Friday, December 31, 2010
The main scientist involved in the project, Beau Lotto from the University College London, has a webpage like I've never seen. This group is really, seriously sharing science in creative and novel ways (check out their Street Science and Flight of the bumblebee cubes). Kudos to them! What an inspiration!
The "Blackawton bees" project really sets a new bar for teaching science by doing science, and I expect we'll see more articles published by elementary and secondary school students in the near future. What do you think?
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Guests at our party: 17
People bleeding at our party: 3
Time party ended: 3:30 am
Guests who spent the night: 4
Beatles songs listened to on the way to see Jon's family: 213 (that's 9.6 hours- listened to chronologically by recording date)
Pounds of dog food brought along for puppy: 0 (oops- this is why we got a dog before having kids)
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
If I'm composing or editing text and I right-click, one of the options is "transformations" then the options are "Make upper case", "Make lower case" or "Capitalize". This is SO useful for editing the title of journal articles so that each letter isn't capitalized (this is often the case when I download the citation, but most bibliography styles require lower case).
For how long have I been tediously changing one letter or word at a time? Is this a Mac-only thing, or can my non-Macophile readers do this too?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Since I'm capable of doing most of my work at home (though I almost always prefer to work in my office at school), I've been mostly home with the puppy. My work is now often interrupted by stopping the puppy from peeing inside and keeping the puppy from doing other inappropriate things.
After more than 3.5 years of being car-free, it seems time for us to get a car since we can't take the dog on public transit. Then Jon will be able to bring the puppy to work with him, which will be important when I go back to Ukenzagapia.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
If you're like me, you might often have a picture in your mind of what type of thingamabob you need, but don't know what to call it. This website is full of pictures! Need something that looks like a u-bolt? Or special screws? Wire? Cable ties? Plastic mesh? Oh my gosh, this place has everything. This is waaaay better than wandering through Home Depot.
Thanks to Jon for tipping me off to this great resource. I love being married to such a handy man :-)
Sunday, November 28, 2010
I'm pleased with how things went this time, but I have so. much. work. to do here before I go back again... soon. Eek.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
At the same time, this awesomeness does have a drawback. It means that I leave home for weeks or months at a time. I was fine with that idea in my early 20s, but it's not nearly so easy to just go now that I have a place to call home and a husband with a job there. I'm trying to work as hard as I can in the field so that I can minimize my time away from home, but it doesn't feel like enough time in the field while simultaneously feeling like too much time away.
Over the long term (after my Ph.D.), I might shift to doing research that doesn't require international travel but I would hopefully still be working in beautiful places, albeit perhaps somewhat less extraordinary or exotic. For the time being though, I'm playing with the coin I chose, trying to figure out how to be the best scientist and the best partner I can be at the same time.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
On Sunday we had a brownout, meaning we had about half the electricity output that we normally have. My computer runs on that (thank goodness) but most other things don't, including my phone charger (isn't that strange that I can run my MacBook but I can't charge a cell phone battery?). The brownout wasn't so bad, but it meant I couldn't print and had to hand write some data sheets.
On Monday we still didn't have full power. One of my field assistants, B, had missed the one bus back to Nyota on Sunday afternoon and was stuck in the town trying to get a lift. So, it was just me and T, but we were supposed to visit 2 sites, and T was an hour late because he had some motorbike trouble. B never showed up. We only got one site done on Monday. (Thankfully, we did get full power back on Monday afternoon so I could print).
Tuesday was really the worst confluence of problems. We were supposed to do 2 sites to put us back on schedule, and we were picking up a fourth person (me, B, T, and the other guy). For your reading convenience, I am bulleting the sequence of events.
-B called and said he was back in Nyota but had motorbike trouble and needed to go to the mechanic and didn't know when he'd be finished.
-T showed up 20 minutes late, but couldn't start work yet because he had to pick up his son from the clinic (he has malaria), take him home, and then pick up the other guy.
-We changed the plan to go to one other site that was closer when I realized there was no way we'd finish 2 sites.
-I started walking the 5 km to the site because T had to carry other people and B was at the mechanic.
-I called B and told him to leave his motorbike with the mechanic, get a lift as far as he could, and then start walking to the site.
-T passed me going the other way on the road because when he went to pick up the other guy (2 hours late), he wasn't at his house because he started walking to where we were supposed to be that day. The other guy has no phone, so T takes off to go find him.
-I arrive at the site and wait around for while. I repeatedly call B to ask where he is.
-T gets to the other site, and the other guy left a note that he's headed home.
-I start working by myself.
-T still doesn't find the other guy, so picks up another other guy instead. They arrive FOUR HOURS after we were supposed to start working. They have to do something in a different place, so I continue working alone. Still no word from B.
