Monday Sep 28, 2020
Monday Sep 28, 2020
Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree! In this episode Kelly Preece, Researcher Development Manager talks to Dr. David Jacoby, Research Fellow at the Zoological Society of London. You can find out more about David on his LinkedIn profile.
Music credit: Cheery Monday Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
00:00:10,870 --> 00:00:15,620
Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter, Doctoral College
00:00:15,620 --> 00:00:23,920
00:00:23,920 --> 00:00:28,960
I'm Kelly Peece and welcome to this episode. Today I'm going to be talking to David Jacoby.
00:00:28,960 --> 00:00:38,800
David works as a research fellow in a university affiliated institution, so he's kind of bridging that gap between industry and academia.
00:00:38,800 --> 00:00:43,910
Hi, David. Can you introduce yourself? My name is Dr. David Jacoby.
00:00:43,910 --> 00:00:49,840
I'm a research fellow at the Institute of Zoology, which is part of the Zoological Society of London.
00:00:49,840 --> 00:01:00,470
I've been working there for roughly seven years now. I graduated from the University of Exeter with a research degree in 2012.
00:01:00,470 --> 00:01:06,380
My PhD was in animal behaviour and that was from the School of Psychology at the Streatham campus,
00:01:06,380 --> 00:01:13,430
and it focussed predominantly on the application of network analysis for understanding shark behaviour.
00:01:13,430 --> 00:01:19,130
So, David, can you tell me a little bit about your current role and what it involves as a research fellow?
00:01:19,130 --> 00:01:23,930
I have a growing research lab around the theme of network ecology and telemetry,
00:01:23,930 --> 00:01:31,250
and this focuses on my main research interests, which are predominately the ecology and conservation of shark species.
00:01:31,250 --> 00:01:41,920
So that is things like how they reside with inside and outside marine protected areas, the threats they face from commercial and illegal fisheries.
00:01:41,920 --> 00:01:45,800
But another component in my research is also various different animal tracking
00:01:45,800 --> 00:01:51,110
technologies and how we can use that to understand things about movement, ecology and behaviour.
00:01:51,110 --> 00:01:56,360
And finally, the third strand of my research is into animal social network analysis as well.
00:01:56,360 --> 00:02:00,980
So why animals aggregate predominately in the marine environment for my focus.
00:02:00,980 --> 00:02:07,730
What this means for population dynamics and how do we quantify social behaviour in fish at all.
00:02:07,730 --> 00:02:17,090
So this role really involves supervision of both PhD and masters students, as a research and pure research institute.
00:02:17,090 --> 00:02:25,490
We do some degree of teaching associated with some of the other London universities whose masters courses are affiliated to us.
00:02:25,490 --> 00:02:34,100
But it's predominantly my role is around data analysis. The writing of grant applications and papers, reviewing grant applications and papers,
00:02:34,100 --> 00:02:40,520
as well as a big component, and then everyday meetings with students and colleagues.
00:02:40,520 --> 00:02:47,420
For example, I sit on the Equality and Diversity Committee within the Institute of Zoology, and this is really about taking inward.
00:02:47,420 --> 00:02:58,250
Look at how we as an organisation represent the diversity in society and how we can improve diversity across academia in general.
00:02:58,250 --> 00:03:03,830
In addition to that, we have a lot of responsibilities around communication and outreach activities.
00:03:03,830 --> 00:03:13,440
So I spend quite a lot of time trying to present my work to people, be on the scientific community and whether that be at conferences,
00:03:13,440 --> 00:03:24,200
non-specific scientific conferences and events for the public evening symposia which we put on for public at the Zoological Society of London.
00:03:24,200 --> 00:03:29,660
And then extra curricular activities include things like editorial responsibilities.
00:03:29,660 --> 00:03:37,190
So I am I've been an assistant editor at the Journal of Fish Biology for the last six years.
00:03:37,190 --> 00:03:43,340
So that also takes up quite a bit of my time as well. So what's it like working in a pure research institute?
00:03:43,340 --> 00:03:47,280
Is it similar or different to conducting research in academia?
00:03:47,280 --> 00:03:51,170
And what's the what's your day to day work life like?
00:03:51,170 --> 00:03:55,610
I really enjoy working at ZSL or the Zoological Society of London.
00:03:55,610 --> 00:04:01,560
It's a pure research institute. And as an organisation, it is absolutely steeped in history.
00:04:01,560 --> 00:04:07,730
It's nearing its two hundredth anniversary. Charles Darwin was a former fellow of that as well.
00:04:07,730 --> 00:04:17,060
And Sir David Attenborough is the current patron. So the place is really inspirational in terms of some of the research that's come out of there.
00:04:17,060 --> 00:04:22,760
There's a real diversity of research, a diversity of methods and study systems as well.
00:04:22,760 --> 00:04:26,540
So you never really know what you're going to be discussing when you meet people in the tea room.
00:04:26,540 --> 00:04:35,150
There's so many different study systems from terrestrial animals to aquatic, from various tracking to genetics.
00:04:35,150 --> 00:04:40,250
So there's a real mixed bag of people working there. And that's what I like about the place.
