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Girl with lobster tattoo out to save ... lobsters; PHD STUDENT 'IN HEAVEN' ON REMOTE ISLAND OFF CANADA.

Byline: ROBIN TURNER robin.turner@walesonline.co.uk

SHE'S known as "the girl with the lobster tattoo".

And now Swansea University's lobster-loving student Charlotte Davies has received funding to further her research into a devastating disease which can kill the sea creatures in big numbers.

Charlotte, from Llangollen, has won grants from the Society of Biology and Climate Change Consortium for Wales to carry out research into the disease at the Atlantic Veterinary College Lobster Science Centre in Charlottetown, Canada, where she is currently hard at work.

The PhD student, a former Ysgol Dinas Bran Secondary School pupil, is focusing on learning about screening techniques used to combat Gaffkaemia, which affects lobsters in both North America and the UK.

Caused by bacteria, it's extremely contagious and is exacerbated by warmer temperatures which means there is a possible link to climate change.

The disease, which can kill in as little as two days, is also known as Red Tail Disease as it can turn lobsters a pink colour.

During her time across the pond, Charlotte will also visit collaborators at the New England Aquarium in Boston, USA, to work on a shell disease project.

The 23-year-old has a tattoo of a lobster on her foot in memory of a favourite and feisty Swansea University laboratory lobster named Clonk who was later released back into the sea.

"Naturally, when it came to me getting my first ever tattoo, it had to be a lobster, and who else better than Clonk to be the star of the show?" she said. "I took a photo of my beloved lobster to the tattoo shop and 24 hours later was branded for life.

"Let's just say it didn't go down too well with the family!" The researcher has started a blog of her work entitled The Girl with the Lobster Tattoo.

She wrote of her arrival in remote Charlottetown: "The flight to Charlottetown from Halifax was on the tiniest plane I have ever seen!

"It only had 18 seats and one pilot, and I sat with a bunch of ladies on a hen do, so funny!

"The architecture is beautiful and there are lots of little shops, restaurants and things to see, and there are lobsters everywhere.

I'm in heaven." Charlotte said of her research work at Charlottetown, on Prince Edward Island in Eastern Canada: "It is very exciting for me to be able to take my studies abroad.

"I will be working with the forerunners of research in my field, and learning new techniques, which I hope to reproduce in the lab in Swansea. "Lobster health is an important issue for fisheries, as they have such long life cycles, it can take years for them to reach the minimum landing size, therefore populations can be delicate.

"There is a devastating disease called Gaffkaemia which is extremely contagious and thrives in lobster impounds.

"There are all sorts of antibiotics and contingency plans available as it is a well studied area, but there is one thing that I am particularly interested in, and that is virulence.

"The bacterium seems to have a virulent and an avirulent form, and as thus far, there is no screening method which can differentiate between the two.

"Professor Greenwood and his team have been looking at Gaffkaemia for a few years and I am keen to learn anything about the disease, including new screening techniques that I may use back home."

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Swansea student Charlotte Davies' unusual tattoo on her foot

| PhD student Charlotte Davies is researching the health status of the European lobster Homarus gammarus
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:1CPRI
Date:Oct 3, 2013
Words:595
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