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Apr ’14: Topsy-turvy


Hosted another writing workshop, flew to Washington D.C. and back for a week of 17 interviews, bid fond farewell to Australia, and re-entered my California life. Not enough for you in one month? Well, there was more but I don’t want to overwhelm my readers. Suffice it to say this was a hectic and great month. My week of interviews was through the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships. That week was all about placement interviews as all the Finalists (165 scientists!) had been vetted by AAAS in past applications and interviews and were now ready to interview for actual positions within relevant D.C. federal agencies. That week alone was one of the more exciting and intriguing weeks of my life. Fascinating glimpses into the people and the machinations of offices in the State Department, USAID, Dept. of Energy, USFWS, and more. I’m pretty sure the fact that I’d spent the last two and half months networking constantly for my position in Australia primed me to be ready for 17 interviews. Though little could prepare me for having to purchase and wear my first business suit. What a strange costume that is for this field biologist!
I had a great last few weeks in Australia and a solid writing workshop to wrap it all up. I admit I would have happily stayed another month but I had darn good reasons to head on back to Cali. Where I am now, finally readjusted to the time difference and ready for an awesome summer.

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Mar ’14: Diving into urban conservation


The wide world of environmental economics is gradually opening up to me. I do not claim to be an economist nor aspire to be one but this past month, I have learned leaps and bounds about that aspect of conservation. Or rather, I have become aware. Mainly about a way of thinking and tools and analyses that I still know little about but can appreciate. I spent time at University of Western Australia this month with a dynamite crew of environmental economists with whom I hope to foster some exciting collaborative endeavors in the near and far future. I presented on my current research interests to both the UWA crowd and then later through University of Queensland’s seminar series at the local CSIRO office. At UWA, I received recommendations for economically-based analyses to pursue in my research and at CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), Australia’s large national science agency, I had thought-provoking questions and suggestions about how to make this work relevant and usable for gov’t agencies. Plus just having to present intelligently and coherently on my research topic really shaped up my thinking. That was shortly followed by my first writing workshop that I’ve led here at UQ. That workshop was focused on getting my conceptual research ideas (about how socioeconomic context impacts ecosystem services of urban green spaces) onto paper. The workshop was highly stimulating and productive. Another darn good crew. Looking forward to working with them again in April for the case-study workshop!

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Feb ’14: I am a networking legend


So perhaps “legend” is a bit much (the term is one of my favorite Aussie colloquialisms though) but this past month has been chock-full of meetings, workshops, meetings, workshops, meeting, more meetings. As I mentioned in my last post, the CEED network is full of passionate, capable, ambitious and broadly-interested environmental and conservation scientists. And I’ve had the pleasure to sit down to coffee or lunch with many of them in the past weeks. In fact, my days have been so packed full of meetings, I’ve had to do my “work” (e.g., revising papers or prepping for interviews) in the evenings and weekends. Incredibly worth it though. These connections I’m making now are already resulting in collaborative papers and ideas and will hopefully result in long-term professional relationships to the benefit of all involved. This month has made me fully realize the importance of having a good professional network with a diverse array of members playing a diverse set of roles in the network, from sounding board to inspiration to driver to expert resource. I have also been enlightened on the potential of writing workshops dedicated to corralling grand ideas into paper-writing. I am planning on hosting a workshop of my own to ground these collaborative ideas onto paper. Taking these lessons to heart and running with them full speed ahead!

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Jan ’14: Conservation Down Under!


I have now started my Visiting Research Fellow tenure at University of Queensland through the Centre for Excellence in Environmental Decisions (CEED). I have been anticipating this since late September when my application to visit and do some collaborative research was approved. And boy oh boy, has this month been awesomely jam-packed! The month started off with an interview in D.C. and then I packed up and flew overseas and landed in Brizzie (aka Brisbane). My time here is mostly focused on networking but very high-end networking. I’m surrounded by top-notch, ambitious, innovative, interdisciplinary scientists who are dedicated to making conservation run more smoothly and efficiently. I get to travel around to a few of the other nodes that are part of the CEED network and meet more social scientists, economists, planners, modelers, and on and on. The professional environment here is really quite exciting and the only downside is that I find it hard to focus. I start to think about the research I want to do while I’m here and…oh, look! A workshop on urban conservation and social sciences! COOL!

