IBERS, Aberystwyth University was a natural selection for MBiol Marine and Freshwater Biology student

Sasha Bannister collecting Shark egg cases on Aberystwyth Beach.

Sasha Bannister collecting Shark egg cases on Aberystwyth Beach.

09 April 2018

Sasha Bannister is in the final year of her Integrated Masters (MBiol) course in Marine and Freshwater Biology and explains how Aberystwyth is the perfect location for her studies and research.

Originally from Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, Sasha came to Aberystwyth University in 2014 to study for a BSc (Hons) Marine and Freshwater Biology but swapped to the 4-year Integrated Masters course (MBiol Marine and Freshwater Biology) when it became available.

She says, “I have always had an interest in both animal behaviour and ecology. Exploring rock pools and looking for crabs and blennies was an activity that originally sparked my interest in marine biology. I was drawn to studying in Aberystwyth, partly due to the large amount of rock pools in the area.”

For her final research project, and in order to complete the Masters part of her course, Sasha has chosen to take full advantage of Aberystwyth’s seaside location and is evaluating whether Cardigan Bay is a breeding hotspot for Nursehound (a species of Catshark).

The project involves looking at the factors associated with Nursehound breeding grounds such as certain species of seaweed and interpreting why certain habitats have more Nursehound eggs than others. Sasha says, “My interests lie both in understanding why some species evolve behavioral adaptations; exploring tradeoffs between natural and sexual selection, as well as the habitat ecology and biogeography of species.”

Sasha describes visiting beaches in and around Aberystwyth and working with local organisations such as the Penparcau Community Wildlife Group, who run an egg case hunt on Tan-y-bwlch beach every few weeks. Data collection for the project has been a truly memorable experience; “highlights of data collection included seeing seal pups in Aberaeron, and again in Clarach Bay”.

Dr Pippa Moore, Reader and Lecturer in Marine Biology at IBERS is Sasha’s supervisor on the Nursehound project, says “Aberystwyth University sits on the beach of Cardigan Bay, so that students have unrivalled access to a range of marine habitats. Coupled with access to modern teaching spaces, excellent aquarium facilities and two inshore research vessels. Aberystwyth is the ideal university to immerse yourself in the study of marine and freshwater biology.”

In the future, Sasha plans to find work in the fields of conservation and ecology whilst keeping an eye out for any relevant PhD projects which spark her interest.

She says, “The MBiol course has been a great opportunity for me as it has allowed me to smoothly transition from working on one independent project (my dissertation), to another (my current masters project). This has enabled me to keep active in research, and gain experience in undertaking both an independent research project in animal behaviour, and another in ecology, hence allowing me to pursue my interest in both fields.”