Experimenting in Paradise

by Alejandra Toledo
14 June 2016

My name is Alejandra Toledo. I am currently doing my PhD at the Centre for Research in Ecology within the Department of Life Sciences at the University of Roehampton. I studied my BSc in Biology with specialization in Zoology in Spain and my MSc in Animal Ecology with specialization in Evolutionary and Molecular Ecology in Sweden.
Now, I am writing from a warm room somewhere on a Caribbean island called Anguilla, a British Overseas Territory. From a young age, I wanted to study birds and live close to the sea. After 25 years, I can now proudly say that I have reached this goal, at least for some months.
My PhD project focuses on studying which features may define “individual quality” in Caribbean seabirds. This means I study which features are important for determining whether the individual has success or fails during their breeding attempt. During fieldwork, we visit and camp on uninhabited Caribbean islands. It is a paradise full of thousands of birds, of beautifully coloured waters and breath-taking sunsets.

However, even living in paradise means we face challenges. It is difficult to find equipment here, even relatively simple things, like distilled water or rechargeable batteries. Power cuts are frequent, buying equipment online has expensive delivery charges and shipping can take months! Another challenge is the weather and the sea conditions, often unpredictable. When there are strong winds and big waves we need to stay on the main island for safety. Since this is my first field season, I am learning to adapt my research to fit with the complex local logistics. This is helping me to better prepare for planning my research in the second field season.
If you are interested in following your dreams and are looking for more information on how to get to the next step in your studies or career, my advice would be:
(1) Try many different things until you know what you love the most (volunteering, internships, collaborations).
(2) Search for your ideal job and check the requirements. Work on your skills until you meet these requirements. This will set you up with the best chances for securing the job.
(3) Don’t take a rejection as something personal, but as a chance to know how you can improve even more.
(4) Persevere and don’t give up, you never know what adventure may be just around the corner!
If you want to follow the development of our research, my twitter is @Alejandra_Tole. One of the chicks also opened a Twitter account, @ChickBooby so you don’t need to miss out on life as a seabird! Also, if you would like to name and support one of our adorable and fluffy chicks you can find out more here.


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