Aston Lockwood is another recent addition to APEM’s Marine BioLabs in Letchworth. He joined us in late 2021 as a marine invertebrate taxonomist. Here’s Aston on his key role in processing marine water samples in the lab.
Aston studies a marine sample under the microscope
My journey to APEM
I think it was inevitable I would find myself in a marine science career. I was always drawn to science and geography subjects at school, enjoying the laboratory classes and field trips out to remote spots of countryside. But my future was decided when I took a year out to volunteer in Malaysia.
I spent my days on an idyllic island, diving the crystal-clear waters to plant new artificial reefs. This was the experience that sparked my love for the underwater world, returning to the UK to study marine biology at the University of Portsmouth.
I graduated during the pandemic, and it took a while to find a job related to my studies. But it was all worth the wait when I turned up for my first day as part of the APEM marine laboratory team.
Aston ready to dive in Malaysia
Discoveries waiting in every sample
My role involves the processing and picking of marine seabed biological samples that have been sampled from all over the world. I start by sifting a sample to remove anything unwanted such as sand, mud, or any other sediment small enough to fall through the specialist sieve. This leaves me with a sample full of invertebrates that I can take to the microscope to study. There, I extract and identify all the animals in the sample. They can be as simple as Bivalvia molluscs or more complicated family groups of Polychaeta annelid worms. I then prepare any animals I identify for further checks by a senior scientist, while I start the process again with a new sample.
I really like the fact that no two days are the same in the BioLab. Yes, you repeat the same sampling and analysis techniques. But with such a vast array of life out in the oceans and waterways, something new and interesting will always find its way into a sample. I routinely find new species of worm I’ve never encountered before. I see massive size variations between the same species of Amphipoda crustaceans. And I discover clams from the North Atlantic with lifespans capable of outliving me!
Aston Lockwood in the APEM marine BioLabs
Away from work
Outside of the thrill of marine work, I have been competing in athletics since 2017. It helps keep me fit and I enjoy the element of competition that comes with running at a national level. I have won a few medals in my time and really want to develop into a better athlete.
I find my passions for marine study and athletics complement each other seamlessly. One keeps my mind sharp and helps me focus on the track, while the other keeps me strong enough to lift and carry the ten-litre samples I study through the day. Considering I’m working my way through over 2,000 litres of sample sediment in my current project, I need to stay fit!
Aston winning a 400m race
If you’d like to join Aston working within a world-class environmental and geospatial consultancy that helps shape and preserve the world in which we live, head over to our Careers Hub now.
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