Petting a fish and escaping a student routine

During my BIO299 project I was working with the study system of 2 animals: Atlantic salmon and its main parasite – the salmon lice. We were experimentally testing how human activities (such as intensive farming of salmon) drive the evolution of life history traits in parasites.
Sounds interesting? Complicated? Or wet and smelly?
Trust me, it’s all of it! But the most important it’s fun! Thinking about the research with animals? Maybe fish? Or parasites? Don’t hesitate, go for it! The results and satisfaction from the work are worth all of your efforts! Anyway, it’s better than any possible desk study and learning from a typical textbook! And the field is wide open for the new, fresh, and positive minds. I got an amazing experience so you might too!
      Fig.1. Salmon in a recovery tank                         Fig. 2. A working table with measuring tools          Fig.3. Salmon lice sample
I was working in the lab with animals. In the wet, little smelly (yes, fish smells), and cold lab… with the fish… I could never imagine doing it during my MSc degree studies. Such a great experience after all! However, fish research was something I tried to avoid (yes, I know it may be hard to avoid salmon research in Bergen). I have chosen this because I was looking for something new and completely different. As well as some kind of escape from my daily routine as a student. I always try to avoid typical lectures, and textbooks. Learning by doing is my way to go. It was a completely different field than what I used to work in during my previous studies (field surveys and ArcGIS mapping). And as a young (and hopefully promising) scientist I was still looking for the right field to work in. And the field of evolutionary biology and parasitology was something I was always eager to challenge myself with.
Fig. 4. Taking pictures of egg strings                                                      Fig. 5. My main study object – the larvae of salmon lice
Every Monday I have tried to spend time in the lab. Cold and wet lab with running water, water tanks, fish, and parasites. And most important, with fun, smart, always ready to teach and help colleagues. And you know what? It’s great! Wet, cold, and super fun! It was great to escape from the typical student routine of assignments, reading of hundreds pages of textbooks, and writing essays and articles. The running water sound in the lab had a relaxing effect on me. Almost like meditation! To be honest it made me sleepy sometimes but getting a refreshing splash of cold water on my face by the tail of a fish helped a lot to stay in focus. And it didn’t stop me from enjoying it at all!
So back to fish… I was so surprised to see the fish which is used to weekly handling, anaesthesia, and human presence. It almost felt like I am working with house pets. The stress for the fish was reduced to the bare minimum. I have realised it only at the end of my project when we had to replace some fish (it’s a part of science and some animals should be euthanised before major welfare issues occur) with new fish. New comers were so active and little stressed in the presence of human. Overall, I felt like I can pet the fish, just the same way I am petting my cat at home. They were so easy to work with, even though, I got multiple splashes of water on my face. But that’s the destiny of being a fish scientist. Fishy business! Anyway, it may be avoided with more experience in the future.

«You got to go down a lot of wrong roads to find the right one» – Bob Parsons

So, the take home message is that if you are still looking for a scientific path to try and have a possibility to take a BIO299 course, just take it! Try something new! If you are sick of a typical lectures, classroom, and want something unique and fun, BIO299 might be a good option. Or if you already know what you want to do as a scientist, BIO299 is a great way to get some experience in the field and meet right people. Although it is time and energy consuming, it is fun and practice is beneficial for your future carrier. It’s not taking more time than any other course but it is giving much more benefits! And you just might find what you want to do as a scientist. Just like I did! Or it might be a completely opposite outcome and you will realise that science is not for you. Don’t waste your time and make a decision!

«I do not want to waste any time. And if you are not working on important things, you are wasting time» – Dean Kamen

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