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Case Study – John


Meet John! He is from Torquay in the South-West England and he is in Seville working at a biological centre through DSC Regen. So what does his placement entail?

My placement is with a research group investigating crayfish. These are non-native in rivers surrounding Sevilla, so we are aiming to discover their patterns of invasion and how they are affecting other species. We are also collecting DNA samples to understand the diversity of crayfish in different stretches of river throughout Andalucia and beyond.”

What does your typical day look like?

“There’s no such thing as a typical day in this role! We will only spend 2 days at each location. On day 1, we will wade into the river to set up a series of fyke nets (long stationary fishing nets with a bottleneck system). We then let these sit for 24 hours. On day 2, we collect the nets and record the abundance of every organism we catch. These have included blue crabs, turtles, eels, water snakes, shrimp and many, many more! We also dissect crayfish on-site to obtain muscle tissue for DNA analysis.”

“My favourite day was in Zahara de los Atunes. Along a 20m stretch of the river bank, we found over 300 fiddler crabs, all hiding away until we stayed completely silent and still. The scenery was beautiful, and the town itself has a distinct personality – even little things; the roads had paintings of tuna marked on the roads to indicate the direction of travel.”

What’s your favourite part of the job?

“My favourite part of the job is the sheer variety. I have been lucky enough to travel throughout Andalucia with work, from the long, sandy beaches of Zahara de los Antunes to the stunning, mountainous landscape of Sierra Morena. The rivers are extremely different from location to location. We have waded through rivers, swamps and jungle, seeing some of the most beautiful scenery and wildlife that Southern Spain has to offer. The work is extremely rewarding, working in an environment like this, conducting science that’s ecologically beneficial is an incredible experience.”

Have you been using a lot of Spanish while at work?

“My boss is Spanish and we are completing the river survey as a pair. His English is excellent, so this is the main language we communicate in. However, we speak in Spanish some of the time and I frequently ask him about words or phrases we come across during the journey. I am also hearing conversations between fishermen and/or landowners regularly, with my Spanish improving significantly as a result.”

Was there anything challenging you had to overcome and have you learnt any new skills?

“I had two main natural fears from my time in the UK – bees and cows! It turns out that in Spain, the bees are about 10 times the size and the cows are all gigantic (not to mention the horns). I’ve had to overcome both of these fears during work, including walking through a field of around 50 cows to get to the river. After making it there and back alive, I certainly feel more comfortable around them!”

“I’ve learned so many new skills in this job, including learning how to undertake a river survey, identifying a wide range of river species and setting up nets to catch fish safely. The work is also quite physical and there’s a lot of learning on-the-job, especially finding the best spots in the river to place the nets.”

How is this programme going to help you in the future?

“This programme has benefited me in countless ways for the future. I have experienced living and working abroad for the first time (it is actually my first time living outside of Devon) – resulting in one of the best times of my life, giving me so much confidence for future pursuits. I’ve met an amazing group of people, many of whom I know will be friends for life. Job-wise I have added several strings to the bow, especially regarding fieldwork and language.”

Has this work placement exceeded your expectations?

“Coming into this placement, I really was not sure what to expect. I had always wanted to experience living and working abroad and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made! I have loved everything – the city is beautiful, I love my job, the people are incredible, the climate is lovely and the food is on another level. I’m enjoying and savouring every moment.”

Three words to describe your experience in Seville.

“Magical, Lively & Welcoming.”

If you enjoyed the case study about John make sure to read the one about Alex & Freya next! Available here!

Content Writer & Photographer: Veronica Zdybel
Photography: John Fraser