The streams of Britain host some unwelcome guests. Jeama Stanton's study counts the environmental cost of letting plague-carrying American crayfish loose into our rural waterways.
She has spent three years studying the behaviour of the crustaceans but says there's a lot to be learnt from her work - introducing foreign species always has serious consequences for our animals and the habitats in which they live.
What attracted you to this kind of work?
"It was the fieldwork. I'm not one of those people that can spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a lab…"
To actually learn about science and especially learn about animals and their ecology you need to see them in their natural environment doing natural things. Bringing them back to the lab is all very well but it doesn’t, you know, how much you can then relate what they’re in the lab back to what you’re actually seeing in the stream is a whole different kettle of fish.
What's the best thing about your work?
"I've really enjoyed my 3 years and have learnt so much. But you have to really want to do a PhD and have an interest in it, otherwise at the end you certainly won't…"
You build up a set of skills that enable you to, you know, transfer from subject to subject. And basically it means going out and researching interesting aspects of the environment in my case and, you know, you’re developing, increasing your knowledge in an unknown area and I think that’s the real excitement to it, is that you’re doing something that probably no-one else has done before, so that’s a real buzz.
What's it like to do a PhD?
"There's nothing else I could imagine doing as a job other than science, it's my life..."
There’s been lows and there’s been highs and there’s sort of, you know, you get to a point where you think oh God, I don’t want to do it any more, but then you sort of get past that. And I’ve learnt so much, I’ve learnt so much about animals, so much about setting up experiments, so much about fieldwork.
If it’s something that you actually truly do enjoy it’s worth it. It’s worth going out and doing the work that you do in the hope that maybe some day you’ll find, you know, discover something which will be, you know, really useful for people generally. But I think it’s just, it’s an interesting thing and you find out something new each day. You’re constantly learning new skills.
How important is your work?
"We're looking at an invasive species that's been introduced and is affecting our own environment. The information I find out will help to stop it happening again…"
The kind of work that I’m doing I think is very worthwhile, if not to be able to actually act on and do something with these animals now in terms of prevention, just to know, to be aware of the consequences of actually introducing a species like this and trying to prevent things from this happening again, and having evidence to show well this is what it can do and therefore, you know, this is why we shouldn’t be doing it in the future.
Do you like crayfish?
"I like them as animals, they're fascinating but I've never eaten them…"
It’s just amazing to think that, you know, when they fight each other and lose a claw that over time they can actually regrow a claw. I mean that’s fascinating and, you know, that’s a really interesting thing that people think really, can they really do that? And it’s like yeah. You know, that’s something that, you know, they’ve obviously built in an ability to be able to do that. But as in terms of eating them, a lot of people like to eat crayfish and I’d have to say that actually I’m allergic to things like prawns and crabs so I’ve actually never had a crayfish because I’m fairly convinced I’d be allergic to it. So we keep well away from them.
What did you want to be when you were little?
"A vet, because I loved animals but I changed my mind when I realised that I didn't particularly like seeing blood."
What were your favourite subjects at school?
"Maths and Biology."
What A levels did you study?
"Maths, Biology and Chemistry."
What was your ambition when you left school?
"To become a Marine Biologist, I decided that I should combine the two things I really enjoyed: biology with my love of the sea and diving."
What did you do between leaving school and starting university?
"I had three months before starting university and worked as a community carer. This involved helping people in their homes with things like cooking, dressing and bathing. Other summer jobs included working as a waitress in a pub, working at a local village shop and working as an aquarist at a Sea Life Centre."
When and where did you go to university?
"I took Marine Biology & Oceanography Joint Honours (2:1) in 1996 at the University of Wales, Bangor."
What were your ambitions after your degree?
"To get a PhD as I realised that if I wanted a reasonably paid job in aquatic science I would need it."
What are your ambitions now?
"I would like to join an Antarctic research team because I love new challenges and I think working in such an extreme environment would certainly give me a lot of new skills to tackle. Also the research that is conducted is on the cutting edge of science and I would like to be part of that."
When are you happiest?
"When I'm SCUBA Diving - especially on the Great Barrier Reef because it's like being in another world, you can switch off and enjoy the freedom of weightlessness whilst seeing some of the most spectacular creatures on this planet."
What three luxury items would you take to a desert island?
"A gorgeous bloke, snorkelling gear and a solar powered WAP phone so I could keep in contact with friends and family, plus I could look up how to whip up an exotic dish or two."
What's your favourite saying/philosophy on life?
"Go for it!"
What was the last thing that you cooked?
"Crispy aromatic duck, this is one of my favourite dishes and took 14 hours to prepare. However, it was consumed within half an hour."
How do you spend your Sundays?
"Judo, scuba diving, sleeping or going to the cinema."
Whom would you most like to meet (dead or alive)?
"Charles Darwin because he must have been an incredible man to have come up with the theory of evolution by natural selection."
Who or what would you put in Room 101?
"Fish Fingers. Ever since I can remember I have hated eating fish, and my parents would try and trick me into eating it because it was "good for me". They thought I would eat it if it was disguised in breadcrumbs, but they were wrong. We had mealtime stand-offs over them until they finally gave up trying."