Hello 2016! Keynotes, Kansas & cutting up fish!

Happy New Year! Apologies for the long radio silence, the run up to holiday season at the end of 2015 was particularly busy this year! I thought I would begin this year’s first blog on a few (relatively) recent highlights including: an invitation to give the keynote presentation at the Cornish Wildlife Trust’s annual conference, winning a studentship to the American Fisheries Society Conference and organising a macabre (but exciting!) shopping list of samples to be taken from a rare dead sunfish washed up in California!


Photos: A wonderful commute to Newquay

To give a little further detail, at the end of November, I travelled to Cornwall, where the Wildlife Trust had very kindly invited me to give a lecture at the Seaquest Southwest Conference on ocean sunfish and my research into their diet, energy use and behaviour.


Photos: Great conference -so many fascinating talks! (better photos to follow)

The conference was a wonderful event, attended by approximately 60 people (on a Saturday too!) filled with fascinating talks about local research groups from identifying seals and their movements, to monitoring the only breeding choughs in England, to management of marine disturbances and long term volunteer survey programmes. I have never attended a conference where everyone was so enthusiatic about the marine environment, and I really learned a lot, alongside gaining a great experience in delivering a full lecture, and a huge dose of ocean optimism! Many, many thanks to the Wildlife Trust team for organising such a great day. If you are in the south west and are passionate about marine life, I cannot recommend this enough!


Photos: of course the obligatory Cornish pasty!


On the back on this succesful presentation, I have been lucky enough to have been selected to travel to the American Fisheries Society Conference next year in Kansas City, Missouri, where over 3,000 scientists, fishermen, fisheries managers and traders will descend on the city for one of the biggest fishery conferences in the world! I will be attending the full conference, alongside trade fairs, workshops, social events and training demos thanks to funding organised by my PhD funding body The Fisheries Society of the British Isles and the American Fisheries Society. I hope to present my research at the conference, so fingers crossed for a good field season this year to boost my data!


So 2016 has now arrived! I am hoping to return to Italy to my field site later this year to continue my work on ocean sunfish energy use and diet, and as soon as the fish begin to turn up in the fishermen’s nets I will head on out there!  I am really busy working up further data this spring, and a wonderful opportunity has arisen in the form of a very small sunfish washed up in California last week.

Of course it is sad to see any creature dead on the beach, but this little sunfish can contribute hugely to the understanding of its’ species! Measuring only 30cm across this provides a rare glimpse into the life of juvenille sunfish (and it’s not that easy to find the adults!) My colleague Dr Tierney Thys, a world-reknowned sunfish expert, has conducted a dissection of the fish and many of us from around the globe have been requesting different samples on a long, messy shopping list of sunfish body parts!

Photos: A close up of the body, and photo of the gut length of the juvenille sunfish, (photos courtesy of Dr Tierney Thys). Unfortunatly the gulls have beaten us to the eyes, and it appears a sealion or two has taken the fins (possibly the reason why this specimen died), but there are still plently of interesting things for biologists to use!

I am taking this discovery so early in the year as a good sign of more fish to come, and if anyone else happens to find or hear of a washed up, dead sunfish please let me know! I really need further samples, and only tiny tissue snips are required (or if anyone is feeling brave I’d love some more vertebrae!) Of course I can provide full instructions/postage costs or physical help if at all possible!

As always if you have any comments or questions please contact me below in the comments or email me at nphillips01@qub.ac.uk  or tweet @sunfishresearch

Wishing everyone a very happy new year!



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