Seven days

This time a week from now I will be finished my MSc thesis defense.

I am oscillating so quickly between freaking right out and feeling completely prepared and ready that I think I’m averaging out at neutral.

I feel so deep in the rut that has been a very much over time program that I can hardly believe there will be the day when I am out of the rut – and I really can’t picture that day happening next week.

Here’s to pushing through and staying focused for one more week. Eye on the prize!

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In absentia

For the last few months, I have been more or less absent. Absent from this blog, absent from my circle of friends, absent from pretty much everything except grad school – and I feel like I’m disappearing from that too.

I’m most pleased to report to you that my thesis has reached Another Step Towards Finishing: it has been returned from my reader with a wealth of very useful, positive, and constructive comments. I had a genuine fear of releasing my baby from within the confines of communication between my PI and myself over the last year, with my mind thoroughly convinced it was going to be shredded and that I’d have to quit (or fail – I don’t know which would be worse) instead of graduating. They tell you that to survive graduate school, you need a thick skin. I think mine has only become thinner. But I have the signature I needed officially, and great suggestions to improve my own writing, and I’ll take this as a win any day.

But all things come to an end, and though I still have a ways to go before you see me in cap and gown (if you do, I’m undecided on whether or not to attend convocation), there is now an expiry date on my time here. I have scheduled my defense, lined up the examiners, have gathered a mountain of papers I need to refamiliarize myself with, and for the first time in a long time, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.


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¡Hola! Return from Playa del Carmen

I have arrived back in the frostbitten Great White North from my first ever trip to Mexico! Although I’m sad to be returning to a polar vortex, I’m thankful I got to escape at least a little bit of this year’s brutal winter. I was able to finally relax after not having taken a proper holiday since 2011 (grad school!) and even that holiday was a lot of trekking around the UK on foot, trains, buses, planes, cars….so although fun, not exactly fully relaxing. I tend to be much more of the adventurous sort over the beach sort, but I definitely needed some down time. And best of all, it was all for a wedding! I was able to hand over my first full copy of my thesis to my PI just before I left last week, so I could take off knowing it was off my plate for the time being.

Now I’m back, a little more recharged, and ready to sharpen my axe and get this MSc submitted and defended! I’m now knee deep in both Canadian snow and thesis revisions, but I’m hoping to be able to do some travel posts over the next few weeks, including our excursions to the Mayan ruins of Tulum (pictured below) and a deep sea fishing adventure that culminated in a delicious lunch of fresh and pretty fish.


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Taking flight!

Taking flight!

Pelican in Monterey, CA September 2013
Photo taken by myself

Happy New Year in a very belated fashion! I’m running around like mad trying to finish my edits of my now WHOLE MSc thesis before I hand it off to my PI. I’m also prepping for a friend’s destination wedding in Mexico, which is tough because I cannot fathom the idea of relaxing on a beach right now (to be fair, I did think when I accepted the invitation last July that there was no way I’d still be anywhere near grad school in January).

Stay tuned for science, thrills, and more science! 2014 is going to rock.

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Critter prints for Christmas!

I recently made a few of my photos available as “art gifts” through (an account I’ve had since high school, hence the angst-y username. sorry-not-sorry!). I don’t claim to be a pro, but I do get a 20% cut from such prized items as canvas prints, mugs, and even puzzles featuring photos and paintings such as those appearing below. Here’s the link to my prints gallery.


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“We’ve attempted a drone delivery; however…”

Amazon, that behemoth of an online distributor, announced yesterday its Orwellian plan for the future to deliver packaged goods via drone delivery service. Needless to say, the Internet was onto joke generation pronto.

This was submitted to by an unknown user. BUT WAIT! The creator was FAR more creative than is already obvious!

The drone ID # 1001101011 is binary for the deicmal value 619. An innocuous number, perhaps. But deeper Internetting reveals that 619 is actually the number of a New Hampshire house bill (HB 619) that sought to limit the potential for abuse by drone surveillance.

Clever! Let’s just hope the Amazon drones go the way of the Internet and evolve to function solely as cat entertainment.

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Chris Turner speaks to scientists at Western about “The War on Science” in Canada

Canada has a war going on. Usually, when used together, the words “war” and “Canada” conjure up Remembrance Day images of soldiers and trenches. But this? This is a different kind of war, and it’s being waged not on the battlefields of Europe with the military and guns, but in the halls of our academic and federal research institutions with policy and money. Our country’s future is still at stake on many fronts: in the sustainable development of natural resources, maintaining the capacity for ongoing research and development in the basic sciences and medical sciences, and facilitating of long-term data collection and analysis programs in place to provide a foundation for evidence-based policy making.

This is the war on science.

Journalist and author Chris Turner has made this statement in no uncertain terms. His latest book is flat out titled “The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and the Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada.” On Monday, November 25, Turner spoke to an audience largely composed of scientists – many in biology – at the University of Western Ontario. An unfortunate dumping of lake-effect snow on London, Ontario prevented many from attending, but those that did make it to the talk were rewarded with an engaging summary of the state of science in Canada.

Turner outlined three main fronts this war is being fought on: less data collected in the first place, less being done with the data that is collected, and less communication of whatever information makes it through the first two fronts. The final front has been one of the most visible topics since last year, when scientists marched on Parliament Hill protesting the “death of evidence”. A recent report commissioned by the The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada entitled “The Big Chill” investigates the allegations that federal scientists are not only being prevented from speaking about their research, but are being directly instructed to alter or omit information for non-scientific reasons (24% of survey respondents indicated this was the case).

Turner’s background in history revealed some interesting patterns in the relationship between Canadian government and scientific research. Sir Robert Borden, leader of the who served as Prime Minister during the First World War, established the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), from which the university funding arm has shifted to NSERC. Canada has been a signatory of the Montréal Protocol and the Kyoto Protocol, and the home of world renowned long-term environmental research facilities including the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in Northern Ontario and the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in Nunavut (yes, a real PEARL station for you LOST fans).  Despite setting Canada up as a leader in research, particularly in environmental stewardship, the present state of Canadian research is far from number one. NSERC money has been cut. Canada has stepped out of the Kyoto Protocol. The government has tried to shut down both the ELA and PEARL. And most recently, the Center for Global Development in Washington has ranked Canada dead last out of 27 developed countries for enivronmental protection.

Turner discussed how dire the circumstances must be for normally apolitical scientists to launch a full marching protest. Scientists who would prefer to be spending their time doing science have taken up the fight, including Dr Diane Orihel who took time from completing her PhD to oppose the closing of the ELA, where she performed her fieldwork. Turner also mentioned the meticulous chronological documentation of the government’s campaign against science compiled by John Dupuis, science and engineering librarian at York University.

He stuck around after the talk to sign his book and chat with those of us that had more questions. I asked how the axing of the long-form census fit in with the predominantly environmental theme of the government’s scientific quieting, to which he replied that it was one of the first things on the chopping block and fit in with a whole body of social programming changed or ended that wasn’t touched on in the presentation. In other words, it’s not just the natural sciences that are being dismantled.

In the end, Turner did not offer a solution; rather, his journalistic roots showed by documenting a strong suite of evidence that there is indeed a war on science, flying in the face of the government’s dearth of any evidence at all.

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