My Mont-reality…

I was in Montreal last week…

I’ve been there 4 times now. When I was a kid, back in Scotland, I had no idea where Montreal was. I think I remember my high school French teacher saying she came from Montreal. I was really good at French back then. I got an A in Higher French and the teacher tried to convince me to stay on and take it for Advanced Higher, but I knew by that point that my future lay in science, and instead opted to take Biology and Chemistry in my final year. Funny that French and science have now MELANGED dans ma vie and I’m doing my PhD in Quebec!

I arrived in Quebec City in February. It’s been hard living here at times. Quebec City life is very different to that in Edinburgh, and I think most Anglophones who have been here for any amount of time would agree that you if you plan on speaking English a lot, you’re gonna hit a brick wall pretty fast. In fact, you’re probably gonna hate it. I applied directly to the only uni here, Universite Laval, directly to do my PhD. I wrote the project outline myself and got it accepted. I think that students who already have experience in a particular area are in high demand, because they know what they’re doing already and probably won’t need lots of training. My project is on “arrow worms”; worms which live in the ocean.

I once did a job in a marketing company. It was terrible and about as far away from science as you can possibly get. I could tell you more about that job, but for sure it’ll depress me, so I’m not going to. Anyway, I remember the supervisor asking me why I would possibly want to study worms. I told him they were important, but since they weren’t important to him, he required more of an explanation. Then I told him that without animals like these worms, the marine ecosystem could be very different, which could affect fish, seals and POLAR BEARS, and these changes could affect humans in some adverse way. The subject became a little bit more appealing (but he still didn’t really care).

To me, interactions between animals is like one of the most interesting things in the world. What eats what??? What might happen to THE FOOD WEB if one animal just ceases to exist??? It’s all connected, like humans are connected intimately with each other. Marketing’s NOT for me…

So I’ve been working on arrow worms for 4 years now. The work started when I lived in Svalbard (2008-2009) and collected them for my bachelor project. After my dissertation finished, I thought I was ready to do a PhD straight away. I applied to Swansea (WALES) and got accepted on a project on phytoplankton. But the funding fell through, so I went on to do a master and hoped to come back to a PhD after. I’m really glad it worked out that way. Now I’m working on something I really enjoy…

I’ll end this post how it started. I was in Montreal last week presenting a poster of my work at a Quebec Ocean science conference called  “L’heure juste sur la santé des océans” (aka “A reality check on the health of the oceans”). The conference was good, but since it was mostly in French, I got lost a lot. I’m trying. People seemed to like my poster (see photo). One of the judges said that she almost gave me a prize. Almost…

Next trip I’ll be making will be to Vancouver in December where I will be talking about my studies in Svalbard. Stay tuned!


Comments (2)
  • Kai

    November 18, 2012

    Really cool post. You should do one about Svalbard sometime cause it’s one of those faraway places people never get to know.

  • ali (mum)

    November 18, 2012

    Really interesting JJ, keep it coming!! xx

Leave a Comment

* required