“I used to read fish ID books for fun… Now I get to do that stuff for work”
Author: Laura Griffiths
Emergent is a five-part blog series that takes a fresh look at ARI’s early career researchers – a group of driven, passionate people with a shared sense of responsibility about our changing world. These emerging scholars are developing skills and applying them to real world issues. Some are even taking opportunities to fulfil their life-long dreams.
Today, we focus on Tyson Martin, known intimately as ’Fishboy’. Tyson completed his PhD at ARI in early 2018. He was part of the Coasts and Oceans Research Group run by Prof. Rod Connolly. Tyson’s research looked at how seascape ecology and subsistence fishing affects coral reefs. Tyson now works for Fisheries Queensland.
What brought you to ARI?
My supervisor, Rod Connolly, was part of ARI, so naturally I came along for the ride!
Favourite aspect about my research?
That every day is challenging and different. I get bored very quickly and there is no room for this when you are a PhD student or researcher. There is always a new puzzle to solve, or technique to learn.
Initially, starting a PhD is very intimidating (so many questions, where do I start?), but eventually you realise that with the right supervision, you can teach yourself how to do almost anything. It simply requires patience and commitment.
Doing a PhD is about training yourself to become a learning machine. Being knowledgeable is helpful, but I would rather have the skills to teach myself how to do something, or find something out, rather than rely on a stagnant pile of memorised knowledge.
Why does my work matter?
I try to make conservation solutions as practical and effective as possible.
In my post graduate fish-related research I tried to be the link between fishers and conservation scientists by tailoring conservation solutions which benefited both fisheries and biodiversity.
How do I tie my own interests into my scientific career?
I have always loved being in and under the water. I used to read fish ID books for fun and I still spend hours each day planning fishing trips, wondering if the water will be clear, wondering what fish are in season, wondering how the coral might look after recent heat events, wondering how many people will be at the boat ramp, etc….
Now I get to do that stuff for work! During my PhD I counted fish, planned far-flung field trips, and now as a research fellow and fisheries scientist I get to do more of the same stuff, but get paid lots more to do it!
Proudest achievement to date?
Overhaul a major fisheries program run by the Queensland Government.
It was an intimidating task at first, only just having finished my PhD, but I applied the critical thinking skills learned during my PhD and got the job done. They were very happy with my results and offered me more work as the co-ordinator of that same program.
I was also very proud to receive a teaching award for my first ever time lecturing.
What continues to challenge you?
Trying to keep pumping out first-author papers while doing a full-time job that involves other tasks in addition to research. I find myself working on the train to work most days to try and fit the hours in so my publication record doesn’t slip.
Where do you see your career taking you or see yourself in 5 years?
My wife and I would still like to live and work overseas, so I will keep applying for those roles (which is why I need to keep publishing to remain competitive). However, I always wanted to be the link between fishing and science, which is what I am doing right now, so if I am lucky enough to stay with Fisheries I’d be very happy with that too.
Main issues to address in field?
I think conservation solutions need to be dynamic and tailored to the area/species/issue of interest.
People can be quite resistant to change, particularly when it is on a hot topic like the environment, so we need to improve our communication skills and be ready to adapt and act when issues become apparent.
What would you say to inspire other HDR’s?
You work on a topic you love, in a working arrangement that is incredibly flexible. As long as you get your work done, nobody really cares when you clock on and off each day. Chances are that you will never have a chance to be your own boss in this way again.
In my humble opinion, PhD’s are 95% commitment and 5% academic prowess. So, recognise that this is the opportunity of a lifetime and give it a crack!