I was a career academic. I went to Stirling University in 1995 for my Undergraduate and the degree then was ‘Aquaculture’. You’ll see that it is a bit of a theme! I went off to Singapore for 3 months to do a project on batfish and I thought ‘oh that’s great, I want to do more of that’, so that finished in 1999, and I went straight in to do a Masters Degree in Aquaculture at Stirling.
At the end of that, I got to do a project in Machrihanish, Argyll with halibut, which is nowhere near as glamorous, but that showed me the reality of the Scottish aquaculture sector. At the end of that, I started my PhD in the Institute of Aquaculture at Stirling. In fact, that was the first time I met Aquascot! That project was looking at the environmental regulation of reproductive physiology in farmed cod. And at that time, Aquascot, along with a few other companies, were interested in new species development. They had a small amount of farmed cod, which we were actually taking care of, in our facilities at Machrihanish. And they formed the basis of one of the chapters of my PhD. There’s a random connection to Aquascot! That trial ran from 2000 with those fish being harvested in 2001-2002, and the PhD finished in 2004.
When I finished my PhD, cod farming was still a thing, so I then started a Post-Doc, where I was looking at developing and commercialising technologies to inhibit maturation in cod farming out on the cages — that took me out to Shetland, Norway, Iceland, various places. The cod farming industry unfortunately collapsed in 2007-2008 as part of the global credit crunch, but my research evolved into improving our understanding of environmental perception in fish species, their 'body clocks' and how we can use lighting system to control physiology in aquaculture.
Then the focus shifted back to doing more domestication of new species work. I was working with sole, turbot, halibut, we looked at hake, there was a wide range of different species we dabbled with. But then the cleaner fish story really kicked in, and for the past 10 years I was leading research on the domestication of ballan wrasse and lumpfish, these are the fish we produce to control sea lice in salmon farms as a biological control.
I spent a good 10 years on that – and there was plenty to keep on going with, but then the opportunity with Aquascot came up, and it looked like a good time for a career change. I felt it was time to stop procrastinating, time to stop talking about how the industry could do things differently and get stuck in to working within the industry. And that’s where I find myself now!