00:04:40,250 --> 00:04:46,520
In many ways it's similar to university, but without the pressure perhaps to conduct quite so much teaching,
00:04:46,520 --> 00:04:52,100
we do contribute to master's courses from Imperial College, London, University College, London as well.
00:04:52,100 --> 00:04:59,160
King's Royal Vetinary College and a number of other institutions. So I can do as much or as little teaching as I want,
00:04:59,160 --> 00:05:03,230
but I experience the same pressure that you get at a university to bring in grant
00:05:03,230 --> 00:05:09,560
money to justify our position to publish regularly in high impact publications.
00:05:09,560 --> 00:05:18,140
I have an honorary position at UCL, which is one of our main collaborative organisations,
00:05:18,140 --> 00:05:24,250
and there's broad collaboration across all of the London and London groups and London universities.
00:05:24,250 --> 00:05:32,240
And this includes the London doctoral training programme from which we have a kind of annual cohort of these students as well available to us.
00:05:32,240 --> 00:05:41,210
My average day, I would say, is desk based predominantly, and it will include student meetings, some analysis, a bit of writing,
00:05:41,210 --> 00:05:46,970
quite a lot of internal meetings as well, and also external international collaborative meetings,
00:05:46,970 --> 00:05:53,030
which can run out of hours as well, depending on who is speaking to.
00:05:53,030 --> 00:05:57,070
Then on the flip side of that, I have regular fieldwork each year as well.
00:05:57,070 --> 00:06:03,070
So I have two main field sites currently up and running where we track sharks using acoustic telemetry.
00:06:03,070 --> 00:06:08,560
My main field site is in the British Indian Ocean territory, one of the largest marine protected areas in the world.
00:06:08,560 --> 00:06:15,610
And here, the groups tracking reef sharks to understand the role that the marine protected area has on trying to conserve these species,
00:06:15,610 --> 00:06:20,520
which are still facing large threats from illegal fishing activity.
00:06:20,520 --> 00:06:23,890
The second field site is in northern Lanzarote in the Canary Islands,
00:06:23,890 --> 00:06:28,150
and this is tracking critically endangered angel sharks, about which we know very little.
00:06:28,150 --> 00:06:31,180
So we're using technologies there to try to understand some of their ecology,
00:06:31,180 --> 00:06:38,590
some of their daily seasonal and annual variation and movements and distribution.
00:06:38,590 --> 00:06:47,950
And this usually involves being out on the water from the vessel based research for anywhere up to three weeks at a time, at least once a year.
00:06:47,950 --> 00:06:53,080
Sometimes there are more trips and I also attend both national and international conferences as well.
00:06:53,080 --> 00:06:59,500
So that's another component of my time. But that's a broad overview of what I tend to do on a day to day basis.
00:06:59,500 --> 00:07:03,250
So what skills and experiences from your research degree?
00:07:03,250 --> 00:07:06,910
Do you use specifically in your current role for key skills?
00:07:06,910 --> 00:07:16,390
My PhD, I would argue that I really relied on some of the project management experience I got during my PhD
00:07:16,390 --> 00:07:26,590
This included things like budgeting, time allocation, delegation of responsibilities and roles to research assistants and to students as well.
00:07:26,590 --> 00:07:33,340
But also the importance of reading and reading a lot. Reading around the subject, reading as broadly as possible.
00:07:33,340 --> 00:07:39,430
Things like practising presentations as well. I used to be terrified of giving presentations.
00:07:39,430 --> 00:07:41,380
The more I do, the easier I find it.
00:07:41,380 --> 00:07:52,390
So certainly practising that more and more was a skill that I began to acquire during my PhD, which is still really important today.
00:07:52,390 --> 00:07:57,280
Also, I would say a willingness to kind of see where a conversation or a train of thought can lead you as well.
00:07:57,280 --> 00:08:04,600
So I'm very fortunate at the moment in my role that I'm able to kind of explore different avenues of research.
00:08:04,600 --> 00:08:12,880
But one of the great things about a pure research institute is that you can have a conversation that can set you off on a whole new direction.
00:08:12,880 --> 00:08:16,870
It could be bring in whole new techniques, a whole new set of collaborators,
00:08:16,870 --> 00:08:23,270
and it can really set start your day or your week or your year off in a very exciting direction.
00:08:23,270 --> 00:08:28,450
And the only other thing I would say about what I learnt from my PhD was the importance of listening to people,
00:08:28,450 --> 00:08:33,470
taking onboard advice and learning the kind of better habits of people I admired,
00:08:33,470 --> 00:08:44,710
but also learning from bad habits of others and generally just trying to treat people in the way that I enjoyed being treated as a student myself.
00:08:44,710 --> 00:08:48,610
I learnt a lot from my supervisors and I learnt a lot from the people I interacted with.
00:08:48,610 --> 00:08:53,980
During my PhD and I've really made a conscious effort to try and take some of those good
00:08:53,980 --> 00:09:00,190
components and repeat them and pass them on to students that I now supervise as well.
