sea urchins that live in deep-sea coral reefs (1500m below the ocean’s surface!) so that we can better understand, manage, and conserve these vulnerable habitats
My research focuses on deep-sea coral gardens and reef habitats that line the Irish continental shelf. Did you know that we have corals in Ireland? There’s lots! Here’s an Irish submarine canyon wall teeming with Lophelia pertusa (our main type of reef building coral here in Ireland). (Image courtesy of the Marine Institute from the NUI Galway‐led cruise CE11006)
We know very little about these coral habitats, so my job is to find out as much as possible so that we can better manage fisheries and other industries that utilize these.
I currently work with many different types of very odd looking, but interesting, deep-sea urchins. Here’s a few examples of my little (actually, they can get quite big!) guys. Sea urchins are also found in shallow-water environments; you might even have seen some of these (similar, but different species) in rock pools or even while swimming in the sea.
This is where things get a little bit technical. With deep-sea video data I quantify sea urchin population densities, determine habitat associations (where they prefer to feed, reproduce, live, etc), and investigate factors that might drive these choices. I m particularly interested in studying their interaction with other animals in deep-sea coral reefs, like their predators (fish, crabs, and octopus) and competitors (other sea urchins). I explore these interactions mostly via video observations. I also study sea urchin feeding ecology via stable isotope and gut content analyses (yes, I essentially study their poop), these help me understand what they like to eat and what nutrients they actually use to manufacture their tissues.
Since I work in very deep environments (1000 – 3000 m) that exceed the maximum diving depths of humans (people can only dive to a maximum of 120 m with SCUBA, a Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) I have to send robots deep down to collect my sea urchins. Victor 6000 (a French robot) is one of the robots that I use to collect sea urchins. Here’s this gentle giant carefully picking up some of my sea urchins from the sea floor. (Image courtesy of Ifremer, BOBECO cruise 2011) (Left image – courtesy of Ifremer, BOBECO cruise 2011; right image – courtesy of the Marine Institute from the NUI Galway‐led cruise CE11006)
My Typical Day
That’s a tricky one! A typical day at sea: I collect sea urchins and record videos of the deep-sea floor; Day in the chemistry lab: I play with chemicals and loud equipment that swallow up my hard earned samples! Day in the video lab: watch deep-sea videos and listen to really loud music allllll day! Day in the office: I read and write about the deep-sea.. and listen to some pretty good tunes for inspiration
What I'd do with the money
You’ve probably heard this saying before “today’s children are tomorrow’s future”. It’s true! A child’s education is a critical investment in our planet’s future so this is why I m going to donate all the money from this contest to Little Urchins
Little Urchins is a project conceived by a small group of Dublin-based marine scientists who recognize a lack of awareness among the Irish public. Through interactive classroom sessions, seashore activities (like snorkeling and tidepooling), and visits to aquaria, children from diverse backgrounds are introduced to their marine environment. Seashore exploration and hands-on discoveries introduce participating children to the importance of marine conservation in their formative years. Funds will be used for website development, audio-visual equipment, sampling equipment and transport costs. Funding will assist in the development of downloadable support materials for parents and teachers.
The message of environmental responsibility by choice and not coercion will hopefully permeate through parents, siblings and society at large. “Little Urchins” is a vanguard of marine protectors and contribute’s to Ireland’s next generation of marine scientists and researchers but most importantly, environmentally responsible citizens 🙂
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enthusiastic, curious, hard-working
Who is your favourite singer or band?
It changes on a weekly basis.. this week I like Macklemore, the Knife, Emma Louise, Metric, Swedish House Mafia, Ellie Goulding, and Calvin Harris
What's your favourite food?
hmmm… mashed potatoes? marzipan? it’s a tough one.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Dove with great white sharks and polar bears, surfed with dolphins (that was here in Ireland!) and dugongs, and swam with sea turtles
What did you want to be after you left school?
I wanted to study (marine biologist) or help sick (marine mammal vet) marine animals. A minor fainting spell at the vet clinic made me realize that I wasn’t cut out to be a vet! Though funny enough, I now dissect sea creatures all the time!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No way, I was so shy and quiet back then… ;)
What was your favourite subject at school?
Ecology (I was horrible at it, but I loved it!) and Math
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Probably the time I helped rear leatherback sea turtles in a lab where I was doing my undergrad. These turtles are “critically endangered” (there’s very very few of them left in the world) and impossible to keep in captivity, but I think our lab still holds the record for the second largest and second longest-lived leatherback ever raised in captivity from hatching
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
My eccentric best friend. I was lucky, she dragged me along some interesting adventures: bull frog hunts in the forest, nightly star gazing missions, mid winter camping trips to observe wolves (there were none, we were just hopeful), we even built an ‘airplane’ out of milkcrates to attempt to fly to china and save some pandas (a bit unrealistic.. we were very young)… these experiences definitely planted the seed of inspiration for what I do now :)
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
That’s easy, an artist! Artists do such an amazing job at getting people interested in science and the environment. I am very envious of them!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Do they have to be realistic? (1) breathe under water (oh wait, we can already do that with SCUBA), (2) fly (hmm, we can do that too! so I guess that leaves me with just one to fulfill: (3) I wish everyone would love the sea as much as I do so that they would want to protect it too
Tell us a joke.
Why are dolphins cleverer than humans? Because within 3 hrs they can train a human to stand at the side of a pool and feed them fish!
My favourite part about being at sea is sitting in this dark room and watching the sea floor. It can be a long 4 hrs shift, but we tolerate it since this is where the magic happens! we sometimes (quite often!) stumble upon coral reefs and coral gardens that have never been seen before!