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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

PhD student turns detective to track down exactly where fish come from

Published: 20 April 2017
Katie St John Glew

Postgraduate marine biologist Katie St John Glew is using science to develop a tool to help fisheries inspectors know where fish landed at ports have actually been caught.

She described her PhD research in just 180 seconds in a heat of the popular Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition and will now represent the Faculty of Natural and Environmental Science at the final of the University of Southampton’s 3MT contest in May (17).

Katie is using isotopes of elements detected in fish caught in the North Sea to identify where they were harvested; this valuable information could support European Union efforts to conserve stocks and manage trawler fleets.

“This application has emerged from my work to investigate foraging areas of marine creatures,” she explains. “We know seabirds breed on land in colonies but they feed out at sea and we are not sure where. However, we can measure isotopes in their feathers acquired from the fish they consume and track where they forage. The next step is to use these techniques to discover where trawled fish come from across the UK’s continental shelf.”

3MT challenges PhD students to summarise their thesis in ordinary language. Katie uses a ‘CSI Southampton’ theme for her presentation and compares her research to a detective story: “I enjoy communicating science and was inspired to apply after a friend entered last year. It takes a lot of practice but it’s good fun.”

A final year PhD student, Katie studied for her first degree, Masters of Science in Marine Biology, at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton and wants to stay in research after graduating.


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