A day in the life of…Daisy Chamberlain, Laboratory Manager and Principal Biologist

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What’s it like being the laboratory manager at Thomson? We put Daisy under the microscope as she takes us through a typical day in the marine team; from supporting site visits on the Thames, unusual discoveries, being awarded new client work and more.

06:30

I wake up and start getting ready for work. I make sure I have my work phone nearby as two members of my team stayed overnight in a hotel in London to be close to site this morning, where they will be conducting an intertidal survey on the Thames estuary.

Due to the timing of the low tide, we planned at the survey design stage for them to start early to maximise the amount of time available to collect all the samples planned. I get a message from the lead surveyor to say they’ve arrived on site, they’ve checked and updated their risk assessment and are just about to start sampling: collecting core samples for macrofaunal analysis and particle size analysis.

I wish them luck, tell them to call me if they have any issues and let me know when they’re done for the day. For health and safety reasons we always work in pairs when surveying adjacent or over water. Additionally, our teams log in to our dedicated ‘lone worker’ system, which will alert the project manager if surveyors do not check in as ‘safe’ at a specified time. My team also update me regularly as they know I worry too much!

08:00

I arrive in the laboratory to find the rest of the team already hard at work at their microscopes, with a fresh pot of coffee on the go. I check my emails then plan my work for the day. I start with some work at my microscope; I look through the sediment of a sample that has had the fauna extracted from it by another analyst, to check if they have missed any animals. This process ensures we maintain high accuracy in our work.

11:30

I get a call from the lead surveyor out on site: despite being a bit muddy, they’re happy, as they’ve collected all the samples required today and it’s been lovely weather to be out on site too. I immediately call our client to update them, as I know they’re keen to hear about our progress.

The project is part of an environmental assessment for a new development and, as like many of these types of projects, it has a tight program. The client is happy to hear our portion of the works is on track and won’t hold up the next stage in their process.

After one of my team finish their portion of this project, we discuss the requirements of the next project before they start the first stage of processing, which involves sieving the samples in our wet lab. It’s always exciting to start a new project, as you never know exactly what animals you’ll find in the buckets of sediment provided by the client for analysis.

13:00

After a walk through the Surrey Research Park to grab some lunch from one of the cafés, I check my emails to find a new enquiry has come through from our website. I call the client to discuss their project requirements: They have a survey planned and want to send us the samples they’ll collect for analysis. I give them some advice on how they should label and store the samples they collect and agree to get a quotation to them by the end of the day. I then start preparing our quotation, researching the survey area and looking at past data to find out the types of samples we’re likely to receive. This enables me to estimate the amount of time we’ll spend processing them.

14:00

Once work is completed on the quotation, I go back to my microscope and start on quality control of species identifications by the team. This stage of the process ensures consistency and accuracy in our identifications.

An unusual species of Polychaete worm has been identified, so I refer to the relevant literature and keys, then check the specimen against those from our reference collection, which contains over 100,000 specimens.

Another specimen I look at is a scale worm; a group of Polychaetes that are notoriously tricky to identify. I take the specimen to Dr Ruth Barnich, our technical lead and a world-leading expert in scale worms, for her expert opinion.

She identifies which species we have and shows me the key features; my training is ongoing, even after seven years working for Thomson, I am still constantly learning. I then give feedback to the other analysts on the samples they’ve identified, highlighting any errors. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and the satisfaction from figuring out which species you have, it’s like solving a puzzle.

16:00

It’s a beautiful hot, sunny day so I get the team an ice cream each, which we eat while discussing how different stages of sample analyses are going, and any interesting finds. Back at our desks, one of the team finds an especially juvenile starfish. This came from a governmental monitoring project sample from a Marine Protected Area off Scotland. The specimen is passed around the lab, so we can all have a look.
I love the passion from the team; we all get very excited about unusual little invertebrates. Our job is unique in that we get to see marine creatures from a huge variety of different habitats, daily.

16:30

I receive an email from a client telling me we’ve been awarded an auditing job. They require external quality assurance of another lab’s benthic analyses. I schedule this project into the resourcing planner for Ruth. I then look at our current work program, checking the progress of the team during the day and talking to project managers to ensure we’re on track to meet our clients’ deadlines.

How we can help you

Our marine team have over 30 years’ experience in providing specialist support for both off-shore and near shore monitoring projects and developments. Our marine taxonomists are experts in the analysis of marine microbenthic samples, with full laboratory facilities at their disposal. If you have any marine analysis requirements, please get in touch with us today.

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