-I work by myself for 3.5 hours until T and another other guy are able to help me finish.
-After I got home, I finally talked to B. He had gotten a lift part way to the site, but forgot his bag (with his phone in it) in the car...
Today we set out to do two sites again (to really get back on track). T and B were both 15-20 minutes late. B was only able to repair one of his two motorbike problems, and now T's motorbike had two broken spokes. This morning I had to decide what was better: getting on the motorbike with broken spokes or the motorbike with the faulty clutch plate. I went with the clutch plate. Whatever. It was fine. The crappy thing that happened today is that I lost my Rite in the Rain pen and we searched for about 15 minutes to no avail. I hate losing those because they are expensive and not easy to replace. I started using the fine tip on my double-ended sharpie. Then, right at the end of the day, I lost the damn little black cap. Once again, we searched (with four people) for 10 or 15 minutes without success. Guess what? We only got one site done.
Tomorrow we're supposed to visit 3 sites. Please send some good vibes my way!
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Chinese manufacturers seem to be adept at recognizing a good thing when they see it. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, right? They copied old English bicycles that are simple, sturdy, and survive the rough roads. They only have one gear (as far as I can tell), so you just push them up hill- but they do last longer than the "mountain bikes".
They copied the Honda CG125- a small, popular motorcycle. They copied it so exactly that when you put them next to each other they look identical- except for the names molded onto the engine. However, they did it with inferior materials so they could sell them for less.
My personal favorite Chinese knockoff is the pedal foot sewing machine. I saw so many of these sewing machines here that I thought that every single old sewing machine Singer ever made must have ended up here in Ukenzagapia. Upon closer inspection, I realized that not all of the sewing machines were 100 years old. In fact, most of them were new. The Chinese just took a pedal foot Singer sewing machine, copied the design, and even painted the darn things black with gold stenciling.
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with "Made in China" because on the one hand, they make some very useful things (sewing machines that don't require electricity being very high on the list), but on the other hand they make some things that are so poor in quality that I am ashamed to have contributed the waste of resources to make a useless piece of junk. For example, light bulbs that only last 2 days, or a spoon that bends when you try to scoop jam. JAM.
I hope that Ukenzagapia is able to develop more of its own industries (ideally sustainable ones), but in the meantime, it's MADE IN CHINA.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Saturday, October 2, 2010
When I was four, I collected itty bitty snails on our driveway after it rained.
When I was five, I tried to "fish" for my goldfish with a worm I dug up in the backyard.
When I was six, I tried to make a bird's nest- how hard could it be? (it turns out, it's really quite difficult architecture for a six year old).
When I was eight, I fell in love with the local nature center and spent every summer there until I went to college.
When I was nine, I had the most amazing third grade teacher who encouraged my interest in science.
When I was ten, my teacher who let me write a non-fiction book about monarch butterflies instead of a fictional story.
When I was eleven, I started a club with my friends called EcoActors to promote recycling and raise money to conserve rainforest.
When I was twelve, other kids mocked me by calling me "nature girl".
When I was thirteen, I had a great jr. high science teacher.
When I was fourteen, I started the advanced science track in high school.
When I was fifteen and sixteen, I mostly forgot about all that nature stuff. It was mentally on the back burner while I dealt with high school drama.
When I was seventeen, I got a 5 on my AP biology exam.
When I was eighteen, I started college, having chosen my school based on the strength of the biology program (especially in ecology and evolution).
When I was nineteen, I traveled abroad to study biology in a phenomenal location and I was hooked on biology and hooked on traveling.
When I was twenty, I spent a semester in Africa.
When I was twenty-one, I did a summer research internship.
When I was twenty-two, I graduated not knowing exactly what I wanted to do next.
When I was twenty-three, I had a job teaching environmental education and decided to go to grad school.
When I was twenty-four, I quit my job and traveled for a year with my partner, and applied to grad school.
When I was twenty-five, I started grad school.
When I'm thirty-one, I hope to have my Ph.D. and a job I enjoy.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
In other news, my university continues to amaze me with its fantastically awful money management. I didn't get paid this month. I'm transitioning from one funding source to another this month, and it's not really happening on the accounting end. An 'emergency' payment was supposedly made, but it hasn't reached my account yet and the shit is going to hit the fan in a few days when our exorbitantly high electricity bill will be automatically deducted. Now including my paycheck, I'm waiting for more than $5,000 from the university. All of these payments have been (or in the case of my paycheck, should have been) in the works for at least 3 weeks. I'm making it work, for now, but what a pain in the ass.
Here's hoping that on Wednesday I have a permit and $5000 more in my account.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
While standing in line at customs upon arrival, I met a woman who is leading a group of Canadian students and we exchanged cards* and a brief conversation. I just got an email from her, and she wants me to come talk to her students about my research. I'm not sure what exactly she wants me to talk about, but I think this is her first program to Ukenzagapia and maybe she's struggling a bit to fill the schedule!
