Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Post 63: First Lab Meeting, and New Grad Students!

We had our first lab meeting this afternoon, and it was lovely to have everyone gathered in the same room after really, four months apart!

(Quick sidenote: In the last 10 minutes I have seen a hummingbird, a woodpecker, black-capped and chestnut-backed chickadees, and they are so cute!! I love this office space, right near Mystic Vale!!)

Kristen and Mary were out for an excellent field season gathering data, and Tanya was in the Galapagos for a research project unrelated to her thesis work; Hyeone was in England for a conference and workshop for a month, and we have two new students in the group, Julie and Jemma! Welcome to them both!! It is exciting to meet new students to the program.

Leaves on the Galloping Goose!
With the first meeting comes plans and ideas for what we want to do when we meet for the rest of the semester. We had a couple volunteers to send out draft articles or other writing material to share and discuss among the group, including myself (Gulp! I am already nervous about it, but am also excited to share and receive feedback about my current thesis writing for my Findings Chapter, in which I'm reintegrating earlier work that I did during this project trying to lay out the conceptual component of my thesis, where I'm connecting the dots between the novel ecosystems concept and the mountain pine beetle as an excellent case study of the concept applied, with a few case specific factors about insects (as animals) in novel ecosystems; I realized that there has been very little written on this so far...; and, then the second component of the chapter is being able to situate the empirical findings from the interviews I conducted with scientists for the thesis as well; there is a lot going on in this chapter...). This should be good. I have another two weeks to get a draft of the manuscript ready to go, and I think it should be doable.

Otherwise, it feels nice to check in with colleagues, hear about renovation plans for the building; hear about grant writing in progress and what the new research projects are going to be about, or what skills others will bring to the lab group. Definitely feeling very positive about the start of the semester!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Post 62: When Student Life and Real Life Collide: Voting in the Federal Election

I've been feeling a lot of anticipation, stress, excitement, etc. about the upcoming federal election, and being quite an introvert, and having too much on my plate as is, I decided to do the one thing that I comfortably feel I can contribute: write an article for the school newspaper (The Martlet) about encouraging students to vote, expressing what's at stake, and addressing some of the unique factors affecting the student vote.

The two age categories that students predominantly fall into had the lowest voter participation rates in the country during the last federal election: 18-25 year-olds were at 38.8.1%, while the 25-35 year-olds rate of participation was 45.1% (according to Elections Canada).

To me, that means that the concerns, issues, and vision of the future that people my age have are not represented at the federal stage, and indeed, when I look at a number of the policies, goals, and record of the country, I don't see what I value there, whether it has to do with addressing the gender wage gap, coming up with a comprehensive strategy to address climate change mitigation and preparing to adapt to the climate changes that the current emissions scenario has us committed to (In 2013, Canada won the "Lifetime Unachievement Fossil Award" for it's incredibly uncooperative, and unhelpful, and deliberately counter-productive role in international climate change negotiations, which is so disgraceful), decriminalizing marijuana, addressing the high cost of pharmaceuticals in Canada, developing a national clean-tech and renewable energy strategy, having a National Science Adviser and more... there are so many issues that I care about that I don't see being worked on or addressed!

A golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica) in my neighbourhood. Lovely splash of colour!
Anyways. I am putting out a big call to friends and their networks: please vote, and get your friends to, too. We comprise 20% of the nation's population, and we can have a significant impact to the vote this time. We need to vote. And -- for the first time, all opposition parties have proposals for proportional representation on their platforms! It's become clear to me that first-past-the-post is an electoral system that belongs in the dinosaur age, and I am very excited to see electoral reform on the national stage. We are one of few modern democracies that still use first-past-the-post.... Citizens for Public Justice put out a great brief of this issue here, and I wanted to include these bits from their conclusion:

"Canada inherited its first-past-the-post electoral system from Great Britain over 200 years ago, at a time when significant sections of the Canadian population, including women, Aboriginal people, and non-property owners, were disenfranchised. Throughout the first half of the 19th century and for 50 years after Confederation, the strengths of our electoral system were evident: it fostered competition between two major parties and provided the successful party with a strong, albeit artificial, legislative majority. Territory, embodied in the direct link between the Member of Parliament and his (for they were all men) constituents, was the most important aspect of a citizen's political identity and the pre-eminent feature of prevailing notions of representation.

