Researcher Spotlight : Crinan Jarret

Published: 7 March 2019

Ahead of this week’s Friday seminars, Ellen Hughes puts 1st year PhD candidate Crinan Jarrett under the spotlight to find out more about her PhD journey...

Tell us about your background
I grew up in the Catalan country-side surrounded by animals, music and radical politics. I was fascinated by birds and other wildlife from a very early age, fuelled by Gerald Durrell’s books and a nature-loving family. After school I spent 6 months in West Africa chasing chimpanzees, and the experience convinced me to do an undergraduate in Zoology in Glasgow. I spent a year as a field technician after graduating, and then applied for a PhD which combines all my favourite aspects of being a zoologist: fieldwork, ecological research, and running around in the tropics.

What can you tell us about your PhD research?
My project is part of a larger initiative with the objective of balancing biodiversity and productivity in African cacao agriculture. Specifically, I am focussing on birds, because they are sensitive to habitat disturbance but also provide highly valuable ecosystem services such as pest control to agroforestry systems. I aim to investigate how cacao could be managed in a bird-friendly manner, and to quantify the production gains provided by wild birds in cacao plantations.

Why did you decide to do your PhD in IBACHM/UofG?
The Institute is the friendliest and most inspiring working environment I could ever wish for. As an undergraduate, several people in the Institute gave me amazing opportunities, as well as copious levels of encouragement, support, and motivation. It is mostly thanks to them that I remained here to do my PhD, and I continue to feel extremely welcome and supported by the Institute community. Why would I want to leave?!

What has been the most challenging aspect so far?
The most challenging aspect of this field season has been improving my people skills. Working in agricultural systems involves a lot of communication with local farmers, and initially I didn’t do a very good job of this. Slowly I’ve been learning how to be polite and respectful, how to best explain the importance of our research, and how to establish long-term beneficial relationships. And all this in French!

What part of your research so far have you enjoyed the most/felt most proud of?
I have just returned from Cameroon after my first two-month field season, and I think it has been a great success! We managed to sample 20 cacao farms as well as some plots in primary forest, we made great connections with Cameroonian researchers, and no one broke any limbs! I’m proud to be part of a Cameroonian-European team of young researchers who can successfully see through an ambitious fieldwork programme.

What are the most important lessons you have learnt from your first year?
In the field, be more patient than you usually are, more diplomatic than you usually are, and as positive as you possibly can. Don’t re-use socks more than twice, carry emergency cereal bars, and be in bed by 8pm. Amen.

First published: 7 March 2019