Monday, 7 September 2015

Leaving :(

I can't believe I've been here nearly 3 months and it's time to leave already! I have had an incredible time here in Nelson Bay. From my work placement I have gained lab & fieldwork experience in a government facility - invaluable experience that should hopefully help me with my future career. I have made some friends, worked with accomplished scientists, learnt to use some different equipment and scientific techniques, been able to discuss different career paths with people actually on those career paths, talk to PhD students about what their programmes have been like and the logistics behind doing a PhD, and been able to conduct my very own experiment (which may result in me being a coauthor of a scientific paper!).

Some of the things I have done at the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute:
  • Assisted other researchers with projects
  • Sampled oysters from aboard a small research vessel
  • Lab work including microscope work and proper use of some harmful chemicals
  • Learning husbandry techniques for keeping Oysters
  • Learnt to strip spawn pipis, pacific oysters, and sydney rock oysters
  • Learnt about dealing with harmful algae in the lab
  • Learnt algae cultivation and counting techniques
  • Collected organisms for experimentation
  • Designed and conducted a number of experiments
  • Learnt all about how an oyster hatchery works and the larval stages of oysters
  • Learnt to use an Oxymeter to measure very tiny changes in the oxygen concentration of a small volume of water - to measure oxygen consumption of very little organisms
  • Attempted to make sense of the results of the experiments using graphs and stats
On my last day of work we had a morning tea & cake session with everyone and there was SO MUCH CAKE. It was great to collect everyone in the same place and thank them for everything they've done for me here. Then, after work, a few of us went 10-pin bowling..

Outside of work I have also tried to make the most of exploring a new place - and I think I managed to squeeze a fair bit in! A lot of this was thanks to the generosity and kindness of people I have met whilst out here, I hope to be able to maybe show some of these people around my neck of the woods at some point in the future.

I have:
    Bowling with the oyster team
    - believe it or not, I actually wasn't that bad at
    bowling without the gutter guards up
  • Stayed with Peta, Patrick, Charlie, and Penny - where we visited a lovely market, walked along the stunning coastline and on the Anzac Walk, had a big english breakfast, watched the cricket, and went to the Reptile Park and touched a Kangaroo!
  • Stayed with Kenneth & Jodie on their houseboat - went paddleboarding and climbing, tried Yorkshire puddings for breakfast, visited more of the beautiful beaches around here, had THE BEST BANANA BREAD in Newcastle, and ate a lovely meal whilst looking out over Newcastle and the sea
  • Played a lot of pool with many different people
  • Had 2 very lovely dinners with Kenneth, Jodie, Coralie, Brian, Brian & Bev - I'm very sad we didn't manage to have a games evening - but maybe I can participate via skype?
  • Visited a local brewery with Greg, Michelle, and their friends, for a lovely large lunch (when I was looked at strangely for asking for vinegar, and I won one game of petanque - which may have been a fluke)
  • Discovered that I have an unfounded fear of pelicans
  • Been diving a lot - the diving here is insane. I have seen so much sealife, and SO MANY NUDIBRANCHS. My favourite dives have to be the night dive - that was really incredible, shining torches under ledges in the pitch black and seeing huge fish, eels, turtles, and rays staring back at me - and also the boat dive, because SHARKS. By the end of this trip I will have my Padi Advanced Diver qualification which is very exciting!
  • Gone whale spotting from the rocks, and visited the Gan Gan lookout with Jenny & Doug - the views here really are very impressive!
  • Watched lots of Antiques Roadshow with Jenny & Doug in an effort to make me a little less homesick
  • Met a man having his afternoon whisky on the beach with his turtle
  • Been given a tour of Geoff Diemer's oyster farm - learnt all about how it works and tried some nude oysters straight from the water! Geoff also donated us lots of oysters to eat at home - which we did, immediately, with g&ts made with limes fresh from the tree in the back garden!
  • Eaten SO MANY OYSTERS - having never eaten an oyster before coming here, the amount I have now eaten is, I think, quite impressive. I have tried them cooked with bacon and Worcester sauce, cooked with ginger and chilli, warm with lemon and salt, and raw with nothing on them! I have warmed to them a lot - but I think my favourite is warm with lemon and salt straight from the barbecue - I might be developing an expensive taste that I won't be able to maintain..
Lovely flowers and chocolates from work on my last day
  • Been snorkelling with Kyle whilst he free-dived for lobsters - I was then donated the lobsters (which was very generous of Kyle), and I learnt to cook them on the barbecue with lots of garlic butter - this was DELICIOUS
  • Attended lots of weekly Rotary meetings, met many lovely Rotarians and learnt about what they all do
  • Attended a Rotary District Changeover - I was very honoured to be invited and it was great to see people being appreciated for all the amazing work they do
  • Helped out at a charity fundraiser film event (a really interesting film too) run by Kathy in the local cinema
  • Been Pipi collecting with Brandt & Kyle which sounded very scientific when I agreed to go (when I didn't even know what Pipis were), but was actually very fun and silly. We drove down Stockton beach and paddled and wiggled around in the sand to find these little bivalves.
  • Been climbing many times with Greg - started off very weak, but by the end I began to get some of my strength back - now I've just got to keep up the good work when I return home!
  • Took a trip with Doug & Jenny to the Hunter Valley where we tasted lots of lovely wine, cheese, and chutney - and I fell asleep on the way home (to be fair to me, it was very warm)
  • Visited the Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters Centre, where I had a really super meal with Kenneth, Jodie, Ryan, and Lia. And then later I got to feed lots of rather large rays and learn about everything they are doing at the centre. I also got to meet a very pretty Gang-gang Cockatoo who sat on my arm very nicely for a while until she decided she actually hated me.
  • Went Kayaking with Doug in the bay - very relaxing and an excellent way to see the bay (even though the current did beat us when we tried to cross the bay
Brian & Bev travelled round to the other side of the bay
to watch my presentation
  • Took the ferry from Nelson Bay to Hawks Nest, stayed with Brian & Bev for the weekend. Given a tour of the local area on that side of the bay, and a driving tour of the industrial side of Newcastle, and introduced to the birdlife of the area (who all seem to congregate on Brian & Bev's balcony in the morning)
  • Had many lovely lunches with work people (Kyle, Brandt, Laura, and Wally)
  • Climbed Mount Tomaree (Not really a mountain - but a fairly decent hill for sure)

