Being a fish detective

By Jessica Duffill Telsnig (@JTelsnig), Newcastle University


pic4My interest in the marine world began when I first went scuba diving, aged 11. Suddenly a whole new world appeared and I could explore it up close, my nose a couple of inches away from an interesting rock or crab. My interest grew as I realised how big this new world was, with many different ecosystems operating beneath the blue waters. This, combined with the fact that we know more about the moon than some parts of the ocean made me believe that studying the marine realm would never be boring.

pic1I completed my undergraduate degree at Durham University reading Geography, focusing on taking oceanic themed courses where possible. Fulfilling an internship at the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) opened my eyes to the desperate state of many of the world’s fisheries and the MSC’s plight to introduce sustainable fishing where possible. This helped me to decide that I would like to focus my studies on the marine world and fisheries in particular and so I gained my MSc in International Marine Environmental Consultancy at Newcastle University.  This led onto my PhD at Newcastle University, which looks at using stable isotopes to examine the marine food webs around the UK. The ultimate aim is to see how climate change and fishing might affect these food webs, and what it might mean for the future.

pic3Climate change and overfishing are two major themes which have been emerging in the scientific community over the past couple of decades and yet still very little is known about their effects. However, by gathering data over time and probing for answers we can hopefully continue to find small pieces to fit together to gather an overall understanding of what might occur. My PhD will provide one of those small pieces, which will hopefully in turn influence future policy, enabling sustainable fishing to occur so that there will be enough fish for many future generations.

pic2My talk will use themes from my PhD and how I work to show how we can gain understanding from data. I work in a way similar to that of a detective, I look for clues for what might have happened in a case by collecting data or evidence, I examine the evidence to understand what has happened, I ask questions to understand if that evidence is valid and then draw to a conclusion of what the evidence might mean to solve the case.

Throughout my studies I have found knowledge to be a powerful mechanism for change, because only through understanding things can we learn how to do better. It is important that this knowledge is passed onto the general public, because only through them will we be able to see real change which will be passed onto future generations. This is why I believe organisations such as Soapbox Science are so important, because they become the mouthpiece for passing onto the public new knowledge and inspiration for the future.

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