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Interview with IMAS marine scientist Patricia Peinado

Natalie Bauer, 11 Feb 2019.

Patricia Peinado is a PhD student at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. She is originally from Spain, but moved to Tasmania to undertake research at the Fisheries and Aquaculture Centre. We had a chat with Patricia to learn more about her interests and the current project she is working on...

  • Patricia using a beach seine to collect animals for her experiments

  • Patrica in the experimental aquaculture facility - her second home!

  • The study species: southern calamari

What inspired you to get into science? 

As a little child, I was always curious about how things worked in the natural world. In high school, I saw a picture of the Great Barrier Reef and became interested in marine science. Growing up in the mountains, I had never lived near a beach and was fascinated by the idea of life underwater. I wanted to explore more, so I got my SCUBA diving license. This is when I really developed my passion for the sea. I wanted to figure out how things worked in the ocean and how we can make improvements for the future. 

Brief overview of research: 

My main research focus is trying to understand how temperature affects the southern calamari (Sepioteuthis australis) population. This project takes a novel approach because it investigates a variety of parameters in one study. I want to know how the population will fare under future conditions with ocean temperatures rising. Squid are the ideal model organism for these types of experiments because they have high plasticity, or variation in all their characteristics like growth, body size and what age they reproduce. They are able to adapt really quickly despite their short life span. To understand the mechanisms behind how climate change affects squid, I am looking at their metabolic activity at different temperatures along with their biological behavior as well. Squid are an important part of the food web because they serve as both predator and prey. Through analysis of predator-prey interactions, we can determine how temperature affects their swimming speed, and how that might in turn alter their ability to either escape from predators or successfully capture prey.

Why is your research important?

This research is significant because it integrates every aspect of the squid’s life history. Southern calamari are economically important as a resource for the fishing industry and ecologically important because they have high plasticity and are a key component of the food web. In addition, this species is native to the coast of southern Australia, including Tasmania. If we can understand how squid here in Tasmania respond climate change, then we can potentially extend this knowledge to other species. 

What has been your biggest struggle during this project? 

I originally wanted to focus on baby squid because this age represents a critical stage of life. This is the time period when they are most sensitive to temperature change. However, the babies are hard to keep alive in captivity, so I ultimately had to switch to adults. It was frustrating, but this is a part of science. The outcome is often unpredictable and you have to be flexible. 

What future directions do you hope to take with your research?

I hope to be able to extend my research to a bigger picture and compare adaptability in the same species but from different latitudes, like northern and southern calamari. I would like to look at other populations to possibly identify trends in thermal preference. 

Does climate change make you feel concerned? If so, Why?

The problem is the faster rate of climate change that is occurring at the moment, and species don’t necessarily have enough time to adapt. There is no point in being negative and trying to allocate blame because it has already happening, and we can’t change the past. Now we need to focus on finding a solution, so we can make improvements for the future. I think everyone needs to be more conscious of their actions. 

What advice would you give early career researchers in science today? 

I feel like I am still an early career researcher (laughs), but I guess I would suggest first finding your passion. I won’t lie getting a PhD is challenging, but it’s worth it if you really love what you’re doing. You have to be prepared to learn from your mistakes because the whole experience is a trial and error process. The key is to be patient and stay positive! 

What is your favourite hobby?

This is really hard to choose because I have a lot of favorite hobbies. I really enjoy travelling to new places, hiking, and of course sSCUBA diving. I like being in nature with friends!


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