I live with my partner in the highlands of Scotland with two dogs, some woodworm, some invading mice and the occasional woodlouse that got lost. When not working I walk dogs, play video games, read science fiction and fantasy, watch junk TV and do a lot too much cooking and eating.
I was brought up in London and Oxford, did a degree in Marine Biology at Bangor, North Wales, a degree in archaeology of animals (Zooarchaeology) in London and a doctoral degree (PhD) in Stirling, Scotland. I have lived in Scotland for more than 35 years now. I like to be near water (lakes, rivers, seas) and have played in rockpools since I was a child (I still like to play in rockpools…). At the age of 5 I said I’d like to be a marine biologist and here I am… The thing I like to do best (apart form eating delicious food) is science in all its exciting diversity and I particularly enjoy working with other scientists, governments, industries around the globe to develop new science methods and discover new things about the biological world.
My pronouns are:
I work on wild and farmed fish health, including diseases and parasites of fish. The purpose of my work is to improve the health and welfare of fish by reducing disease using medicines, vaccines and other methods.
I am a researcher at the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling in Scotland. This Institute work on all aspects of farming fish and other animals and seaweeds (aquaculture) for food, which reduces the need for fishing of wild fish and helps to protect the aquatic environment and the animals and plants that live in it.
I work in university laboratories, field laboratories and at fish farms or the sea shore, and I run my own laboratory. I also do a lot of teaching of marine biology students, aquaculture students, vets, government researchers and fish-farm workers of all ages.
My work involves trying to improve the health of wild and farmed fish by gaining knowledge of the biology of organisms that cause disease (e.g. viruses, bacteria and parasites) and using that knowledge to develop medicines, vaccines and other treatments. I work mainly on a group of parasites called sea lice, which live on the outside of fish, like fleas or headlice on humans, and can hurt the fish if not removed.
A lot of my work involves work with fish, mainly Atlantic salmon, which may be kept in large tanks or farmed in very large nets in the sea.
My Typical Day:
I wake up (assuming that I went to bed…), take the dogs for a walk in the woods and have breakfast (tea, 1 tangerine and 1 banana) and then I start work, sometimes at my computer at home, sometimes in labs at the university. I work from 9 till 6 (not forgetting lunch!), walk the dogs, have a snack, work some more, cook and eat dinner at 9.30 then work till bedtime. Too much work, but since it’s science there’s a lot of fun and excitement as well as the boring stuff.
For the work part of my work I might be examining fish for parasites and identifying the ones I find, using different kinds of microscopes, writing computer programs, looking after fish, reading a lot of scientific papers, chatting to science friends at my place of work or anywhere in the world or running all kinds of experiments. I also spend time writing papers about my science that will be published and trying to find new funding for the exciting science I want to do in the future. I also give lectures to students from many backgrounds and countries and provide training for students and other people to help make their work easier.
What I'd do with the prize money:
I will turn my prize money into a big pile of gold to attract dragons
OR spend it on a large pile of head-sized doughnuts, which I’ll give to my friends
OR use it to visit schools to tell the scientists of tomorrow something about the importance of aquaculture for the planet and about the work I do (I’ll probably spend my prize money on this one…probably….).
Primary school education in North London and Oxford, secondary school education in Oxford, 1st degree (Zoology with marine Zoology) in Bangor, North Wales, 2nd degree (Bioarchaeology specialising in Zooarchaeology) at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 3rd degree, a doctorate in aquatic veterinary science at the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Scotland.
10 O-levels in a range of subjects, 1 CSE in mathematics (an emergency measure as I was bad at maths…), 3 A-levels (English, Biology, Chemistry), 1 undergraduate BSc degree (Zoology with Marine Zoology), 1 postgraduate MSc degree (Bioarchaeology specialising in Zooarchaeology), 1 doctoral degree in Aquatic Veterinary Science.
Worked in the Oxford Archaeological Unit sorting biological samples from mediaeval monastery drains, worked at the Museum of Natural History, London measuring skulls from ancient Egypt, worked in Wytham Woods near Oxford helping to sort and identify animal bones from archaeological sites, worked as an excavator on a number of archaeological digs around Oxford, worked as an office dogsbody at Bronze Records near the Roundhouse in London, worked as a grape-picker in France, worked as an excavator on archaeological sites near Cusco, Peru, worked as a research assistant, research fellow, lecturer, senior lecturer and professor at the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Scotland.
My current job is as a Professor of Aquatic Animal Health at Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling.
University of Stirling, Scotland
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
greedy fish scientist
What did you want to be after you left school?
a marine biologist
Were you ever in trouble at school?
yes - bad James!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
video gaming and eating
Who is your favourite singer or band?
impossible question - too many great singers and bands and orchestras and film music composers...
What's your favourite food?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
unlimited funding for my science, the ability to magically cause world peace, a top chef in my house
Tell us a joke.
what's brown and sticky? a stick....