00:09:00,190 --> 00:09:04,630
Are there any additional activities or extracurricular projects you would advise research
00:09:04,630 --> 00:09:09,160
degree students to get involved in to help make them more employable extracurricular activities?
00:09:09,160 --> 00:09:13,450
As I said, I. I have my editorial roles for various different journals.
00:09:13,450 --> 00:09:19,660
These have been extremely rewarding for me as I've learnt a lot about the peer review system and about research in general.
00:09:19,660 --> 00:09:25,420
It's meant I've had to interact with a lot of different researchers worldwide, both for requests for review,
00:09:25,420 --> 00:09:30,020
but also managing the comments as they come in and then dealing with the authors
00:09:30,020 --> 00:09:37,270
and and being the Go-Between between the authors and reviewers as well. That's been a really rewarding and interesting experience.
00:09:37,270 --> 00:09:43,720
So I would highly recommend if those opportunities come up. Taking those organising events is certainly a very useful thing to do.
00:09:43,720 --> 00:09:46,960
Again, this comes down to project management.
00:09:46,960 --> 00:09:56,050
And I helped organise a behaviour meeting while I was at Exeter during my PhD and that was a very useful thing to do.
00:09:56,050 --> 00:10:03,770
I currently run a twice monthly bio logging journal club where we discuss and critique new papers in the field of animal tracking.
00:10:03,770 --> 00:10:11,800
And this really, again, encourages people to read. It stimulates discussion amongst people of a like mind.
00:10:11,800 --> 00:10:17,580
It enables you to keep on top of the literature and learn new new things.
00:10:17,580 --> 00:10:23,110
But just just having to run that really forced me to to bring the group together
00:10:23,110 --> 00:10:29,590
and to meet on a regular basis and to discuss things on a regular basis as well.
00:10:29,590 --> 00:10:35,770
I would advise offering yourself out to help out on committees that, you know,
00:10:35,770 --> 00:10:41,610
really try and have an impact on the environment you work in and try and really be
00:10:41,610 --> 00:10:45,940
be an individual that pushes forward better practises within that institution,
00:10:45,940 --> 00:10:53,070
an organisation that can always be improvements made both at an institutional level, but also at a wider.
00:10:53,070 --> 00:10:57,090
Academic level as well. So I would say use your voice.
00:10:57,090 --> 00:11:01,950
Everyone, everyone has an important thing. Everyone has important things to say.
00:11:01,950 --> 00:11:06,490
And I would use that to try and improve the surroundings that you're in.
00:11:06,490 --> 00:11:17,280
And the field as a whole. And finally, what advice would you give to students who are thinking about applying for roles in pure research institutes?
00:11:17,280 --> 00:11:24,270
The advice that I always give isn't necessarily specific to a research institute at all, but it is useful, I think.
00:11:24,270 --> 00:11:29,730
And that is learn a skill, whether that be coding or learning a programming language.
00:11:29,730 --> 00:11:37,800
Genetic techniques and mathematical processes or all things from physics, anything like that.
00:11:37,800 --> 00:11:45,150
And bring that skill to the organisation that you want to work at or the study system that you want to work on, particularly in ecology and zoology.
00:11:45,150 --> 00:11:55,020
We are crying out for interdisciplinary research techniques, people to bring in research from other areas.
00:11:55,020 --> 00:12:00,090
I mean, science is becoming an increasingly interdisciplinary thing to do.
00:12:00,090 --> 00:12:06,720
So thinking outside the box is a must. And outside skills often pave the way for new, very novel research.
00:12:06,720 --> 00:12:11,730
And these can be be the difference in, you know, really progressing the field.
00:12:11,730 --> 00:12:15,210
So I would I would definitely recommend trying to learn a skill as opposed to being
00:12:15,210 --> 00:12:21,540
focussed on a particular system or a particular study organism or something like that.
00:12:21,540 --> 00:12:26,310
The second and final piece of advice I would also give is to be really persistent as well.
00:12:26,310 --> 00:12:32,820
There is no tried and tested method from going from your PhD to the job you finally want to end up in.
00:12:32,820 --> 00:12:41,520
It took me many years to get to the point where I was being paid to lead my own research and often just a foot in the door is really important.
00:12:41,520 --> 00:12:49,380
So I actually took up a six month unpaid internship after my PhD, which wasn't wasn't ideal.
00:12:49,380 --> 00:12:54,220
And it's also not feasible for everyone as well. But it was really important.
00:12:54,220 --> 00:12:57,720
I was able to get a foot in the door at the Zoological Society of London.
00:12:57,720 --> 00:13:05,580
And since then I've stayed and I've slowly developed my own strands of research, my own research group over time.
00:13:05,580 --> 00:13:10,170
So people take different routes. There is no right way of getting from A to B.
00:13:10,170 --> 00:13:19,050
And it's important to remember that, but it will take a lot of persistence. So stick at it if you're keen and the rewards will come.
00:13:19,050 --> 00:13:27,010
Thank you so much, David, for taking the time to share your thoughts and your experience.
00:13:27,010 --> 00:13:42,765
And that's it for this episode. Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about their career beyond their research degree.