Oh, the places you’ll go! (when you do a PhD in ecology)

5 months, 5 states/territories, 4434km of flights, 9695km of driving and many hours of bush-bashing to collect a total of more than 50,000 seeds from 38 native species….

…. and I’m done!

I have finally finished field work for the first few chapters of my PhD! It has been a tiring but amazing adventure and I am so thankful for all the wonderful places I’ve got to see along the way. Here’s just some of the exciting experiences I got to undertake and cool native species I got to see along the way:

Coffs Harbour

My hectic fieldwork season kicked off in October with a short trip to Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie. I dragged my wonderful uni friend Meena along for the ride and we had a lot of fun collecting seeds and smoothing out the initial bumps of fieldwork, such as remembering to bring a ruler and hand-lens and that the Toyota Hilux driver door needs to be exited from for the head-lights to turn off once you stop the ignition (*minor panic attack*).

Northern, inland NSW

I then embarked on a huge 8 day journey on my own up to Bourke, through the Pilliga Forest, then along towards Dumaresq Valley (bordering on Queensland) and across to the Northern NSW coast and then back down again to Sydney (*phew*). It was truly a life-changing experience. I got to see some of the most breathtaking natural sights in NSW including sunsets in the desert, huge canyons and loads of native species I had never seen before.

IMG_9429
Back of Bourke- the red soils are magic!

South Australia

This week in SA was such an adventure! I drove through 40 degree heat waves, pouring rain, hail and even had to dodge kangaroos and emus on the roads. To collect my native seeds I went to a very helpful native nursery in Port Lincoln that had some seeds I needed. I then drove all the way along the Eyre peninsula to Streaky Bay, then Ceduna, to Fowlers bay and then back to Adelaide. I saw salt lakes, long piers, huge mines, loads of new native species and a lot of vast areas of nothingness.

The only down side of my trip was my flight delay which meant that instead of getting home at 7pm my flight landed so late that I got home at midnight. That was tiring. Cheers Tiger air.

Riverina region, Southern NSW

For a shorter trip, my lovely uni friend Claudia joined me for a few days down near Wagga Wagga in NSW. We had a bunch of fun collecting seeds from beautiful natives, eating too much chocolate and we even found an escaped dog on the highway that we took to the vet. Turns out his owner forgot to close the gate, she was very thankful!

ACT and Victoria

I did a week long trip down through the ACT and into Victoria. By this point in my fieldwork I was pretty tired but still had a lot of fun travelling through beautiful places. I collected a bunch of species around Canberra in the natural areas and national parks surrounding the city. I then drove North and collected a Eucalyptus species near the snowy mountains, it was such a gorgeous drive! Then I headed down to Cann River in the South-east corner of Victoria before I went over to the Yarra Valley. I had to have a quick stop at the Yarra valley chocolate factory for free chocolate samples!!!

Finally I headed up to Bendigo National Park which was stunning but also scary when a pack of kangaroos came whizzing past me in the middle of the bush.

Tasmania

This was the first time I’d ever been to Tasmania before, and I was so excited to explore this beautiful state. I collected all my seeds but also had a few extra days to explore and even spent my birthday there. I’m going to write another blog about my travels there because there’s way too many pretty pictures and cool things to tell you about! Stay tuned…

Few short day trips here and there

There were also a few times where I got to take short day trips just out of Sydney to places like the Blue Mountains, Wollemi National Park and Yalwal State Forest.

Things I’ve learnt about myself from fieldwork:

  1. I have the ability to do physically and mentally draining things way out of my comfort zone – no matter what other people say/think
  2. I may have slight road rage – only when people go 30km under the speed limit on a one lane highway
  3. I love plants and ecology – well I already knew this one, but immersing myself in a huge amount of ecological fieldwork made me love it more!

Some final thank you’s

  1. My wonderful fieldwork volunteers who pulled seeds off branches, out of pods and off the ground. And for their lovely company on long drives
  2. The Australian Botanic Garden and Australian National Botanic Garden for supplying seeds, permits and training for seed collection
  3. Mole River Native Nursery and Eyre Native Seeds for supplying seeds from target species in the exact locations I needed them!
  4. My trusty heat pack to soothe the shoulders after driving and my neck after staring up at tall trees
  5. Mitch, my husband, and Pepper, my little puppy, who are almost as excited as I am when I get to come home and who regularly FaceTime me when I’m in a faraway motel at night.

 

Now time to germinate these seeds, get them growing in the glasshouse and get some results! Have our native species changed significantly in their traits, over the past few decades? I can’t wait to find out!

 


Thank you for reading all the way down to this point. To end, I want to finish with a a small part of a favourite book of mine which is always in my head as I set off on fieldwork adventures.


Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.

It’s opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And then things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

~ A section from ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’ by Dr. Suess

5 thoughts on “Oh, the places you’ll go! (when you do a PhD in ecology)

  1. Beautifully written! Loved all the photographs. Jealous of the pretty sunsets you got to see!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Inspiring & motivational fieldwork experiences sharing! Hopefully I can keep the strength and positivity to exploring interesting local ecological knowledge in Adelaide too.

    Like

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