Celebrating Science and Year of the Young Person with Alistair McCartney

October 18, 2018 by No Comments | Category Freshwater Fisheries, Marine Directorate general, Marine Directorate Science, Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths_STEM, Year of the Young Person

2018 is both the Year of the Engineer and the Year of the Young Person – and this blog is about one of our many colleagues who are inspiring the next generation with their Outreach work.

This month we read about Alistair McCartney who is a Laboratory Manager in our Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory in Pitlochry.

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Alistair McCartney, my job title is Laboratory Manager and I work in the Freshwater Environment Group within the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Programme of Marine Scotland Science (MSS) . I manage the chemistry laboratories at the Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory (FFL) in Pitlochry and I am responsible for the data collection of the Scotland River Temperature Monitoring Network (SRTMN). I am also the Outreach Coordinator at FFL.

Why is what you do important?
The importance of my job has always been related to data quality, through the adherence to standard protocols in the collection of data in the field, achieving UKAS accreditation for chemical analyses and quality control of temperature data associated with the SRTMN. Good quality data are fundamental to the production of robust science which underpins the advice that MSS provides to Scottish Government.

My role in outreach is to highlight the importance and variety of work which MSS carries out. Outreach activities I have coordinated serve to inform, educate and engage with a variety of audiences e.g. through open days, work placements, career fairs, school visits etc. I have learnt, through my role in outreach, that MSS and the organisation to whom we are outreaching both benefit from our engagement. Personally these benefits are not only the successful delivery of an event but also the networking with colleagues and the camaraderie that is generated by a common purpose.

What’s your career path been – how did you get here?
I came to the Laboratory in June 1989, straight from what was then known as Napier College, to work on a 6 month contract on the Surface Water Acidification Programme. When this programme was completed I worked on another contract, the UK Acid Water Monitoring Network. In these early years I spent a lot of my time carrying out fieldwork and chemical analyses. In 1999 my position within the Freshwater Environment Group was made permanent and by the mid 2000’s I was given the responsibility of managing the chemistry laboratories within the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Programme.

If you weren’t doing this, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
If I hadn’t come to Pitlochry when I did I would have considered further study, but after 5 years at Napier I preferred the option of earning some money and was looking at other careers in the water industry.

What’s your favourite fishy fact?
The fishy related fact which I like best is that beavers do not eat salmon!!

And what about one fun fact about you?
I am a keen fisherman and when fishing on a Halladale loch I caught a small brown trout, having briefly admired its markings, I returned it to the water. Whilst unhooking the fish I realised I had left my other flies trailing in the water and, on lifting the rod to commence fishing, I discovered that I had caught another fish. Examining this fish I realised that it was in fact the fish I had just returned. Could this be the shortest catch and release to recapture in history?

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