Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New travel articles!

Hi all,

Two new articles on Gap Year Escape in the last few weeks.... but travel writing is on hiatus from now on while I work on the elusive thesis topic... (progress is being made- going to Texas with my advisor to check out a field site next month!).

by Fiona Soper for Gap Year Escape

by Fiona Soper for Gap Year Escape

Friday, January 7, 2011

New article: An Insider's Guide to Brisbane

First article of the new year!

An Insider's Guide to Brisbane

There are a couple more coming in the next few weeks, then it's time for me to take a hiatus from writing and focus on the science. Hectic semester coming up- running my first experiments at Cornell, preparing a couple of big grant/fellowship applications... oh and coming up with a thesis topic! Hoping to bunker down and make some progress and reward myself with a trip home to see my lovely friends and family in Australia mid-year.

The new year has begun well! Currently I'm in Hawaii doing a graduate field course, getting to know my cohort better and wrestling with the challenges of 'field biology'. Hawaii is beautiful but it's sad to see how degraded some of the landscape is as a result of bad management and human-introduced weeds. On the lookout for thesis inspiration.... One of the academics here is a fellow UQ grad and we have great plans for 'faux Australia Day'... to be celebrated early in the tropics before we head home to frigid Ithaca. The Time Tams are in the mail!

I had a great Christmas/NYE with Linzie in Boston/Ithaca/NYC and enjoyed having some girly time and  taking full advantage of Linz's cooking! Progress is being made on the academic front too- my first grant application was funded and a manuscript we submitted to an excellent journal was judged worthy of going out for review, so I have been compulsively checking it's online status everyday. Good start I hope, considering that basically my entire scientific career wil be based on asking people for money and convincing people to publish my papers...

Love to you all and Happy New Year! More news coming soon!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's official....

Well it must be official now- I am a wannabe travel writer, with a profile and everything!

Trying to focus on the uni work atm (still topic-less, the last idea I had hasn't really come to fruition yet), but I have a few ideas in the works for articles on the Arctic, Sweden, going on exchange, Brisbane travel guide and more! Any suggestions?

Won't give up the day job just yet....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More travel blogging!

Should I be worried that my travel writing is more productive than my academic writing? Another post I wrote for Gap Year Escape....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Updates on Science

Warning: Contains science content and rambling about thesis ideas.

One of the things I wanted to do with this blog was record how I am thinking and finding my way academically. Listening to older grad students talk about how they found their thesis idea has been interesting and helpful. I thought a similar record would be helpful both for other people going through the same process, for my own sanity, and so that I can articulate for myself exactly what I am doing and see what is working and what isn't.

Science, at the moment, is exciting. After half-heartedly embracing a topic idea I had come up with concerning the effect of invasive species on spring nitrogen retention in temperate deciduous forests (which I'd even written up and submitted for a grant), I decided that perhaps bigger ideas still lurked out there and went looking for them. My initial strategy of looking for literature and keywords surrounding topics I was already interested in wasn't so successful. I found and perused books on topics like organic nitrogen use by plants and frankly I wasn't feeling inspired. I think one of the biggest challenges of grad school at the moment is figuring out how to exposure yourself to ideas effectively and link things together in your mind. I've read plenty suggesting that attending seminars etc on a range of topics can be good for this, and while I've seen some great seminars, none have grabbed me or left me developing my own ideas (yet?).

What has worked (and an approach I am ashamed to admit I had ignored up until now as I didn't think it would work) is just scanning through the contents page of the most recent issue of a wide range of journals. My commitment to spend an hour or two each week just getting that week's journal updates has actually proved very successful. I stumbled across this article:

The Nitrogen Paradox in Tropical Forest Ecosystems- Hedin et al., 2010

and it's pretty much single handedly set my new direction. Turns out tropical legumes are amazing! I'm excited about everything I'm reading on the topic, frantically scribbling down ideas and looking forward to my next meeting with my advisor. At the moment I'm dealing with interesting concepts rather than a question per se, but it's exciting to have found something which is so intellectually stimulating. I would never have come to this point with my old approach. Yay!

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: Science is awesome. I am so lucky to be doing this. All those ridiculous self help/guide books that go on and on about how hard and depressing grad school is have got it wrong. I don't think anyone would be here if they didn't love what they were doing. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My foray into travel blogging....

I love travelling, and whilst I like writing too, most of my life is taken over with scientific writing which isn't terribly gripping and has a distinct lack of flowery adjectives. 

Amar Hussain is a awesome travel writer (and good friend), and he invited me to guest post on his successful travel website, Gap Year Escape. I wasn't about to say no!

Without further ado, my first foray into travel blogging....


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An insightful and informative cultural analysis (well, kinda)

Fabulous things about America

  •        Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. Nom nom.
  •      Cutesy furry things. My neighborhood is home to myriad adorable squirrels, deer, skunks, chipmunks and groundhogs. It feels very much like that scene from Snow White.
  •      Academic freedom. I’m independently considering three different and entirely unrelated thesis projects and I can take my time to evaluate and explore their merits before I decide- fantastic!
  •     Car-share programs. Such a great, sustainable idea, but don’t think I’ve ever seen one at home.
  •        Pumpkin in a can. It might take slightly longer to justify this one, but believe me it’s awesome.
  •      Enthusiastic friendliness. I kind of like it when shopkeepers call me ‘sugar’ and tell me to have a wonderful/fabulous/super-dooper day. Bonus points for ‘sugar bun’.
  •     Fractal broccoli. This stuff totally blows my mind. Not strictly American but again, I’ve never seen it at home.
  •     Bagels! Oh, bagels. Yes, I have noticed that half the entries on this list are food. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of horrifying fake cheese to balance out the good stuff.

Odd, ridiculous or otherwise disheartening things about America

  •        Cheque books. It’s 2010, people! It’s the future now! I can pay for coffee with my cell phone but I still have to pay my rent with a scribbled bit of paper?
  •     The Imperial measurement system. Continuing to use measurement standards calibrated to random body parts of dead royalty is never going to be a sound idea.
  •      The cereal isle in the average supermarket. It’s generally ¾ artificially colored, sugar-frosted, uber-refined flakes of god-knows-what supplemented with tiny novelty marshmallows. The sheer volume on sale leads me to believe people actually feed this to their children.
  •        Pronouncing ‘niche’ as ‘nitch’. Is there a T? IS THERE?
  •        Hershey’s chocolate. Has this odd aftertaste that I just can’t place- leather? Bacon bits?