I am extremely grateful to everyone who made this opportunity possible and who made me feel so welcome and showed me around during my stay. I have really enjoyed my stay here in Nelson Bay - and as well as developing my professional qualifications & experience I have also been able to experience life abroad and had so many great experiences and make some new friends. I am so thankful to lots of people for helping me to get the most out of this amazing opportunity:

Thank you..
  • All the Rotary Clubs and individuals involved my making my placement happen (Nelson Bay, Didcot, Myall Coast, Colin Yarwood) - the whole experience has been amazing and enormously beneficial
  • Especially the Nelson Bay Rotary Club for inviting me to attend all their weekly meetings during my stay and for being so welcoming
  • Doug, Jenny and I looking very smart at my
    final Rotary meeting at Nelson Bay
  • Brian & Bev - for letting me stay with you for a few weekends, showing me round, and kindly picking me up (and taking me back to) the airport - I know you say it's a short drive.. it's not.
  • Peta, Patrick, Charlie & Penny - for inviting me to stay with your family for the weekend
  • Kenneth & Jodie - for letting me stay on your boat and organising a lovely jam packed weekend
  • Brian & Coralie - for letting me stay in your lovely house, and for the best after-paddleboarding breakfast 
  • Geoff Diemer - for giving me a tour of the Oyster Farm - and for letting me try so many oysters!
  • The Port Stephens Fisheries Institute - for offering me the opportunity to do this placement
  • Everyone at work who was very welcoming, and happy to help me get involved and to teach me things - including Mike, Wayne, Steve, Kyle, Brandt, Laura, Wally, and Greg.
  • Everyone who offered to give me lifts around the place and to and from work (Doug, Jenny, Wally, Greg, Justin)
  • Feet First Dive Centre - for dealing with my annoying changing schedule and helping me with my dive course, and for putting up with early morning Charlie (not the most chipper person)
  • A huge thank you to Doug & Jenny - for hosting me and making this whole thing possible. Its a big thing to invite a stranger into your home for 3 months, and I am so grateful to you for looking after me, feeding me, and showing me around during my stay
  • All the friends I made whilst being here - I hope at some point you might be able to visit my neck of the woods and I can show you around! 
THE OYSTER TEAM! (Clockwise from me: Brandt, John, Kyle, and Laura in the middle)

My Australian family - Jenny, Doug, Peta, Patrick, Charlie, and Penny (excuse the poor quality & light of this photo - we
realised quite late on that we didn't have a group photo and so this was taken outside very late in the evening after a fantastic barbecue at the house)

A massive thank you to everyone!

I'm very sad to be leaving - but I am pleased to say that I have a plane journey home without a 9 hour wait layover! And I am excited to get back, see my friends, and get ready to go back to Uni!

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