Saturday, July 31, 2010

More than I can chew?

Yesterday I had a crazy busy day in which I met with Sam for several hours, submitted a huge final report for my interdisciplinary project, and didn't eat lunch until 5 pm. Then I talked to Leo at happy hour, went straight to dancing, and then proceeded to play office chair games in a gym and drop an egg off of a building until 3 am. Anyways, while talking to Sam yesterday, it dawned on me that I might end up with two Ph.D.'s worth of data, or at least it feels like that right now.

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

Mid-year assessment

Alyssa from Apple Pie and the Universe has invited us to reflect on the past year for August's Scientiae blog carnival. This is a fantastic opportunity for me to revisit the goals I set for myself in January. I find goal-setting to be extremely helpful-- as long as I actually do revisit them!

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!

Conference session scheduling tool

Big conferences have so many sessions running at the same time that it can be overwhelming to try and plan which ones to attend (especially before you have the program in hand). I just discovered a cool little tool that lets you mark which sessions you are planning to attend, skip, or read.  I know at least 3 of my readers are going to the Ecological Society of America conference next week, so I thought I'd post the link in case you haven't found it already. Check it out!

Anyone know of any blogger meetups happening at ESA this year?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer blues

This is past the point in my summer when I start to panic about everything that I haven't done yet that I need to accomplish. July feels like my last whole month of summer (work). August will be half filled by the ESA conference and a week at the beach. There's still so much data to analyze... and so little time.

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

Practice parenthood

Last week we had two 9 year olds stay with us- my cousin and Jon's niece. Every morning they went with me to the museum for day camp and then in the evenings we hung out in our neighborhood or played games. They were so agreeable and responsible! Most mornings they were up, dressed, and eating breakfast before we were out of bed! This is the first time we've been responsible for kids like that in our own home for more than just a night. I think it was good practice for being parents... but what will we do with them for the first 8 years?

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

That wasn't so bad

So, I sent that painful email and received some useful responses. All three of them had ideas and I just sent off a couple of emails to straight up ask organizations for money. I also- independently- got a fantastic tip from a friend on how I might be able to raise money. Unfortunately, if I told you [the internetz] I'd have to kill you. Or something.

Now back to the mad money chase.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I just sent an email to Sam, Herb, and Leo saying that I am $2700 short of what I need for my next field season on a bare-bones budget. Eek. I obviously should have figured this out and dealt with it months ago...

Monday, July 12, 2010


Today I finally received my last of 3 large reimbursements (>$1000) for expenses in Ukenzagapia. I've been home now for as long as I was in the field. Have I mentioned how much I hate paying for field work with 3 different little pots of money? I have spent far too much time and energy on managing the finances of my project. I need a big freakin' grant.

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

The lost week

Jon's aunt died in a tragic accident on Monday evening. We're going to her funeral this weekend. Between the Monday holiday and the family tragedy, this week is pretty much shot for work. Life just doesn't stop for research.