Fish Thinkers Research Group up and running…


I recently become part of a collaborative effort with another marine scientist (Matt Rees) with the aim of getting aquatic research highlights out into the public domain- particularly research stories from post-grad and early career researchers. Most of my blogging is done there. You can find the blog here —->

Research photo highlights are on the Instragram account: fish_thinkers 

FTlogoblack[1] CLEAR

Growth of sea urchins – an R plot


Many years ago I found this graph below on an apparently now defunct site called R Graph Gallery. It is a figure from or Grosjean, Spirlet, & Jangoux (2003). A functional growth model with intraspecific competition applied to a sea urchin, Paracentrotus lividus. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci., 60:237-246.


Back then it was one of the highest rated graphs on that website and it is still one of my favorite visualization of a growth model.  I just love the way that the distributions of sizes of sea urchins are plotted individually at each time point along with the quantile regression functions across the median and (I believe) the 10% and 90% percentile. One can immediately see not only how the central tendency of the distribution changes over time, but also their variances. Together with the boxplots in the top margin of the plot, I believe this is one of the most effective…

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My Struggle With Math, Why It Matters, and Why It Really Doesn’t

“You know what it means? You’re an artist, not a physicist.”

Twenty years later, those words still haunt me.

I was actually a bit surprised to remember this quote, but after a conversation with astrophysicist, science communicator and Twitter buddy Sophia Gad-Nasr, who was commenting on a tweet from @dsxnchezz, I found myself emotionally thinking back to a personal struggle I wanted to share.

The tweet:

The story:

A Long Time Ago In a University Far, Far Away

[Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels]

My first semester of studying physics at university was unexpectedly (though, in…

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How scientists can comply with the H2020 open access mandate through self archiving


Very short version

  1. (optional) When you submit your article to a journal, upload that pre-print non-peer-reviewd version in a pre-print repository of your choice (e.g. Zenodo, MarXiv, …) with a CC-BY licence.
  2. When your article has been accepted, upload that post-print peer-reviwed version  in MarXiv (with the licence required by the publisher; e.g. it could be a CC-BY-NC-ND licence)
  3. Wait till the final paper is published in your selected journal.



Long version

One of the principles I’ve recently (a few years) tried to include in my daily work is to try and be as open as possible in the dissemination of my research (ispired by the Erin McKiernan’s pledge to be open). This has included also to disseminate all things related to open science to my colleagues, providing good examples and best practices; this post is an attempt to do so…

Recently, the Open…

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Museum Careers Advice- How to apply for jobs

Fistful Of Cinctans

Earlier this week, I was very kindly invited to speak at an employers panel at a Researcher Career Pathways Event at Oxford Brookes University. In preparing for the panel, I jotted down some top tips, which I thought I’d share here, kicking off 2016 blog content and continuing in the PSA theme I seem to be developing with the content here. Before I get into the tips, I will say that this is drawn from my experience in working in museums and universities, mostly for natural history and heritage related roles so is probably the most relevant to those sectors. Industry, particularly science and engineering is a whole different kettle of fish but certainly some of this information will be transferable.

I’ve had over ten years of experience in recruiting across a range of roles, from volunteers to project assistants through to being involved in the recruitment process for…

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Where to publish our next paper? Letter to a group member


This post was originally published in JUNQ, the Journal of Unsolved Questions.  I thank the editor David Huesmann for his feedback on an earlier version of the manuscript and for the authorization to reproduce it here.

Hi X

Thank you for sending your draft. Really nice work! I will give you more detailed feedback in the next couple of days, but I want to answer now your question about where we should submit our paper.

In the last couple of years, partly because of my involvement in the stripy controversy (more below), I have thought a lot about publishing… and concluded (along with many other people) that the system is absurd, worse, toxic. Public funds are paid to commercial publishers to put publicly-funded research behind paywalls. The (unpaid) hard work of reviewers (which may or may not have led to improvements in the article) remain confidential and does not benefit…

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An encounter with rare ecotype-D orcas

A really interesting and well written piece on ecotype-D orcas

The Xploitation Files


On May 13, 1955, 17 killer whales washed up on Paraparaumu Beach, New Zealand. The stranding attracted extra attention because of the whales’ strange appearances. Instead of the sleek, streamlined bodies of typical killer whales, these ones had large bulbous foreheads, almost like a pilot whale, and where killer whales generally display large, white eye-patches, these stranded whales had tiny post-ocular eye markings.

For almost 50 years this kind of killer whale was not seen again and therefore considered a genetic anomaly.


All the orcas of the world are currently still grouped together as one species under the scientific name Orcinus orca and could be considered abundant in the planet’s oceans. A few years ago, this led to a request to delist the southern resident orcas of the Salish Sea as “there were plenty of orcas elsewhere”. Luckily this attempt failed, partly based on what scientists have known for a…

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The tale of the much maligned giant Australian water rat.

A blog from the past that unexpectedly got quite a lot of attention.

Fish Thinkers

rakali CREDITS : © J Gould © Victoria Museum,

Recently whilst pottering around in the backyard I saw what I first thought was a ringtail possum in the undergrowth. That was until it scampered across the open yard at a pace a ringtail could only dream of attaining on the ground. It was the biggest rat I had ever seen and it seems to have taken up residence in the ponds (i.e. bathtubs and containers I have set-up for fish and frogs) in my yard.

Since then I have seen it regularly and it doesn’t look like the rats I usually see in the urban environment; it was huge at around 1.5 kg and it also had a fluffy tail tipped with white and a slightly golden underbelly. I’ve seen these guys before when fishing so after the first good look at it I knew it was a native water…

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