From casual conversations, I get the impression that people’s perceptions of becoming marine biologist are that you need to be passionate on a topic or an animal, or be very field-capable. Hmm – that’s not entirely true! When I first approached my supervisor to do a marine biology project, I was neither a SCUBA diver nor do I have any relevant experience and knowledge on marine biology! But I did know that I wanted to ‘try’ being a marine biologist for the duration of my project. And well, the rest is history… 🙂
My early research comprised mainly experiments in tanks and the other big component of my work is desk-based literature reviews. You may not realise now but literature review is a HUGE part of research. It is where you learn to glean information on the topics, animals, ecological processes, etc…, as well as ask questions and develop hypotheses. Literature reviews also appear in the Introductions of many publications to provide the basis of studies and surveys. In a sense, such reviews stimulate research questions and curiosity for marine science.
Just like Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective who solves murder mysteries, I too ‘hunt down’ clues to get answers. The main difference is that I use the information to help connect the dots to modern-day natural history. And the best parts about literature reviews are the (unforetold) stories that come out of it! 🙂
To give you an example, I was working on the stories of the giant clam shells in China over two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. In order to present a balanced view, I made sure to refer to both English-based and Chinese-based media reports to extract information to support my story-telling. This Chinese article (below) is one of those gems I found, but alas, I am blocked from re-entering the website – haha! Fortunately, I screen captured it and it is presented herein. The article mentions the historical background of giant clams in ancient China, and highlights the fluctuating value of this resource. See my brief translation after each section of the article.
Lastly, here are some examples of the literature reviews that I’m very proud of, and one of which took a grand total of 3 years to complete! These papers are all OpenAccess and that means you can download them for FREE at these links.
- Neo, ML, CCC Wabnitz, RD Braley, GA Heslinga, C Fauvelot, S Van Wynsberge, S Andréfouët, C Waters, AS-H Tan, ED Gomez, MJ Costello & PA Todd (2017) Chapter 4. Giant clams (Bivalvia: Cardiidae: Tridacninae): A comprehensive update of species and their distribution, current threats and conservation status. Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review, Volume 55. Pp. 87-388.
- Neo, ML, W Eckman, K Vicentuan-Cabaitan, SL-M Teo & PA Todd (2015) The ecological significance of giant clams in coral reef ecosystems. Biological Conservation181: 111–123.
- Neo, ML (2012) A review of three alien parrots in Singapore. Nature in Singapore 5: 241–248.
- Neo, ML & PA Todd (2012) Giant clams (Mollusca: Bivalvia: Tridacninae) in Singapore: History, Research and Conservation. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 25: 67–78.