Having a PhD funded by NERC (the Natural Environment Research Council) means that I have priority booking on advanced training courses related to their remit of environmental research. I was fortunate enough to find a place on Dirt Science: An Introduction to Soil System Science held at Cranfield University collaboration the British Society of Soil Science and the James Hutton Institute.
My background is in soil biodiversity rather than soil itself so I was pleased to be able to attend the course to learn more about soil functions and how to excavate a soil profile and describe the different layers. The week started with lectures and discussions on soil functions and an introduction to a research challenge which we would be working on within groups during the week.
The Natural History Museum organises a field trip in Dorset for its postgraduates each year, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get out of London and spend a weekend in the countryside. A group of PhD students and post-docs from a variety of disciplines set of to the Old Malthouse on the Isle of Purbeck (which is not a proper island but a sticky out bit of the southern coastline of Britain).
After settling in at our accommodation and being fed a good lunch we set off to Hartland Moor National Nature Reserve with Museum botanist Fred Rumsey. We were introduced to the plants that inhabit the Moor, and I was particularly excited to meet Dorset Heath Erica ciliaris, a type of heather, which I had not seen before.
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.
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.