The other day I was at a government office getting one of my permits, and an Ukenzagpian who I met briefly in Nyota recognized me and asked me to pass a message on to someone I know in Nyota. Somehow, that little encounter really makes me feel connected here. I'm knowing people all over the place!
*This means I remembered to bring my cheap grad student business cards, and I've already handed out two!
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I filled out the online form to request the funds. I bought my ticket. I flew here. I got approval. In the approval email, they say:
It really would have helped to have this information printed in big letters at the top of the request form. According to this list, my ticket is not with a US-flag carrier. #!@($^#. It's been one of those days. Now what do I do?Use of U.S.-flag air carriers by international travel allowance recipientsis required by the International Air Transportation Fair CompetitivePractices Act of 1974 known as the "Fly America Act." The conditions thatpertain to the use of U.S.-flag air carriers are found in GC-1*, GrantGeneral Conditions (07/02).
If you have an NSF or NIH grant, must you always fly US-flag carriers?
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
It's still hard to say bye to Jon though. I was crying in the security line. Anyways. I'm at the connecting airport now and my taxi driver friend Violet will meet me at the airport in Ukenzagapia and take me to my American friend's house. Then I'm going to (hopefully) fall right asleep so I can wake up on Wednesday morning and start jumping through hoops for my permits again.
Speaking of non sequiturs, I know I haven't blogged as much in the past few months. I've started posts but just never finished them. I think I tend to blog more 'in the field' so perhaps blogging will pick up again. I also haven't been keeping up on other folks' blog so my apologies to those bloggy friends out there who I've been neglecting.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
rocketscientista calls this the most wonderful time of the year. I knew there'd be at least one person who wanted to effuse their love of office supplies! She tells us about her quest- and success- in search of the best lab notebook ever. I'm sure others will want to find out what it is. Also, she gets to play with liquid nitrogen. Awesome. But perhaps best of all, rocketscientista uses owl pellets. How? You'll have to read her post and find out.
Rocksinspace has a great list of supplies that keep her organized including multiple colors of pens and special notebooks. She also has 3 terabytes of external hard drives and is going to need a 4th soon- she works with enormous data files! On her blog she also shares a revelation about the disorganization of pdfs on her computer and is now getting reorganized with Mendeley.
FrauTech literally has a toolbox. She's got some timeless classics (drafting pencils and calipers) as well as the more sophisticated tools of today (matlab and a 3D modeling program), some basics that few of us can do without (coffee and Excel), and some things that are unquestionably tools by anyone's definition (screwdrivers, wrenches, a hammer, and more). Can you guess her field of work?
ecogeofemme doesn't obsess over school supplies but associates this time of year with new clothes. She also finds that the new lab she has joined as a postdoc is missing some of the things that belong in a lab based on her previous experiences.
Jaxwolf does a lot of her science in the field and has to be ready for anything with the ten essentials. She'd rather not head to the field without a GPS, compass, maps, first aid kit, multitool, waterproof notebooks, and duct tape. That stuff is amazing.
sarcozona gets the prize for most unique tool: the cone guillotine. What in the world is a cone guillotine for? You'll have to go check it out, complete with a photo.
microbiologist xx needs some sterile wooden sticks and a whole lot more for her research. She tells us why the microscope is her favorite tool, and includes some awesome photos to illustrate her point!
Melissa from Confused at a higher level shares some outstanding advice for anyone starting up a lab (especially at a primarily undergraduate institution). She has great suggestions for how to make the most out of start-up funds by thinking long-term. In the same post she shares an A-to-X list of things she uses in an experimental condensed matter physics lab. I love it!
NJS (Scientist Rising) reminds us that a lot of science doesn't happen in a lab (or in the field). Her work relies on her "laptop, research group computers, the department computing clusters, and a supercomputer or two." One advantage of computer-based work is that it's easily portable and she shares some tricks for managing connections with the other computers. Without those tools, she might have "killed at least one computer."
Like NJS, Alyssa's (aka Mrs. Comet Hunter) research relies heavily on computers and the internet. She wonders if she's missing out or isn't a "real scientist" because she doesn't work in a lab or do field work. As host of this month's theme, I say nay! Computers and the internet are most definitely "real science" tools, and both field and lab work have their drawbacks. If you have thoughts on the matter, you can join the discussion on Alyssa's post.
