Scribbly Gum

Catherine Ross scribbles about ecology and PhD life

When nature has other ideas…PhD update

It’s about time I did a bit of an update of where I’m at with my PhD. I’m over the 2.5 year mark, which is pretty terrifying actually, and I’m nearly finished my final season of data collection. It’s quite stressful knowing that so much is riding on the results and hoping that all the hard work pays off. But some things are just out of your control, and that is especially true when you’re working in the real world, outside the controlled conditions of a lab. I’ve had a few mishaps along the way that have caused stress and delays (luckily nothing disastrous!), but that’s all part of working with nature. Continue reading “When nature has other ideas…PhD update”


Managing expectations – the ‘arranged marriage’ between supervisor and student

The relationship between student and supervisor can make the PhD journey a dream or a nightmare, and unfortunately it’s very hard to know how it will go before you start. It’s like an arranged marriage – two people thrown together into a partnership that can last for many years. And much like a marriage, it takes more than just shared interests to make it work.
Continue reading “Managing expectations – the ‘arranged marriage’ between supervisor and student”

Wisdom of the Elders

In my previous post ‘Reading the Classics’ I spoke about the first meeting of the foundations of ecology reading group (FERG) I helped set up at the Fenner School. The group has now been meeting monthly for a year, so it’s about time for an update! Continue reading “Wisdom of the Elders”

Dieback revisited

Two years on, the Monaro dieback isn’t getting any better. Is there any hope for this devastated landscape?

Two years ago I started this blog with a 3-part story about my honours work on eucalyptus dieback in the Monaro region of NSW. While I wasn’t able to give a clear answer about what was causing the dieback, my research has sparked a lot of interest in the issue and led to real action being taken to try to restore the affected areas. Continue reading “Dieback revisited”

Extinction – what do you save?

Last week I saw Hannie Rayson’s new play ‘Extinction’ at The Playhouse in Canberra. While I thought it was an excellent play, this is not so much a review as a personal reflection on some of the issues it addressed. Continue reading “Extinction – what do you save?”

PhD life – defeating isolation

I’ve often been told that doing a PhD is the best time of your life, but in reality, the life of a PhD student can be lonely and isolated. With all the pressure to complete within a limited time and publish as much as possible, it’s far too easy to become so focussed on your work that you get to the end of the day and realize you haven’t spoken to another person! It’s hard to find the time to socialize, and when you do the feeling of guilt can be overwhelming. Continue reading “PhD life – defeating isolation”

Reading the Classics

A few weeks ago I went to a talk by a senior academic about some of the major differences between the American and Australian approaches to ecological research. As she went through the history of the discipline and some of the most influential research from both continents, I realized that I hadn’t actually read most of the papers she was referring to. Some of the names may have been mentioned in my undergraduate courses, and I vaguely remember covering some of the concepts, but we had never been required to actually read any of these classic papers that form the foundation of ecology. Continue reading “Reading the Classics”

Damp squids and blind dodos

Today I’m stepping up the ante, and talking about one of my pet peeves – the mixed idiom.
Continue reading “Damp squids and blind dodos”


This summer Dougall and I went to New Zealand to explore the southern part of the South Island, including a trip to Stewart Island/Rakiura (meaning ‘Glowing Sky’, which is thought to refer to the long summer twilight and the aurora australis). Continue reading “Kaitiakitanga”

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