Hello and welcome to Scribbly Gum! I am excited to finally be starting this blog, which I hope will be a place for me to reflect on and discuss my own and others’ research, my experience as a PhD student, and general thoughts and musings on an ecological/environmental sciencey theme. I have been so inspired recently by other researchers and the fantastic stories they have to tell, but I think many young researchers feel like they don’t have stories to tell yet, or that no-one will want to listen. So for the time being I intend to write about the things that inspire me or make me think, and who knows – maybe someone out there will be inspired too.

The name of this blog – ‘Scribbly Gum’ – has a multi-layered meaning for me. Although many species of Eucalyptus around Australia have the distinctive scribbles on their bark, I have always felt a certain affiliation with Eucalyptus rossii, not just because it is so familiar in the reserves around Canberra, but also because it happens to share my name. My husband and I planted a Scribbly Gum at our wedding, and I even designed my wedding dress with embroidery to look like the scribbly bark.

“The gum-tree stands by the spring.
I peeled its splitting bark
and found the written track
of a life I could not read.”

I think these words by Judith Wright really capture the wonder and curiosity I feel about the natural world, and what I hope to express in this blog. I am fascinated by the relationships between all the organisms that make up an ecosystem, and I love solving the mysteries of how things work. I’d like to think I’m the one peeling back the bark and trying to read what’s written there.

Of course, the thing that makes this research worthwhile is that understanding these relationships means that we can make better decisions about how to conserve and restore these ecosystems. Less than a decade ago, a group of scientists from the CSIRO looked into what was making the scribbles in Eucalyptus bark, and not only discovered 11 new species of moth, but also described their complex life cycle and found a genetic link with a group of African moths that helps explain their evolutionary history (for more info see here). So now we really can read the stories written on the bark of a tree by a tiny moth, and appreciate how much more we have to learn.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy my ‘scribbles’.