Well, here it is; a page about me, rather than just a focus on one of my interests!

Due to the fact that autobiographies tend to be quite long and never finished, this page will keep expanding, (at least until I get bored of it/have something else to do!).

My name is James Stapley. I currently live in South Africa, where I am doing an MSc in Ichthyology. I've just completed a degree in Marine Biology, something I've dreamed of for as long as I can remember; while other small boys want to be Firemen, or similar, I wanted to be a 'Naturalist'. (No, not the nude kind (NATURIST), the kind that studies the living world! (David Attenborough would probably be a good example)). The natural world has always fascinated me; moving around the world as I did when I was younger exposed me to all sorts of different creatures; many of these countries were tropical or subtropical, so I could mess around in the garden to my heart's content looking for insects and other small beasties.

The earlier parts of my life are kind of devoid of experiences that I can remember. This is a shame, because there was probably quite a lot of nifty stuff going on, I should imagine. A few of the stories (the flattering ones!) have been printed here. The others. Well. If you really wanna know my sisters (fortunately not on the net) would delight in telling them to you. But they've done pretty dodgy stuff themselves, actually. Small Kids. Sheesh!

Countries and places I have lived: Born in Basildon, United Kingdom; lived in Braintree, Essex (Near Basildon) until I was 1 and a half.

Moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil. The most polluted place I've lived in! Also the hottest.

Moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Beginning of my memory! We lived in 2 different houses there. I don't have a clue why we moved, but the first house had a swimming pool (as did the second, but a much smaller one). I have an atrocious memory of when I was younger, I have no idea why. While most people can recall stuff from when they were really young I can't. Weird.

I did get really good at Spanish while living there, but unfortunately I forgot it all (much to my annoyance when it came to doing a Spanish GCSE! - Now mostly forgotten as well as I recently found out).

And then came the Falklands War.

It was decided that Argentina was probably not the best place in the world for British people to be living in at that time, so we moved to Uruguay, where we lived in a hotel for three months or so in the capital city, Montevideo. (Uruguay is just across the River Plate from Argentina).

The most interesting thing I can remember (well it was for me) in Argentina would have to have been the trip we made to the tip of South America (called 'Tierra del Fuego' - the land of fire). On this trip I encountered some pretty nifty wildlife, such as Penguins and Sea Lions. They were pretty tame, not having had much contact with humans, and you could get within a few feet of the penguins; I don't know about the sea lions, but I should imagine either from parental guidance or fear I wouldn't have ventured too close to them, as they were a lot bigger than me... Oh and there were fields of Sunflowers along a lot of the journey; I was apparently obsessed with them. I apparently asked so frequently about getting one of them that my dad stopped the car, got out and got one of the flowers for me. It spent the rest of the trip in the handle that you usually find above the door that has absolutely no use when you're a kid because you can't reach it. Adults use it for hanging clothes off and holding on to when going around corners. Convenient storage spot it seemed at the time. Handy when you want it, but otherwise out of the way. Aren't Childhood memories weird. I prefer that word. They are not 'Cute'... You disagree!?

After 3-4 years, we moved to the U.S.A.! Of all the places I have lived I am most fond of the USA. Probably because I can't remember the other 2 'foreign' countires. It just rains too much in Britain. (And I went to University in Wales...(!))

The USA is great. It's got just about the highest living standards of any country in the world, for the cost of living. Everything (apart from fabric, apparently, Thanks, Mum...) is a lot cheaper over there. Basically if you live in the UK to convert the price of electrical goods, just swap the pound sign for a dollar sign. Now look at the exchange rate...Cry...Plan a trip...Buy it there. Watch out for the guys at the customs though... They may want some money. Either A) (Dodgy option) Don't declare it. B) Declare it and loose all the money you saved or C) Make sure you don't buy anything more valuable than you import allowance. Oh D) Move to America. Probably the best bet, actually, if you can do it!!!

Food is a lot cheaper, as is eating out, and as for petrol (gas?!?)... Let's just say it's a good thing we don't drive 'American' cars over here.

We lived in New Providence, New Jersey. It was a really nice suburban town, so you could ride anywhere you wanted on your bike. We lived on a Cul de Sac, so here we basically had a playground; most of the neighbours had kids, and so we used to run from garden to garden, and around in the street, with no traffic at all.

Winter was the most fun part of the year. Snow brought a snowplough down the road which obligingly left a pile of compacted snow 6 feet high and a variable width. This provided the base for massive snow houses, which everyone built and played in. There was even a convenient storm drain where you could shove all the excavated material, right underneath the middle of the pile, great, as you didn't have to haul out all the stuff!

We made many good friends of the family while over there.

And the Really Big Event of the USA was the arrival of my first fish tank...

On my 7th birthday, I received a 10 us gallon fishtank (they're sold on capacity, not size in the USA). It contained 10 'comet' goldfish. A few months on, I decided that tropical fish were the way to go, and 1 heater and several hours later, I was ready to enter the world of tropical fish, for myself.

Endless hours of fun, these fishtanks. Not only do you have the great pleasure of the fish themselves, but you can go in for aquascaping and plants to your heart's content. And there are GADGETS GALORE! Most of them, of course, only dreampt of by a young aquarist like myself, but it certainly filled up the time...

