IRELAND, 2018

Read on to learn more about my fieldwork this year all over Ireland with two endangered marine species: the basking shark and flapper skate.


 Flapper Skate

 Photo: John O’Connor

Photo: John O’Connor

At the helm

october 8, 2018

I’ve learned many things from working with megafauna here in Ireland, but perhaps the most impactful lesson has been that a major key to success in wildlife research is flexibility. As someone with a strong perfectionist streak, I’ll admit that it’s taken about two field seasons of chasing the ever-elusive basking shark to really embrace this new attitude. But, after this past week, I could not be more grateful to have done so…


 Photo: John O’Connor

Photo: John O’Connor

A NEW COMMUNITY

OCTOBER 12, 2018

There’s something very subtly distinct about the culture here in Ireland, particularly among those who interact consistently with its marine life. And though I’ve spent numerous months conducting fieldwork here, it only just struck me exactly what that distinguishing characteristic is. From the biggest cities to the little rural towns, there is an amazingly strong sense of community…

 

Basking Shark

 Photo: Chelsea Gray

Photo: Chelsea Gray

COASTAL EXPLORING

July 14, 2018

 “Everything looks the same!” Those were my words to Emmett as we drove past the big sign announcing “Buncrana” a few weeks ago. After a sixteen-hour travel day through New York, London, and Belfast, I had finally arrived back at the town that I remembered so fondly. But, I was quickly to learn that though Buncrana seemed relatively unchanged, this field season would be markedly different from the first....


 Photo: Noel Bright

Photo: Noel Bright

Call me ishmael

JULY 23, 2018

Whenever I’m at sea, I like to think. Maybe it’s the romantic in me, or maybe it’s the simple fact that I have nothing to do but let my mind wander. Either way, I tend to find immense clarity when I’m on the water. For the past week I’ve had the chance to indulge in this philosophical side for hours on end, onboard the sailing vessel Celtic Mist as she traveled along the western coast of Ireland. And for some reason, more often than not, I found myself thinking about my mom....

For more information on my week sailing with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, you can also check out my piece on their page here


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lost in translation

august 2, 2018

 As a science communicator, I believe that media outlets have the potential to be a great source of information. However, in spite of the growing efforts to provide more accurate information and properly inform public perception of sharks, this is a world that is just now breaking up with Jaws. Words are especially powerful as we attempt to shift our collective mindset, and those who have control of them should be careful...


 Photo: Erin McMenamin

Photo: Erin McMenamin

The Secret lives of basking sharks

August 08, 2018

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my studies so far, it’s this: basking sharks will break you because once you catch shark fever, you’ll sacrifice almost anything (including your PhD) just to lay your eyes on one.

 

Piece written for The Ethogramofficial blog of the Animal Behavior Graduate Group, University of California - Davis. 


 Photo: NOAA

Photo: NOAA

Roll with the punches

August 15, 2018

If you were to consider physical appearances alone, even I would admit that there are a few shark species that could be considered “scary”. These might include the fearsome great white, the speedy mako, or the snaggletoothed sand tiger shark. Basking sharks were also historically considered terrifying “sea monsters” based on their size and sinuous feeding behavior alone. But, since the latter have yet to make an appearance at Malin Head this summer, I decided to temporarily change tactics and turned my attention to a different species....


Living the dream

August 26, 2018

 Photo: Emmett Johnston

Photo: Emmett Johnston

This field season has been a roller coaster of an experience. Every day on the water brought a sense of excitement and wonder, and there were moments, as the sun reflected on the green hills of Donegal and the waves turned an astonishing shade of blue, that I couldn’t quite believe it was all real. Yet even as I reflect on all that I’ve taken away from this summer, I can’t help but notice that there is one significant part that is notably missing. Perhaps it’s both the blessing and curse of being a researcher that the same purpose that brought me here is also leaving me slightly unfulfilled as this field season concludes. There’s undoubtedly one prevailing question that I’ll receive when I get back home, from both those who follow my journey and in my own mind.

What now?