Two different bloggers wrote about their love for R (a free statistical package) and LaTeX (a free typesetting program). mariawolters calls R "the one tool I couldn't live without." As an academic who has frequently changed institutions, she is liberated from the software subscription ties of any particular university to various other [expensive] statistical packages. Eugenie also tells us how she uses Mendeley (another free program used for managing and annotating references) and BiBteX to make bibliographies in LaTeX. So much free software!
fridayafternoonwriter has learned which tools are most important to her while writing up her thesis: good software (no one else mentioned many of these programs), good hardware (wide screen monitor!), good music, and good tea. Her post reminds me that the small things that create our optimal work environment are important, too.
I have absolutely loved reading all of the different posts for this month's carnival. Thank you to everyone who contributed! I've learned about many tools that I didn't even know existed. I hope that everyone enjoys these glimpses into different fields of science!
Monday, August 30, 2010
My parents are coming to visit this weekend, but I'll try to have the carnival posted by Monday, September 6. Stay tuned!
Sunday, August 29, 2010
The deadline is Monday, August 30, 11:59 pm. Keep 'em coming!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I haven't even really made a list of things that I need to accomplish before I leave. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
However, I now have to pay taxes on more of my research money thanks to a minor language change. In a nutshell: Instead of getting reimbursed (which is not taxable), the money will go on my 1098-t, which, because my fellowship income is also reported on my 1098-t rather than a W-2, is mostly taxable income.
I also learned that it costs the department about $500,000 to hire a biology professor, and with the current distribution of overhead payments, it takes the university at least 10 years to recoup that startup from grant overhead. I had no idea. Talk about pressure to get big grants!
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I'm spending the afternoon editing down a communication of research findings that is supposed to go to a lay audience but was 1300 words (2.5 pages). Short and to the point is what every communication workshop I've been to emphasizes. I've got it below 500 now. Almost there.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Saturday, August 7, 2010
This is a vertical planting that grew to create an impressive billboard.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
EREN: Ecological Research as Education Network- creating a structure for ecologists at primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs) to collaborate on larger-scale projects
EcoSynth- this might be the coolest thing I've seen at ESA. The web page doesn't do it justice right now! You can use a remote controlled airplane with a digital camera to construct a 3D image of an area.
DataONE- an online repository for data and metadata.
eBird- enormous citizen science project in which anyone in the world can participate! They have thousands of people contributing every day! Wanna join?
Not a link, but I witnessed something that deserves a shout out. I saw a grad student give a talk with no slides and no notes with a 20-minute can-you-do-this-if-your-advisor-doesn't-show-up warning. The penalty for a no-show talk or poster is nothing to scoff at, but if someone else gives your talk you're off the hook. This woman gave her advisor's talk with basically no warning, and did a hell of a good job.
**Added August 7, 2010**
Gigapan- seriously awesome and interactive photography. Thanks for reminding me, Eugenie!
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
-The David Lawrence Convention Center is a great space. It's big enough that nearly all of the workshops and sessions (about 20 talks are going on simultaneously at any given time) are in the same building and it's relatively easy to navigate.
-I've seen folks from ecomath camp, the field station where I used to work, a guy from a summer internship I did ages ago, and even an ex-boyfriend from college.
-The dorm (=cheap accommodation) is an easy walk from the conference center.
-There are so many awesome talks and posters. Conferences get me excited about science, outreach, and education! I'm a session-hopper so I don't stay in one place for long.
-I really should have done a poster or presentation. Next year I think I'll have enough for 3, but I can only do one. I should've gotten my act together!
-No internet or AC in the dorm where I'm staying. Also, our window only opens 4 inches and our door doesn't lock. It would have been helpful if they told us to bring an ethernet cable. It's not like I don't have one sitting at home doing nothing, but I certainly don't just carry one around with me! If I had that, I could be accessing the internet in my hot and humid dorm room instead of sitting here next to the window in the lobby budgeting out the free 2 hours of WiFiPittsburgh that I am allotted. No university wireless access for us :-(
-I ended up volunteering as a projectionist for a session that didn't have nearly as many interesting talks as I'd hoped, and I was useless as a volunteer because the session presider had it all under control so I just sat there. On the other hand, I will get my conference registration fee reimbursed, which is definitely awesome.
Hopefully some pics and more thoughtful posts will follow soon.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
I've got my main project with the critter study system. I collect some data that I'm not so enthusiastic about, but I also set up an experiment that could be really cool. I'm going to do some other experiments on my next trip. I wrote my big proposal that got rejected for this system, but I'm not going to pursue that part of the project anymore. I should still get 2+ dissertation chapters out of this.
I've still got that review paper from forever ago that has hardly budged an inch in more than a year, but will likely be my introductory chapter. Then there's the database project. That's what I was working on with Sam yesterday. It's going slowly but will be cool and powerful. That should be fodder for a chapter in my dissertation.