Canada's political, cultural, and economic reality has vastly changed; the current electoral system no longer responds to 21st century Canadian democratic values. Many Canadians desire an electoral system that better reflects the society in which they live—one that includes a broader diversity of ideas and is more representative of Canadian society. For these reasons, the Commission recommends adding an element of proportionality to our electoral system."
We need a new system.

So after writing that article (I'll keep you posted on what happens with it...) here's something else I've just seen that I'm really excited about (and with any luck, I'll be able to still include it in the article):

Voting Buddies!

A group of students at UVic are targeting specifically students and younger voters with this campaign: one student to find a voting buddy, and share it on Twitter with @votingbuddy, or submit your photo to Tumblr with #votingbuddy. Tag three other people, and grow the voting buddy movement. This is so wonderful! Voting should be fun, should be done with a sense of community, and it helps when others are involved. Love it!!

A screenshot from their website - so great! (http://votingbuddies.tumblr.com/)
Now go out and vote, and take a friend!

PS. Elections Canada is still the best resource to go to for your voting information. See them here. And then, since they aren't able to promote the vote themselves, due to the legislation in the Conservative Fair Elections Act, please help them share their info by Tweeting it, if you Tweet!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Post 61: Staying Healthy Amid Change!

Fall is in the crisp evening air already (everything seems about 2 weeks early in the province this year, from edible fruits like raspberries, blackberries, and apples, to the leaves changing colour!); how quickly the seasons can change!

The activity around my office has been picking up, whether it's runners dashing by on the Alumni Chip Trail, colleagues returning from field work and populating their offices here, or the bustle of my phone delivering text messages from friends saying "Are you back?!" (Haha, I've been back from my travelling for a while now, but have been keeping a low profile to keep working!)

Everyday as more students dot the landscape on campus, as the campus tour guides mosey their groups across different paths and lawn patches, it's also a good reminder that there are that many more germs on door handles and on the bus, so wash your hands! Sleep well! Eat well! Regularity in schedule is also probably not a bad thing, in terms of heading to bed at a reasonable hour, and heading up to work at about the same time. We're into the home stretch now!

My fourth chapter is finally starting to fill in a pleasant way. It's becoming a bit easier to look at its organization, what else is still missing, and to think constructively about the chapter as a whole. Two days ago I spent 2 hours with a colleague learning how to use Adobe Illustrator so we could graphically put to vision the image of my chapter themes. That was very exciting, and I appreciate her help immensely.

My new cat-friend, Mingus!
As a grad student, it's been immensely rewarding to build these relationships with like-minded people—colleagues who are generous with their time, their compassion and passion, and commitment to learning and self-improvement. There's definitely a lot I love about being in this vibrant, productive learning space.

As the stresses of the semester pick up again (the summer can be quite relaxed, and certainly less regimented without weekly lab meetings, though I anticipate those will start up again soon), it's important to stay active, get lots of sleep, and keep on top of building good habits.

In order to do that for myself, I have started using two different apps. Runkeeper was recommended to me by my current housemate. I use it to keep track of my exercise, whether running or cycling, and it's great! It fits well for my competitive nature, as I try to beat my pace times, and see how I perform on different routes. I love 5-6km runs, so this is a great tool for helping me keep track of the distance, too. AND, helpfully, it keeps setting me reminders for when I want to be doing exercise, in case I forget what day I wanted to keep active on (my schedule does have some week to week shifts).

I've also started to use Habitica, with which you role play a little pixelated character, and get gold and mana for keeping up on your healthy habits, all of which are personalized. I have both work and exercise related goals in there, some as small as holding a plank for 2 minutes, or getting 2 sets of 10 pushups completed at some point during the day. Or, a Pomodoro for thesis writing. It is great.

We need to stay healthy in order to maintain productivity paces and work, and I'm trying a couple of different things to help get and stay there. So far so good!