Life in the fast lane…

Hey guys, it’s got to be time for an update.

Life is B-U-S-Y right now. It’s pretty decent being a PhD student with Louis and ArcticNet. We get a lot of opportunities to go to different places to attend workshops and conferences. Two weeks from today, I’ll be on the other side of Canada, in Vancouver. I’m going there to attend the ArcticNet Annual Science Meeting 2012 (link here:, taking place from the 11th to 14th December.

As a PhD student at Université Laval, I’m automatically part of ArcticNet, “a Network of Centres of Excellence of Canada that brings together scientists and managers in the natural, human health and social sciences with their partners from Inuit organizations, northern communities, federal and provincial agencies and the private sector” ( The annual conference will be held at the Westin Bayshore hotel. There will be lots of people there, many will be presenting talks or posters of their work.

During the conference, I’ll be presenting a talk about my Svalbard project, entitled “The annual routine of a predatory Arctic zooplankter in a highly seasonal environment”, obviously about my favourite little arrow worm Parasagitta elegans. I’m really into the whole predator aspect of P. elegans at the moment, a subject I’m working on with my two awesome interns, Pierre-Olivier and Ariane (see photo).

“Team Chaetognath”! Me, Ariane and P-O taking a breather from working on arrow worms.

We analysed the gut contents of arrow worms collected from Svalbard and Canada at different times of year, to see what they were eating. Not gonna lie, this hasn’t been so straight-forward. If you look at the stomachs of fish or birds or whales, the prey items should generally still be intact. You should be able to tell the prey species without too much difficulty, because the digestion rate isn’t so fast. It’s typical for the majority of chaetognath guts to be empty. If you look at the guts of 100 chaetognaths under the microscope, you might only find prey items in 5-10 of them!! One reason is that digestion is really fast in chaetognaths. There are  other reasons too. I can assure you I’ll talk more about this in a later post!

So at Vancouver, I’ll also talk a bit about what we found in our chaetognath guts. I also have a role in organising and running the ArcticNet Student Day (should be named Student Days, because it takes place over 2 days). As part of the ArcticNet Student Association Exec Committee, we have been finding experienced people to talk to the students on a wide range of topics, such as how to stay safe in the Arctic, and how to write proposals for grants. I’m looking forward to that and hope it goes smoothly.

Before leaving for Vancouver (man, soon), I have my big doctoral exam! On the 7th Dec, I’ll sit down in a room with three professors on my ‘doctoral committee’, who will ask me questions about oceanography in general. To prepare for that, I’ve been reading books on all the marine sciences. Since my bachelor was in Marine Science anyway, I learnt a lot of the material before. But I needed to remind myself!

Following Vancouver, I’m heading home to Scotland for Christmas, then jetsetting to Norway for another conference in January. It’s going to be an intense few months!

Take care of yourselves!


Comments (3)
  • jordangrigor

    November 27, 2012


  • Ali (mum)

    November 27, 2012

    Great stuff Jj!! Xxx

  • Myrna

    December 23, 2012

    I found your blog website on google and check several of your early posts. Continue to keep up the really very good operate. I just extra up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Looking for forward to reading much more from you later on!?

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