Now I'm working on a proposal for a slightly different study system. It's super exciting and is likely to lead to management recommendations (read: totally applicable to a real-world problem). The more I think about it, the more excited I get about it, but it's also daunting. It occurred to me while discussing experimental design possibilities with Sam that this project alone could be the bulk of a dissertation. I think that (if it works) this project will provide the most important chapter(s) in my dissertation, which is something I could not have anticipated even just a year ago when I first had the idea.
I'm excited about all of these projects, though admittedly least excited about the review paper and some of my critter system data. I just hope I'm not biting off more than I can chew.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Publication- I'd like to get at least one thing published this year, and maybe one or two more submitted. (I submitted something and it hasn't been rejected yet, so that's a good sign! I'm not sure if it can be published this year or if I'll get anything else submitted.)
Presentation- I would like to present something at a conference, maybe just a small one. (I don't think this is going to happen this year.)
Field work- I should have two trips to Ukenzagapia this year, and I'm determined to be more confident in my field work. (So far so good! One trip down, one to go! I'm in a MUCH better place with my field work than I was a year ago. This song helps.)
Outreach- [I want to develop some kind of outreach plan] (I haven't made much progress here. This is why it is good for me to revisit these goals!)
Dancing- Go dancing at least 12 times this year. (I've gone dancing 9 times this year and I'm going tomorrow too! I'm on track for meeting this goal :-)
Counseling- I plan to keep going to a therapist whenever I'm in Big City, as long as I feel like its helpful. My current therapist will leave at the end of the school year, but hopefully I'll be able to find a new one who is a good match. (I meant to blog about this but never did. I saw my therapist for the last time in the first week of May. She was leaving (she was an intern) and it turns out that I was one appointment away from expiring my allotted visits to counseling services. I don't want to try to find someone else because I feel like I got through the hardest stuff with her and I don't feel the need like I did a year ago. I was sad about leaving her because she was great, but I'm ok with not going to counseling anymore.)
Reading- I would like to read more books in 2010... As much as I do love reading all of these aforementioned blogs (and then some), but I need to read more books. I'm starting with a biography of Jane Goodall. (I'm really sucking at this one, considering that I haven't finished that biography of Jane Goodall. In fact, I left it here when I went to the field, and haven't opened it since. I did put a huge dent in a different thick book, but I haven't finished a book in ages. Maybe at the beach?)
Climate action- I want to offset my greenhouse gas emissions for my travel...I've got to start somewhere, so 2010 it is. (I put this one off for a long time but finally did it. I offset my travel to and from my field site, my other travel, and our utilities for 2010 to date with Native Energy. Finally!)
What else has been going on around here recently? Probably not enough progress in my work. I had much grander goals for my data analysis this summer. Eek. I'm giving my balcony garden (and my partner) lots of love. We're savoring the last few weeks with the cats before they go back to their real owners. We've had tons of family visit and I'm starting to think about my next trip to the field in September. I'm hoping to send off a big grant proposal before the year is out, something that wasn't on my radar in January (but it probably should have been). All in all I'd say I'm in a pretty good place, and I'll hopefully be similarly zen about my life in December when I revisit these goals again!
P.S. I'm hosting Scientiae in September- stay tuned!
Anyone know of any blogger meetups happening at ESA this year?
Thursday, July 22, 2010
On the bright side, the end of my interdisciplinary project is in sight. I've been having weekly skype meetings with my #1 collaborator on the project, and we've successfully divided and conquered the data analysis and we're finishing the writeup in the next week. We're submitting it as a report to our higher-ups, not a journal, so it won't go through an insane number of revisions. If we decide (much later) to publish it, we'll have something to start from. We had a whole-group skype meeting today and decided that we will consider our project "finished" in mid-August when we complete one final report as a group. Beyond that, we can each take pieces further to publication as it suits our goals (or not).
I've also decided that I need to be focusing strongly on submitting another big grant to fund my final two field seasons in 2011. I need to prioritize the analysis that will be included in that proposal, and worry less about the other analyses. My oh my, I have a lot to think about.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
I love third, fourth, and fifth graders because they can understand quite a lot but are also still excited about learning (it's not "uncool" yet). If this whole professional science career thing didn't work out, I'd love to teach one of those grades. I think I'd make a great middle-elementary school teacher, albeit one that could never find a job because I'd have a Ph.D. but no experience.
This week we still have Jon's niece here but this time his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew are here too, plus an 80 pound dog. I won't even go into the explanation of who and how the other 6 people passed through in the past 2 days. Last night we slept 7 extra people in our apartment.
I really need to get a LOT of work done this week. Only two weeks before ESA and then my summer is basically over...
Friday, July 16, 2010
Now back to the mad money chase.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
I just submitted a small (~$250) reimbursement that I couldn't submit until the new fiscal year but I'm not counting on getting that one for a while.
