I really enjoying learning how to identify wildlife, so not only do I spend time identifying soil invertebrates as part of my PhD project but I like to attend identification workshops and courses in my leisure time. On Saturday I was at a workshop organised by the British Entomological and Natural History Society (BENHS) learning how to identify land Heteroptera with Tristan Bantock and Jim Flanagan. Many people use the term ‘bug’ to refer to any invertebrate but in strict entomologist sense a bug is a member of the order Hemiptera. These are characterised by having a straw-like mouthparts (a rostrum) which they feed on fluids of various kinds, often plant sap but some on other insects and even blood.
This comic from Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD Comics) about sums up my last two days!
I’ve been writing emails following up contacts made at the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative Conference I attended back in December. Additionally I will soon start to customise the standard email that my research group (PREDICTS) uses to request data from researchers.
I find writing emails really stressful, worrying over every word, and whether I will be misunderstood, which I know is silly because the recipient is unlikely to read it in such detail. It’s good to know I’m not alone, thanks PhD Comics!
A perk of having a NERC funded studentship is priority attendance on the NERC Advanced training courses, and I was fortunate to gain a place on the Systematic review and meta-analysis for environmental sciences held at Royal Holloway University. Meta-analysis is a statistical technique used to combine results from different studies to identify patterns among studies, the strength of this is a higher statistical power is achieved than that of a single study. It was originally developed in medicine to gauge the effectiveness of treatments but is increasingly being applied to ecology.
We started off with lectures on the different types of reviews and an introduction to meta-analysis.
I month into my PhD I moved from my family home in Portsmouth to a rented flat in outer London, it’s a short commute away but I get a lot more for my money. Unfortunately logistical problems meant I spent the first few weeks with minimal furniture etc. which wasn’t ideal on top of having trouble settling into the first real home of my own. So Andrew took me off to Ikea Croydon, to buy some items to make the place more homely (and to take advantage of the the free coffee).
I have since found out that the Croydon store is the biggest Ikea in the UK, which partly explained how we managed to spend nearly seven(!) hours there.
My friend Andrew loves Christmas, so it would be cruel if I didn’t let him visit the Winter Festival at the Southbank Centre after the trip to Tower Bridge (although mercifully I avoided taking him to see the Christmas lights in Oxford Street this year!).
After enjoying some traditional roast Chestnuts by the River Thames I said goodbye while I spent a few days finishing up some university work before heading home for Christmas and the New Year.
On the 16th December the PREDICTS team had planned a Christmassy day which included a visit to our neighbours the Victoria and Albert Museum where the joint-museum choir was performing.
Studying in London gives plenty of opportunities for ‘going tourist’ and visiting attractions in London, so for a treat after two busy weeks away in France my friend Andrew visited and we went to see the Tower Bridge Exhibition. The Exhibition had been in the London newspapers recently as it had just opened a glass floor on the high level walkways, giving views from over 100 feet above the River Thames, and so we wanted to pay a visit – despite Andrew being afraid of heights!
Tower Bridge is in the eastern part of London so it was exciting to see a part of London I am not familiar with, emerging from the Tower Hill underground station we saw the Tower of London – another attraction on the list to visit while I am here studying.
Barely recovered from the First Global Soil Biodiversity Conference in Dijon I was back to France the week after to attend the Joint Annual Meeting of the British Ecological Society (BES) and the Société Française d’Ecologie (SFE), in Lille Grand Palais, Lille, from the 9th to 12th of December. This time I was not only presenting my poster but attending as a BES student helper which not only gave me free entry but would increase my confidence as I would have a ‘job to do’ and be working with other student helpers (my supervisor calls this ‘activity-based socialisation’ and it is ideal for introverts and those with autistic leanings).
It’s barely two months into my PhD research and I have been to an international conference in France to present a poster on my research. This was the First Global Soil Biodiversity Conference held at the Palais des Congrès in Dijon, for four days between the 2nd and 5th of December. I find conferences really scary, which is part of my motivation to attend as many as possible during my research to increase my confidence in presenting my research and networking. The week before I attended a very helpful course on networking organised by the Imperial College Graduate School so was armed with techniques to get the most out of the conference and to reduce my anxiety.
“This is Victoria”, the now familiar recorded message says as I step off the train at my namesake station. “Yes. Yes, it is”, I think to myself.
I am one of 28 students starting PhD research at Imperial College’s new Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet (SSCP) Doctoral Training Programme. This is hosted by the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, although most of my research is at the Natural History Museum, one of the SSCP partner institutions, where I was based for my MSc last year. I will be modelling human impacts on soil biodiversity, combining two of the things I love most: playing with computers and digging for earthworms!