SciEnvy

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Air-travel in Academia - Powerless Postgraduates

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Air travel – one of humanities greatest achievements. Over the last 100 years our world has become more connected than ever; holidays abroad, international business, political unions (and of course discord) have all been made possible by ever cheaper air travel.
But how long can we continue flying for our research and can PhD students do anything about it?
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A Wild Bustard Chase in Portugal (and Spain)

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In April 2019 I joined my Portugal based PhD supervisor Dr João Paulo Silva along with one of his other PhD students Filipa Soares for a week of fieldwork. The aim: Catch and tag as many little bustard Tetrax tetrax males as possible. The reason? This species is currently designated as ‘Near Threatened’ on the IUCN red list but is thought to be in ‘Rapid Decline’ across much of its range aside from France where populations are thought to be stable. Many researchers are now advocating for the species to be listed as ‘Vulnerable’ or even ‘Endangered’. High resolution GPS telemetry can help us better understand the migration behaviour, habitat needs and identify key threats to this species which in turn can inform conservation action to halt the decline. The GPS loggers also carry a number of other sensors such as temperature, accelerometer and barometer so we can remotely relate the behaviour and activity of the bird to environmental factors such as the weather. This field work was also a great opportunity for me to gain more experience in deploying the loggers on smaller birds ahead of fieldwork to deploy loggers on white storks Ciconia ciconia later on in my PhD.

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Volcano Goes BOOM

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I’m sure we’re all familiar with the notorious things about volcanoes: that big ash plume, planes grounded, lava spewing all through a town and burning houses, and so on. These are famous for a reason: they are striking and so out of the ordinary, at least compared to life in the UK. But volcanic eruptions don’t necessarily very quickly go pop and then go back to sleep when the media stop reporting them. Some volcanoes can erupt for many years during a single ‘eruption’ and the impacts of these eruptions can be much more long term than you might expect because of the way they change the landscape.

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Normalising Mental Health Issues in Academia

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I recently attended a mental health first aid course and it is unfortunate that I did not take this course in my first year. When we went around the room it became obvious that, across all departments, postgraduate students have normalized mental health problems. It became especially apparent that PhD students in particular struggled with feeling that mental health problems like anxiety and depression are part of the process. Read More...

Landslides in Nepal: A problem of communication?

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Nepal is a small developing country located smack bang in the middle of the Himalayas – the highest, and in my definitely not biased opinion, most beautiful, mountain range in the world. The trekking opportunities provided by the Himalayas are a major driver of Nepal’s vital tourism industry. However, the geological and geomorphological complexity of the Himalayas also presents major challenges to Nepal’s social and economic development. Not least is the problem of landslides, which are estimated to cause a staggering average of 78 fatalities every single year! Considering how much is known about landslide hazard and management, this to me is a completely unacceptable figure.

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