Category Archives: Rays

Sunday Smiles: Uhm… Can I distract you with some eagle rays?

Sunday Smiles seems to be taking a bit of a hit at the moment – well, that’s true for the blog in general actually.  I was full of good intentions about getting back to a regular posting frequency this past week, even though I knew it was going to be a very busy week at uni.  Real life won out and that didn’t happen.  In my last post I briefly mentioned something about moving eagle rays, but left it at that.  Time for a little explanation I think, since those darling eagle rays are pretty much the crux of why things have been so busy (and stressful) lately.  If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you might already have a rough idea of what’s been happening over the last week or so.

Meet Bombay. Eagle rays hang out on the bottom of their tanks a lot.

Just as a recap, I moved to NZ in February for an MSc, with a thesis hand-in deadline at the end of February 2013.  So that’s in six weeks.  Currently, I have no results of any sort, which makes it a little difficult to write a thesis.  Basically, over the last nine months or so, my MSc has been steadily going nowhere, mostly because I’ve been having major issues with the technical side of my experiments.  Issues that I haven’t been able to solve since I’m not an electrical engineer and the electrical technician to whom I went for help has been rather useless and I wasn’t pushy enough about it.  Without access to Hermione’s Time-Turner, magically resolving all those technical issues, collecting all my data and producing a coherent 40,000 word thesis in the space of six weeks is evidently not even remotely realistic.  Thankfully, I’ve been granted an extension until the end of May, which is a huge relief.

But an extension itself doesn’t solve the technical hold-ups.  Luckily, the electrical technician up at the Marine Labs in Leigh (I’ve been based down at the School of Biology in Auckland, although I am actually a Leigh student – they’re different departments so it gets a bit complicated) is supposed to be a lifesaver and super helpful.  And he’s also back from paternity leave, so I’m basically pinning my hopes of a solution on him.  Fingers crossed.  But we’re still left with the teeny tiny issue of my experimental subjects – I have three adorable New Zealand eagle rays (Myliobatis tenuicaudatus) that have been hanging out at Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium in Auckland, patiently waiting to be the stars of my experiments.  Kelly Tarlton’s have been looking after them very well (obviously) and have been incredibly kind about housing them for so long, but they need the tank space back, so my eagle rays were effectively homeless.  The School of Biology doesn’t have suitable facilities for housing them, so the only option was to take them up to the Leigh Marine Labs, which does.

Leigh Marine Labs

So we transferred my rays up to Leigh on Thursday – not a complicated operation, but as with anything which involves transporting live animals in tanks of seawater, rather stressful nonetheless.  Both for us and the rays.  Thankfully the rays have all recovered wonderfully and gobbled up their food the next day like little pigs – the best indication that they’ve settled into their new homes (if they weren’t settled, they wouldn’t eat).  So that’s another massive relief.  So now for the final bit of news.  I’ve just told you that my rays are up in Leigh, I’m looking after them, I’m supposed to be talking to one of the Leigh technicians and conducting experiments in Leigh.  So guess where I am?  That’s right, in Leigh.  I’ve moved up for a few months until I’ve got all my data and we can release the rays.

"Hello!  Do you have food?"

Sidenote: the rays tend to move a little too fast for my phone to take sharply focussed photos of them, so apologies for the quality, but that’s the male (I’ve got one male and two females) being inquisitive and probably wanting to be fed.  He was named Winky by the Kelly Tarlton’s aquarists because he only has one eye (he’s always had only one eye, so please nobody get in a tizz about it).  I’ll probably write more about my rays in future posts, once I have some better photos.

All this means that things are a little bit up-in-the-air at the moment.  I’ve got temporary accommodation at the labs until Friday, but after that I have to find somewhere else to live.  There’s no public transport here, I don’t have a car and the nearest supermarket is a 25 min drive away, so I’m very dependent on other people, which I don’t particularly like (being dependent that is, not the actual people – everyone I’ve met so far has been lovely).  So that’s a bit stressful at the moment.  But on the other hand, I can see and hear the sea as I type, with a lovely view of Goat Island.  I’ve been swimming in the sea every day since I got here (my bikini is obviously going to be earning its keep over the next few months).  It’s idyllic.  I’ve only been here for four days and I already love it.  Try not to feel too sorry for me.

Goat Island.  It doesn't have any goats on it anymore, and is surrounded by a marine reserve

So that’s what’s been happening in my life outside the kitchen – with real live elasmobranchs instead of inanimate oven glove ones.  Although I did bring my oven gloves with me (don’t judge – my previous experience of big shared kitchens has been that oven gloves tend to be crusty and gross), and I did whip up a batch of double chocolate muffins yesterday afternoon with the double intention of kick-starting Operation Make My New Labmates Love Me (And Thus Help Me Find Somewhere To Live And Drive Me To The Supermarket) and testing out the ovens here.

It's so hot here that the chocolate started melting a little as I chopped it.  It's a hard life.

Anyway, I will try my hardest to at least get Sunday Smiles back up and running, but it might take a little while to settle back into a regular blog posting routine – I hope you all understand.  I’m sure you’d pick snorkelling over sitting at your laptop, too…

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!

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Filed under Rays, Student Life, Sunday Smiles