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Turing Experience: Siân

Turing Experience Sian

Meet SiânResearch Assistant at  Biological Research Centre from DSC Regen.

Siân Vincent, 24, is a Welsh Turing Scheme participant doing a research assistant placement here in Seville. She is coming to the end of her time in Andalucia so we met with her to talk about how her experience has been. Siân had a very interesting field trip that we are excited to hear about!

Sian experience

Tell us about your time here in Seville.

I’ve met quite a few people here, it has been really nice. It’s one of my favourite things about this experience. 

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the area and feeling like I properly live here. I love exploring the city, getting into the culture and learning about Spain. I don’t think I have actually been to Spain before this. It has been pretty good trying different things out, different foods, different drinks, different activities. My flatmate and I went to a pottery class a few weeks ago. It was so much fun. 

Is there anything about Spanish Culture that you find quite different from the UK?

The different routine of the day; I struggled to adapt to it at the start but I quite like it now. The way they eat a lot later. I love the Spanish lessons, they’re really fun and the teacher is so nice. I have missed three of them from being away on field work which is annoying but she has been sending me material to look at. I was originally learning French so it was a bit confusing when I first came here because I didn’t know any Spanish. It’s surprising how quickly you pick up little bits. 

How has your placement been?

It has been good! It hasn’t been a particular routine because I am a field assistant, so the field work is what it is focused around. I have [also] been doing some lab work: inputting data into excel, processing data […] little jobs here and there. Field work is the main thing: for my field work I went to live on three islands for two weeks to investigate the relationship between seabirds and fisheries. It was really hard work but an amazing experience, I just got back a few days ago.

How was your experience on the Islands?

It was great! Much cooler than Seville; it was nice to not be boiling all the time. We had our own little lab building right by the water which was cool. After a day of field work we would go down to the lab to process all of the work that we had done. The aim of the research was to investigate how human activity (specifically fishing) is having a multitrophic effect within food webs. They were really long days: we would leave in the morning on a boat to the other island because that is where all the Shearwater nests were. 

We would try to go twice a day so in the morning and in the evening. We did one night shift […] and stayed up until 9 in the morning, I had never done [one] before. It was quite an amazing experience to be in the bird colony at night because that is when they all come out and make their calls to communicate with each other. In the daytime they are sleeping in their nests or they are out at sea searching for fish. 

The calls are something to behold. It was like alien noises, it was really bizarre. You should look on Youtube for it. […] Also, they are not used to being around humans so they’re not scared of you. They’ll walk right past you or fly over your head making the calls really loudly. It was a crazy experience. We only did that once because it was actually really hard to navigate around the island. We only had head torches so we were getting completely lost; it was a maze. 

I did find the field work quite hard. Once we caught a bird there were, like, a lot of little steps that you had to remember. We were taking a lot of measurements: we took blood samples, put GPS trackers on their backs, and rang their legs. There were so many little things to remember. You had to constantly be thinking three or four steps ahead so that you didn’t forget something. So if you were having a sleepy day where you weren’t with it, things could go wrong. 

It was amazing actually holding the birds, that was the best part. Although, they did have fleas. I had to hold their legs and their heads [and] couldn’t let go [so] I had to let the fleas crawl onto me and bite me which was not nice.

Sian in the islands

Was it a worthwhile experience?

Yes, definitely. I really wanted to get experience with birds on my CV because a lot of the jobs that I have been looking at in the UK with conservation charities want you to have bird handling experience or just knowing bird species, so it’s really good [experience] to have. 

Are you happy to be back in Seville?

Yes I am so happy! Seville feels like home because living on the island was so different to normal life, different and difficult. Seville feels like this safe space where I have always been. I had some drinks and danced in my apartment.  

Despite the stressful parts, my field work was really good. It was amazing living on the island. Fantastic nature. The people I was living with were lovely, even though little English was spoken. It was isolating not being able to understand most of the conversations but I think it is something every Brit should go through because we take it for granted that everywhere can speak English. Wherever we go we don’t have to learn a language. Whereas people that visit the UK have to speak English. It was good for me to experience that isolating feeling that we are not used to even though it was difficult.  


Did you like this interview, take a look at other blog posts on our site to learn more about our participants!

Photographer and content writer: Caoilte Cahill