4 min read

What have I been up to?

It’s been almost a year since I started with my master’s, what have I been up to and what’s next?

Master students in the School of Botany have to present an update on their research of the end of their first year. I presented my research in Dubbo last September, but thought it would be nice to give a written update as well. I took six subjects, wrote a project proposal for my research, wrote a literature review on invasive mammals and went to a conference in Dubbo. It was busy and I learned a lot.

Subjects I worked hard to get my stats skills up to speed with Thinking and Reasoning with Data (Andrew Robinson, one of the best lecturers I’ve ever met - maybe it has something to do with his loud voice – and Mark Burgman), learned all about how to best simulate the natural world on your computer with Environmental Modelling (Michael McCarthy) and attempted to learn how to use ArcGIS with Foundations of Spatial Information (Stephan Winter).

[caption id=“attachment_40” align=“alignnone” width=“499”]creswicklibrary The library on the Creswick campus of the University of Melbourne.[/caption]

During the second semester Jenny Martin taught me all about Science Communication (we had to write many blog posts (as you can see it got me motivated) and I even got a bit artsy!) and Angus Webb and Michael McCarthy spent some time teaching me about the world of Environmental Monitoring and Audit (probably the best subject I took, as my research is all about monitoring). I also spent some time in Creswick studying the interesting science of Ecological Restoration (Lauren Bennett & Sabine Kasel), which was peaceful and stressful at the same time: Creswick is very quiet and lovely, but an intensive subject is just so… intense.

Note: If you are a current/future master/honours student looking for more info on these subjects, just shoot me an email for a more thorough description about my experience.

[caption id=“attachment_38” align=“alignnone” width=“500”]art_exhibition Communicating science through art. This was my part of an exhibition for Science Communication where we tried to make people think about how far away humans have from the natural world.[/caption]

Research proposal I’m designing a camera trap arrangement to monitor fox abundance in the mallee. You can read all about my plans in my previous blog post – they haven’t changed much.

Literature Review I spent weeks reading about invasive mammal eradications on islands, so I guess I can say I know a little bit about it now. I wrote a literature review about how eradication projects can best be planned (in many cases eradications are done without planning them properly, leading to unexpected and unwanted outcomes for the ecosystem, leading to trophic cascades. There are some fascinating case studies in described in the literature such as the one on Macquarie Island).

[caption id=“attachment_39” align=“alignnone” width=“498”]cat According to the literature this fluffy little cat is a horrible invasive species.[/caption]

National Malleefowl Forum in Dubbo I met many people involved with the conservation of the malleefowl in Dubbo last October and presented my research plans to the audience. It was a great weekend (read more here at Cindy Hauser’s blog), I learned so much about the malleefowl and it was great to meet people so passionate about the bird. I also discovered that camera traps are very good at picking up changes in wind speed, as the cameras I studied tended to be triggered without taking a picture of an animal at certain times of the day and certain months, when the wind gets stronger.

What’s next? I have spent the past year preparing for the major component of my masters: the research project. With the skills I learned in the subjects I took I hope to be able to tackle my research questions and write a great, H1-worthy thesis. I will be posting more along the way. The next thing you will hear from me will be blog posts about ‘How to monitor mammals using camera traps’ and ‘How much fox baiting leads to how much reduction in fox abundance?’