Now that you know how I got to be where I am, I can start to tell you how I’m going so far. I am over 4 months in and have very little to show for it. The first major milestone in a PhD at JCU is the Confirmation of Candidature. For the confirmation, an in-depth research proposal needs to be evaluated by external experts to make sure what you’re planning on doing is feasible in the time allowed for a PhD. Once the proposal is evaluated, I need to give a seminar about what my project will look at, the methods I’ll use, and what I expect to find. In addition to the presentation, I have to hand in a substantial piece of work. I had always been planning on using my Masters thesis for the substantial piece of work as many people in my lab had done that before but recently, JCU changed the policy and this now has to be a literature review. Had I known that, I might have had more than just an outline by now. Anyways, the confirmation is supposed to be done within 6-12 months of starting. I’m aiming to do mine in February, meaning I really need to get it together to finish the proposal and start my lit. review!
That’s the bad news, the good news is that I’ve got a lot of small things checked off. We have to go to 48 hours of elective seminars in the first 18 months of our candidature and I have completed 28 hours so far. I got to do a bit of field work, not for my project, but it was fun spending time on the Great Barrier Reef tagging sharks and downloading receivers. I represented JCU international students at a forum in Perth, my first time outside of Queensland in the 2 ½ years I have lived in Australia. I have also presented at an international conference in Auckland, New Zealand and AIMS@JCU student day here in Townsville. Coming up will be the Australian Society of Fish Biology (ASFB) conference in Sydney in a week. But before I can get to that conference, it’s JCU Shark Camp at Orpheus Island! Catch up on our adventures on Twitter with the hashtag #SharkCamp2015.
As I type this, I am staring at the beautiful ocean from research paradise, Orpheus Island Research Station, off the coast of Queensland. There are 11 of us here for 8 days of what we’re calling Shark Camp! We are downloading receiver data from animals that already have transmitters in them, fishing and tagging sharks, and testing out the BRUV systems for my project. If you don’t remember from last post, BRUVs are baited remote underwater videos. The bait attracts sharks and rays (as well as many other fish) so that we can see what’s around.
As it comes to an end of Shark Camp, we have set out 45 BRUVs testing different settings and camera angles, tagged about a dozen sharks, and downloaded all 36 receivers. I was there when one itty bitty baby blacktip reef shark was caught on the beach but the rest of the fishing crew have caught and tagged half a dozen or so sharks. The visibility in Pioneer Bay here at Orpheus is not great, especially since it’s been quite windy but after watching about half of the videos, we did get some stuff! We have seen 5 sharks, two Brownbanded Bamboo sharks, the same species I worked on in my undergrad, one Whitetip reef shark, one Weasel Shark and one very cute Tiger Shark (some photos below). We have also seen a couple Moray eels and even one turtle! Now that we’ve trialled variations of the BRUVs, we are closer to being ready for our first overseas trip for the Global FinPrint Project.
Overseas, the very exciting part! The plan is to spend 42 days in Borneo, Sabah, Malaysia starting November first. We are still waiting on permits from the Malaysian government, however, we are very fortunate to have help from Scuba Junkie, who are not only helping with permits, but have offered accommodation and boats to help with this project. Scuba Junkie is an AMAZING dive shop, one I have been diving with 3 times recreationally. I am very excited to work with them professionally. They are true conservationists and appreciate the ocean, which is reflected in the daily operations and staff attitudes. If you are looking to dive in Malaysia, I would recommend going to Mabul with Scuba Junkie!
Thanks for tuning in again, and welcome to anyone new! Feel free to share this blog, comment, or ask any questions in the box below. Next time I post a blog, hopefully I will be in Malaysia!
P.S. There's another awesome stingray person in New Zealand that also has a blog. Check out her stuff here: Helen Cadwallader!