In other news, I have no proposals pending and still don't know how I'm funding my next trip. I'm starting to think about bake sales and lemonade stands. Suggestions?
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
What I really need to do it get a big grant. My first attempt at a big grant was unsuccessful (not surprisingly). I used the proposal I developed for my prelims, but the methods were untested and I had essentially no preliminary data. It was worth a shot, but I'm not surprised it wasn't funded. Also, once I actually went and tried the methods (just after submitting the grant), I realized there was no way it was going to work well enough to justify the cost. Even if I had gotten it, I'd have modified the methods & objectives considerably. I received the bad news shortly before I left for Ukenzagapia in February, and I couldn't bring myself to read the reviews just before going into the field. Then I kind of forgot about them. See, I know that if I submit again, it will have to be with a new proposal because this first one just isn't going to fly, so the specific criticisms on this proposal won't help me turn it around and resubmit. I'd nearly be starting from scratch again.
Today I finally opened up the reviews to read them. The ratings ranged from Fair to Very Good. Most of the reviewers were concerned about the feasibility of the proposed methods, in which they were 100% justified since I myself decided it wasn't feasible. Some of the comments made me laugh out loud, such as, "I got the sense that this proposal was written quickly and from the perspective of someone not familiar with critters or the study site." Quickly? I wish! At the point that I wrote it, I hadn't spent very much time at Nyota yet so that is fair I suppose but then again I had Sam's advice on it. This particular reviewer went into great depth with their concerns about the lack of excruciating detail in some areas, comments which would be extremely helpful if I were resubmitting this same proposal.
It is interesting to look at the perspectives of different reviewers about the broader impacts of the proposed research. One reviewer said the proposal didn't emphasize the impacts for the scientific community enough and only emphasized things like training students. Most of the reviewers thought the broader impacts were good and some of them think Herb is a real rockstar in that respect (they basically said so). Another said that one outreach project seemed like a weak add-on, in part because they "didn't the costs of a pamphlet included in the budget." A pamphlet. We're talking about the cost of printing a pamphlet. C'mon. Still... lesson learned. If you're going to mention it, put it in the budget, even if it's just to say you're going to seek other funds to cover it (I did that for several things, as the project cost exceeded the amount requested).
Even though some of the specific criticisms won't be applicable to the next proposal, reading the reviews helps me see what the reviewers generally liked and didn't like. It certainly wasn't a wasted effort. Now back to strategizing for the next trip...
Monday, June 28, 2010
This paper is nothing big, and it's going to a journal with an impact factor <1. Still, I've done the vast majority of this myself (with advice from the coauthors), so it's an accomplishment for me. I've been hearing that first papers take a long time, and this is certainly the case for me. Maybe my next one will go more quickly!
Friday, June 25, 2010
In other news, I've finally gotten two of my three reimbursements for the thousands of dollars I spent. Thank you, bureaucracy.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Today he sent another suggestion for incorporating some data that would be useful if we had it for everything we're studying, but we don't, and I don't see a good way to incorporate it. I. just. want. to. be. finished. So I'm writing an email to explain why I don't think we should add those data (and suggest that if he does, that he add it himself since he's an author too). Gah.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
You might think that Herb had his child while in grad school. Quite the contrary. At the celebration dinner after my office mate's defense, Herb mentioned in conversation that he took his son to museums 4 days per week when he was a toddler/preschooler so that his wife could get her science done. Confused at how this was possible, I asked for clarification how he spent four weekdays at a museum all day entertaining his son. His response? He was already a full professor so he had the flexibility. He was a full professor when his son was born- he was no spring chicken. For those of you who are less familiar with the traditional ranks of academia, a person typically does not become a full professor until after they have completed their Ph.D., typically had a postdoc (~1-4 years), landed a tenue-track position as an Assistant Professor (5-6 years), gotten tenure and become an Associate Professor (probably at least 5 years), and then finally made the (typically) last leap in rank to become a Professor. That's minimally about 11 years after completing your Ph.D. Assuming one starts a Ph.D. at age 23 (young) and finishes at age 28 (fast), then you would be at least 39 before you become full professor. What this boils down to is that most women would be in less-than-ideal circumstances to start having kids when they are a full professor. My advisor had the flexibility in his schedule (and the reduction in pressure) that comes with the job/financial security of a full professorship. Interesting, no?
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
While Jon and I were traveling in Remote Foreign Country in the year before I started grad school, we had the great fortune to cross paths with one of my favorite college professors, my mentor who wrote my letters of recommendation. He mentioned to me that he was retiring. I was saddened to hear this news, but in the conversation that followed I could see he was truly burnt out from decades of teaching at SFC with all of the mentoring responsibilities that don't cease even when students graduate. The fact that he was great at his job created greater demand for him as an advisor and professor. As a student, I didn't realize the extent of professors' responsibilities or recognize how the closeness of student/faculty interactions at a small college could be draining. Do I want a job with so many face-time demands?
