An update from the land of 10pm dinners

Wow, what a week! 7 days into the trip to Oviedo, Spain, and I finally have enough downtime to write a short post here about what I’ve learned, besides a little Spanish.

Salamanders are awesome amphibians, capable of some intriguing locomotor gaits. As it happens, the population we have been studying is one of the smaller and slower fire salamander populations, according to Guillermo, a visiting S. salamandra geneticist. Despite this, they still exhibit some great locomotor ability. Who knew salamanders could gallop?!

However, fun as they are, as we near our 160th salamander, I’m growing slightly tired. Apparently this is a very large data set for animal science, which is great for the research. Not so great for the amount of video renaming, converting, cropping and digitising we have yet to do though!

The next best thing about being on a research trip in another country? The food! Great food every day of the week, never leaving the table anything less than fit to burst, and then doing it all over again the next day.

As another evening draws to a close, and my departure looming two mornings from now, I look forward to returning home for data processing. Staying in a 5 star hotel and eating out every night is fantastic, but the return to reality will be refreshing.

Until next time.

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So this is what doing science is all about…

This week has been the introduction to what being a scientific researcher means. I know it’s only a second year BSc project, but it is hopefully the start of what is to come.

I’ve had a heath and safety induction. It’s almost a shame that such measures are necessary in today’s society that we must be warned not to touch things on fire. Yet across business, education, life and science, health and safety is at the forefront of our experience.

I’ve also got to grips with some of the software I will be analysing the salamander videos with. Pretty complex stuff! MATLAB is a new package to me, but very clever in its execution. I’m yet to convert the data points I can produce into manipulative, meaningful numbers yet, but that will come during the research.

And, finally, I am endlessly reading and reviewing the literature surrounding salamander biology, ontogeny and locomotion. I expected a mountain to climb, but sifting through an avalanche of white sheets of research feels like fighting an uphill battle. The top is still not in sight, in fact, I may still be at base camp. I’m enjoying it, but using this blog as a momentary reclamation of a free mind, without feeling guilty of being unproductive. As my understanding grows, I’m even more eager to get stuck into the science!

Flights to Oviedo, Spain, are on Wednesday. I’ll hopefully update whilst there. AdiĆ³s!