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Dec ’13: Merry mayhem


I admit that I’m having trouble recalling exactly what all went on in December as it was a very disjointed and hectic month for me. In a great way though. I did some wrap-up filming for my short films in Davis, finished up a couple of revisions for manuscripts submitted to academic journals, and did some brainstorming for project ideas for my pending work at University of Queensland (to start in mid-January!) And then there were many other tendrils to be tended and I focused on family and friends as I’m leaving shortly for three and half months to the other side of the globe. It was a good month but I admit that I look forward to having a more coherent update for January 2014. Happy New Year!

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Nov ’13: Telling stories


I finally dove back into my short film projects this past month. Two summers ago, I accompanied several of my labmates out into the field to record their work. Right now, I’m working on two of those and trying to tell very different stories with each. While these shorts (3-4min each) aren’t strictly necessary, they are part of a larger project very necessary to me as a conservation scientist: story-telling. I want to actively explore and better my skills at different modes of telling science stories. Peer-reviewed journal articles is one way. Informational fliers are another. Presentations of all sorts are yet more. And then there’s filming and creative writing. Both of which I’ve dabbled with and want to push beyond the dabbling stage. These short films certainly don’t feel like dabbling! Amazing how much time video editing takes.

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Applying my science background in a new direction


For the last week of October, I journeyed with a hand-picked group of young professionals in Ethiopia to learn more about the humanitarian efforts of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Among other motivating factors, I wished to learn how I could use my skills as a conservation scientist to enable and enhance humanitarian efforts. While my exact role has yet to be determined, I did offer my expertise in rigorous research and statistical analysis to improve the prioritization and efficacy of JDC’s programs in Ethiopia. So perhaps in a few months I will be applying my skills, along with the other scientific researchers in the group, toward program evaluation and strategic prioritization for the JDC. This definitely opens up a whole new world of possibility!

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Oct’ 13: Balancing maintenance and new directions


I find myself alternating between trying to finish up old projects (paper revisions, outreach products for my dissertation) and getting excited about new potential professional adventures. The balance is hard to strike between the two as the former feels…well…old and the latter is full of promise but intangible.  So there have been some rough patches this month as I’ve tried to keep on the track I set down for myself with respect to my dissertation papers and continuing to be diligent about applying for jobs and fellowships. But I will admit that applying for the AAAS Science & Technology fellowship gave me a bit of an energy boost because I really think the fellowship holds a lot of promise. I’d be excited to wade into the decision-making fray and work directly with policy-makers, bettering my communication skills and the level of science in federal policy. But I am learning the fine art of getting enthused about possibility but not getting overly excited about any one venture. I’m practicing resiliency, combining passion with pure grit and determination.

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Sept ’13: Holding pattern? Or onwards and upwards?


This month has been an interesting one, periods of feeling burnt-out intermixed with excitement about upcoming possibilities all overlaid onto a general sense of increased relaxation. I’ve had a job offer, applied for my dream post-doc fellowship, and been awarded a grant to work with the Centre for Excellence in Environmental Decisions at University of Queensland, Australia. I ended up turning down the job offer because it wasn’t quite right though I know it will be a great opportunity for the fortunate individual who did jump on it. That decision process provided a lot of clarity for me in this transition phase. I had to define what I want, professionally and personally, right now and in the next year or two. I’m enjoying a few months (from now through December) as a Research Associate with UC Davis that gives me time to work on unfinished projects and revise manuscripts. In January, I’ll be headed to Australia to work with some dynamite conservation scientists and am really looking forward to that opportunity! So…onwards and upwards!

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