Photo:

Anthony Caravaggi

Thoroughly enjoyed the event. Thanks to IAS, my fellow ABZ scis, and all the students.

Favourite Thing: Learn about nature. There are so many amazing new things to learn about every day.

My CV

Education:

Treorchy Comprehensive (1991 – 1998); Glamorgan Centre for Art, Design & Technology (1998 – 2003); Bangor University (2006 – 2009); University of Leeds (2010-2011); Queen’s University Belfast (2012 – present)

Qualifications:

MRes Biodiversity Conservation; BSc Zoology with Conservation; HND traditional animation; Foundation art studies

Work History:

The Royal Mint; Rhondda Cynon Taff council; Dotcom-UK cyber cafe; Makro; Burger King

Current Job:

PhD student studying the impacts of an invasive species

Employer:

Queen’s University Belfast

Me and my work

I study two different types of hare (sort of a big rabbit) in Northern Ireland to see how one might affect the other.

Hares are like big rabbits, but unlike rabbits they don’t live in big groups and they don’t dig underground. There are two different species (‘types’) of hare in Northern Ireland – the Irish hare, which has been here for over 16,000 years, and the European hare (which you can also find in England, Scotland, and Wales, amongst other places), which was brought over by humans around 100 years ago.

If you take an animal from one place and put it in a different place where a very similar animal already lives, they don’t often live happily side-by-side. There are 32 species of hare found around the world, but you generally only find one species in one place. Some hare species, like the European hare, are bigger and stronger than others and can win the fight for food, space, and mates.

The Irish hare is only found in Ireland and so is very important. In my PhD I am looking at whether the presence of the European hare will be bad for the Irish hare by winning these fights in Northern Ireland.

My Typical Day

I’m usually either out in fields collecting data, or in the office working on my laptop.

I’ve had to do a lot of different things so far, so my typical day has changed a lot depending on what I’m working on.

When I was counting hares at night, my typical day would mean driving out to the place where I work (my study area) just before it got dark. Once it got dark, I’d stand on the back of the truck and shine a very powerful torch into fields while my driver drove the car very slowly. I’d usually finish 8 hours later then drive home and get some rest. I made sure that I typed all my records from the previous night into my computer before starting again the following night; in science you must take great care not to lose your records!

I’ve also counted hares using camera-traps. These are cameras which you can leave in place and they will record passing animals automatically. When I was doing this work, I’d set out early in the morning to talk to the people who owned the land and then spend 6 to 12 hours putting my cameras in place. I’d go and get them a week later to see what was recorded. I’ve put some videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/nihares

At the moment I’m working on a project which means a lot of work on my laptop. I get into the office early and work on a few different things throughout the day. If I’m working with a program where I don’t have to write, then I listen to music in my headphones. I don’t do that when I’m writing though – I usually end up typing lyrics by mistake.

What I'd do with the money

Probably buy equipment for, or donate it to science communication efforts in a developing country.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Fun, passionate, nerdy.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I have to pick one? I can never do this… Okay, Pearl Jam.

What's your favourite food?

Pizza!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I’ll list a few: abseiling; playing with my old band in front of ~200 people; exploring Pembrokeshire; surfing.

What did you want to be after you left school?

A zoologist or a palaeontologist.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Sometimes. But not big trouble, just little things.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Biology, art, and English.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

It’s hard to pick one thing. I love doing research, but if I had to choose, I’d say it was deciding to do a PhD. I love doing science and I hope I’m lucky enough to keep doing it in the future.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I grew up loving nature, so the world inspired me, and still does. I did, and still do, love going to zoos and museums, and watching documentaries.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Either a biology teacher or an aspiring actor.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

(1) Continue to be a research scientist, doing projects which I love; (2) Be ridiculously rich so that I could help protect endangered places and species, and people in the developing world. And make my family comfortable, of course; (3) Understand animal communication. Or understand advanced math so that I can get a physics degree.

Tell us a joke.

What did the shy pebble wish? That she was a little bolder.

Other stuff

Work photos:

My desk. 1st shelf: stationary, lunch, drinks & snacks; 2nd shelf: Books, research papers & dinosaurs; 3rd shelf: research papers, samples, raw data files.
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I gave a presentation at the 11th International Mammal Congress  held in Belfast in 2013.myimage2

Setting a camera-trap with a Master’s student.
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Carrying out night surveys to find hares in Northern Ireland.
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One of our labs (well, one of the desks in the lab) in the School of Biological Sciences.
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I’m a licensed bird ringer with the British Trust for Ornithology. Bird ringers catch birds using safe, approved methods, and attach rings with unique numbers to their legs so that when we catch them again later we have an idea of where they fly, how long they live, etc. Here I’m holding a curlew while helping with a curlew-ringing project.
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I’ve worked with a few different animals. This is a young grass snake. I was looking at the scales on its belly as a way of telling one from the other. The patterns of black scales are unique to each snake, much like human fingerprints.
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