Since those days, I have been completely smitten by the fishkeeping 'bug'. No chance to visit a fish shop or aquarium is passed up! Indeed, I even have to persuade my parents to take me to these places as, for some unknown reason, public transport connections to them are atrocious; but anyway, who wants to be carrying fish around on public transport anyway? I certainly don't, and from experience, I never want to again (carrying a box of fish 2 miles, followed by a train journey with several changes...).

Why do parents rarely, if ever seem to be into the same things as their kids (or vice versa)?

Oh dear... I'm on about fish AGAIN...

Schools in America:

I went to Saltbrook School (Public School) literally five minutes away from my house for 1 year - and hated it, but we won't go into that here.

Then I went to Pingry (Private), which was better, but the work loads were very high. At the age of ten, I was getting up to five (or sometimes even more) hours of homework a night.

American schools are crazy about sports. It really is inexplicable to an outsider why practically the whole population seems to be totally sports crazy, especially when it comes to Baseball or American Football. I don't even pretend to understand the game, although I dimly recall having lessons at school, and not being able to play at all. Considerable portions of the school week are taken up doing it, usually voluntarily after school; to be in the School Football team is indeed an honour, and really elevates your position among your peer group. I guess it's seen as macho, but in that case, why all the padding? Rugby isn't padded and is pretty much just as violent. (Do you wanna explain this to me?)

Mind you, I don't understand Rugby or Cricket, and don't much like watching football (soccer).

Basically, if it involves a ball, I'm not interested, because my hand-eye coordination with moving objects that need catching or kicking is very poor. And I can't see the point of watching other people play sports either.

June 1988- Moved to U.K.

Yes, of course, it did what it's supposed to do and rained on quite a fair proportion of days that summer. Fortunately there's a lot of stuff you can do indoors in London. And fortunately, I like museums. London is very well supplied with museums, and once my parents picked up a family membership to the main 3 (Natural History, Geological and Science) museums, a child ticket (60p!) on the underground was all I needed to entertain myself for a day. Wonderful hours were spent particularly in the Natural History museum (I'm sure I've been in rooms not on any map...). These are quality museums; they were quite unlike the American style of museums, which were really 'hands on', and great for kids, but rather huge repositories of information in 'dull' cases and glass jars of the 'typical' museum. Now they are turning more into the style of American museums, which make them more fun, but some of the information must get lost in the race to make science 'accessible' to the public. Those of us who would rather look at dull cases and jars of preserved specimens may seem to be in the extreme minority, but most of the really wierd, interesting stuff tends to be in this state, locked away deep in the basements of the building... I only wish I could have spent a few days walking along the miles of shelving, crammed to overflowing with specimens of just about everything from around the world.

Public schools in the UK are also sports mad... OK. Let's carry on after a CONSIDERABLE gap in the updating of this page. (SORRY)!

I will recount my experience of Highgate School in North London (in and near the 'village' of Highgate, surprisingly enough) where I have been, until just recently, (i.e. for WOW 8 years) until September 1996, when I became a Student. But I digress.

Can't be bothered with School at the moment - will update something more recent!

Yes, I have spent 3 years of my life studying marine biology - potentially an absolutely fascinating field (much of it is!) it, like everything else has low points - PLANTKTON, ALGAE and STATISTICS! Argggh!!! I had a brilliant time at university (who doesn't?!!!) and met some terrific people. Also got a degree (a 2:1) and completed an honours project on the unusual subject of snails teeth (!) something which I am making a website of (along with a whole load of other little web projects I've got going or on the back burner!).

I have now moved down to South Africa, an absolutely brilliant country with the most appauling problem - a tremendous crime rate - much of it very violent and generally unpleasant (like being held up in your own home for hours in fear of your life by people with guns - something that happened to my family in October 1998 - lucky for me I was in the UK at the time studying.) The scenery is terrific, the wildlife amazing and so much potential. Not to mention a pretty decent climate! And what a terrific place to do science! Oh yes, unlike most of the northern hemisphere which is studied to death, we have untamed, undiscovered wild Africa to play with! Brilliant! What a place to do postgrad research work. Which is why I am doing my MSc in Ichthyology down here at Rhodes Univeristy. Ichthyology for those of you who have not heard of it is the study of fish! I'm working in the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology. :`)

My MSc. project is currently entitled "A Revision of the Family Kuhliidae". A what?!?! A revision is a project where you check on the status of the taxonomy of a group of animals (oops more long words -- taxonomy = all those latin names and that kind of stuff!); i.e. are there too many/too few species identified - in other words, you have to look at as many of that group of animals as possible and figure out if the latin names that the organisms currently have are correct or not. A Family is in some groups quite a large taxon (group of organisms!) but the family Kuhliidae only has about 13 species worldwide (with 2 (we think!) occuring here in South Africa). So somehow, I've got to get hold of specimens of these (generally small) fish from all over the world and study them. Cue lots of letters/emails to museums around the world! Ok, so it sounds boring. But just imagine if you find a new species of fish in that lot. Can it get cooler that that? I think not!

As a part time job, I'll be running, on a day to day basis, something called the East Coast FishWatch Program, which you can read more about here - Join it if you live anywhere in Southern Africa, or plan to come diving here (which I can THOROUGHLY recommend!!! My South African dives rank as some of the best I've done - the diving here really is world class, particularly at Sodwana and Aliwal Shoal).