Really enjoyed the final chat session! Heading into the rainforest shortly -I can't wait!
1996 – 2000 University of Coimbra; 2000 – 2001 University of the Azores; 2006 – 2010 Cardiff University
BSc / MRes / PhD
University of the Azores; A ROCHA bird centre; Cardiff School of Biosciences; Cardiff School of Dentistry
I teach statistics and help students analysing data for their research projects; I also think about new projects and ideas that the students can take on.
Well… apart from the fact that your clothes get to smell of fish oil for ever, it is actually quite exciting! Faeces and vomit samples are precious sources of information on an animals’ diet. I use field and lab techniques (visual identification and DNA detection) to find and identify, in such samples, the prey consumed by the birds I am studying. More generally I am interested in seabirds’ responses and adaption to climate change. Understanding their diet is an important step in this process. For instance, knowing what an animal has been eating might also give valuable clues to where and when it has been feeding (here is an example: “Thomas R.J., Pollard A.L. & Medeiros R. 2006. Evidence for intertidal foraging by European Storm Petrels Hydrobates pelagicus during migration. Atlantic Seabirds, 8:87-94″).
I am currently writing a manuscript on how European storm petrels (Hydrobates pelagicus) seem to be able to predict food availability during their migration journeys and respond accordingly. They stuff themselves with food when prey availability is low (to make sure they will not starve on the way) but eat less when overall prey abundance is high (no point carrying extra weight during your journey if you are sure to find enough food along the way). We never knew they could be so clever!
My colleagues and I also found that male and female storm petrels behave differently during migration, though we still don’t really know why (take a look at “Medeiros R., King R.A., Symondson W.O.C., Cadiou B., Zonfrillo B., et al. 2012. Molecular Evidence for Gender Differences in the Migratory Behaviour of a Small Seabird. PLoS ONE 7(9): e46330. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046330″).
There is a lot more I could tell you about my work with storm petrels and other seabirds but I guess that’s what the chats are for! So I think I should just say that I am originally from Portugal but moved to the UK in 2006 to start my PhD at Cardiff University. I am married and have two children, a 15 years old boy and a 12 years old girl. Working as a scientist can be hard on family life, particularly for women (I think), but with a great deal of determination, a bit of imagination and, I guess, some sacrifice, it can work out well. I am also a Christian and I don’t feel any conflict between my faith and my work – it does give rise to many interesting conversations at work though!
My Typical Day:
There really isn’t a typical day at work and that’s one of the things I love about it!
During fieldwork season, the typical day is to sleep from about 8 am to 3 pm, wake up, relax a bit, sort the data and samples from the previous night and start getting ready to go to the field in the evening. From around 7 pm to 7 am I am at the bottom of a cliff, facing the sea, hopefully catching some storm petrels (the smallest seabirds in the world), putting little numbered metal rings round their legs, taking body measurements, collecting feather and faecal samples and letting them go again back to the sea.
When fieldwork season is over my typical day is either in the lab, extracting and amplifying DNA from the birds’ feather and faecal samples, or at the computer analysing data statistically, reading, writing or reviewing papers, preparing talks for conferences, contacting other scientists, and getting distracted a lot of the time. I also teach and supervise undergraduate students, attend academic meetings and seminars, join events like this, etc… As I said, there really isn’t a typical day!
What I'd do with the prize money:
I believe the best way to communicate science is to get people to experience it so I would use the money to promote the project “Storm Petrels in Portugal”, which gives people, from all ages and backgrounds, the opportunity to join a research expedition and experience science from inside.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
I simply can’t do this sort of thing! I asked my kids instead and here’s the result: epic, scatterbrain, computer nerd. The chocolate cake I just baked might help to explain the first one, the second is an undeniable truth and events like this give me the reputation for the third :)
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Hum… yes… (though never very serious)
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
A travel fund to allow me to visit all my friends scattered around the world; a permanent job as a scientist; a cleaning fairy.
Tell us a joke.
What do you call a fly without wings? A WALK!