Fast forward 2 years. Herb and I were discussing mentor's upcoming retirement. Herb, who was the college roommate and thus personally knows my SFC mentor (see explanation here), remarked that he has no interest in retiring anytime soon. He attributes mentor's desire to retire early to the different professorial lifestyle and expectations at SLACs. More food for thought. Is being a SLAC professor potentially more exhausting than a professor at a big research university?
Another year goes by. I returned to SFC and had a great conversation with a friend who is teaching there this year. I was explaining my concerns about teaching at a place like SFC because I don't want to get burnt out like my mentor was. She, as a visiting assistant professor, now has an insider's perspective on departmental expectations. SFC has a fantastic tenure-track assistant professor who is teaching great classes, mentoring students, and doing great research with undergrads. She is also working her butt off, staying late, and everyone can see that. What is the department's response? You're doing awesome work, but we're concerned that your pace is unsustainable. We recommend that you work less and make time for your family and yourself in order to prevent yourself from burning out. This was refreshing to hear, and it really makes a lot of sense for a department to send this message to someone who they would very much like to keep around but are concerned will work themselves to a point of departure. Might I be so fortunate as to end up in a place like SFC where the department's advice to a fantastic tenue candidate is work less?
I haven't ruled out jobs at SLACs, but I'm also interested in jobs with conservation NGOs or maybe a government position. Maybe I could even cut it at a mid-sized research university with some grad students. I still don't know. Thankfully, I don't have to yet, but I do keep mulling over it because I do want to make sure I have adequately prepared myself for the job I want.
**Note: I just polished a post I wrote last month, and it was posted under last month's date so I'm including a link here for those of you who would otherwise miss it.
Monday, June 7, 2010
When I took a GIS class, they taught us an organization system where you always always always make a folder for your original data within your project folder and then never touch it. Then you have another folder for the stuff you're modifying. Most importantly, you keep a text file where you explain step by step everything that you are doing. This system seems like a pretty good starting point, but I'm looking for other suggestions. Mostly I just don't want to end up with something like this:
Ph.D. Comics, for being so topical.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Shortly after returning, I heard from Sam that my field assistant is being a real pain in the ass and demanding another loan from Dr. K. because I didn't loan him enough to buy the motorbike. My other field assistant has been giving reports to Sam and Dr. K about the situation, but I'm supposed to feign ignorance of all this drama when I talk to them on the phone. It's all terribly complicated and everything I hear is 3rd hand.
Anyways, I've been having a hunch since the last month or so at Nyota that T a second wife & kid(s) in "town," but it's not exactly the kind of thing I can confront him about. He already has a wife and 6 kids in Nyota, but has so much trouble getting back to Nyota on time that I just think something is up.
I mentioned my hunch to Sam the other day, and it turns out I was right. He does have another wife (I'm sure not legally- but she probably has a kid or two and so now it is his responsibility to support them as well, so she's basically his second wife). Of course Sam didn't want to tell me this, but he says he's impressed that I figured it out on my own because it shows that I am really beginning to understand the culture.
Unfortunately, T isn't showing up to work (at least that's what I'm hearing from Sam via Dr. K and my other assistant). He has to repay the loan by paycheck deduction, but that doesn't work if he's not getting paid because he's not working. What a mess. And apparently, he's blatantly lying to me about buying a motorbike. What in the world can I do from here?
Saturday, June 5, 2010
On Thursday I made a list of all of the corrections and additions needed for the paper. On Friday I sat down and did them. Boy that felt good! I think it might be ready to submit next week if Sam and Dr. K are able to give me feedback in time. The timing is somewhat unfortunate as Sam is leaving for a week or two but we'll see what happens. At the very least, I made good progress and can now worry about other things for a while.
Today I've been chopping away at my list of things to do at home. I cleaned off my desk (for the first time in about 6 months), organized a closet and a bookcase, dusted, did laundry, repotted seedlings, and washed the weird dishes (Jon's responsible for the dishwasher stuff). I feel like there's such a backlog of things for me to do at home that I have a hard time leaving the apartment in the morning because I'm tempted to stay home and organize stuff instead. I'm so glad to be home.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
In other news, I just emailed the forms for my permit renewal! Woo hoo! Another big thing off my plate. Now I just have to figure out how to pay them!
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
My biggest accomplishment this year is the completion of a successful field season. In April I wrote a post about all the things I was doing well, and that list held true to the end. I really feel like I have friends at my field site now and I'm getting much better at figuring out how to get things done.
Since returning home in early May, I submitted a report and am well on my way to submitting the paperwork for my permit renewal. Finishing writing projects can be so tedious, so I try to celebrate all of the small milestones along the way. I try to lay out a plan for what I need to work on each day, and if I finish all of it before the end of the day, my reward is going home early. It usually motivates me to work more efficiently and stay on task (though not always).
Acknowledging and celebrating small victories is one of the things that has helped me progress in my Ph.D. and stay happy. I'm nearing the end of my third year of grad school, and I figure I have three more years so I'm just about half way done. My glass is definitely half full! Cheers to Rocket Scientista for asking us to share our celebrations.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
-submit paperwork for permit renewals (I should have done this a long time ago)
-submit that #!@*%!# little note
-analyze last summer's data
-analyze data for my interdisciplinary project
-work on that review paper that I haven't talked or thought about in months
-figure out how to fund my next field season
I've been dragging my heels soooooo badly on the first one- permit renewal. I'm not entirely sure why, but I think it's partly because I don't really know how to approach this (and am stupidly afraid to ask Sam for help), partly because I'm unsure how to conceptually unify all of the things I need them to approve, and partly because I'm afraid they're going to reject me for some minor oversight or omission. Jon has given me some pep talks, reminding me that really the agency that approves research just wants my money and then to make sure I'm not barbecuing their endangered species or something egregious like that. I've really got to get this done before I can move on to other things on my list in any significant way, but I would just so. much. rather. be cleaning our apartment or doting on my plants. I'm in one of those homemaking phases when I just don't want to go to work at all. But here I am... Blogging. Gah!
Monday, May 24, 2010
Last week I turned in all of my receipts for reimbursement, except one but it's complicated. I'm getting back about $4500. More than half of that goes to my parents, who were kind enough to lend money because I couldn't get advances on the grants. The rest of it reimburses my set-aside-for-taxes account. I was waaay over budget this time on salaries. I'm not sure how much of our personal money we spent this time, certainly more than I wanted to. It seems like I need about $5000-7000 for each 2-3 month trip to Ukenzagapia. That sure does seem like a lot. I don't know yet how I'm funding my next trip.
I submitted a report to the governmental agencies concerned. I was writing that in the evenings after my all-day Wilderness First Responder classes. That was exhausting and it's a relief to have it done. Now I need to focus on my renewal application.
I feel so much better after this field season compared to my first one. I was kind of a wreck when I got back last year, at least as far as how I felt about my research. I'm still not thrilled with the data I collected in that first field season, but at least now I've got other data too. Time to start analyzing!
Saturday, May 22, 2010
For whatever reason, I just haven't had much to say on the blog this month, which is really unusual. I'm not sure why. I guess I've been traveling so much that I haven't had much of a routine. I have a few draft posts that maybe I'll get around to finishing. Perhaps I haven't been inspired to blog because I also haven't been reading any blogs. I haven't even opened my feed reader in 2 weeks, and I've hardly read any blogs since late February. I expect once I really get back into the swing of things at work and home that I'll have more to say.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I love coming back to campus, because in so many ways it just feels natural. It feels like home when I walk across campus. But it is somehow bittersweet for me to return. I love the memories- I love recalling the people and events that helped shape me. But, I am reminded that that time has passed. I can tell I'm older. Several years older. Part of me is sad that I'm not a SFC student anymore. The stories from my time at SFC are like ancient history to the current students. Time marches on.
I've done so much since I graduated. Really! Far more than I did when I was a student! I've been to three new continents and back to Africa (three times!). I'm halfway through my Ph.D. I'm married. I've had jobs, owned cars, moved several times, and lost three loved ones. But since SFC is where I feel like the modern me started, it feels like my roots. It feels like the place to return to, to pay homage to.
One year after I graduated, I wrote:
Somehow, in four years I managed to bond myself and part of my identity to the physical SFC. SFC is an inextricable part of who I am. It brought so much love, peace, and happiness into my life. My time there has given me the strength and skills to go beyond, but I can't fully escape the longing to be there again.Maybe it is bittersweet because I know that even if I went back there to teach, it won't ever be home again like it was as a student. That time and stage has passed, and with melancholy I accept it.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Friday, April 30, 2010
I maintain a pseudonymous blog about being a grad student in ecology and evolutionary biology. The blog has a small but dedicated audience, as well as several one-time visitors who arrive through internet searches, and received an average of 28 visitors per day from May 2009- April 2010. During that time I wrote 194 posts. Through this blog and pseudonymous persona, I participate in discussions related to the experiences of women in science and the challenges of field work in particular, and have corresponded with several individuals interested in pursuing careers in ecology. I have also used the blog to raise awareness of environmental issues, useful research tools, and opportunities within biology.
Oh well. I just wrote it here instead!