The Academic FitBit

A great post about academic productivity, the pressure to overwork, and the power of understand how you use your time!

The Thesis Whisperer

First a trigger warning: this post discusses suicide and self harm. If you need to reach out, Lifeline in Australia provides a 24 hour crisis line on 131114. Sorry I can’t list services in every country this is likely to be read, but you can find information on mental health for PhD students on the Useful Resources Page.

If academic overwork had a Facebook status it would be ‘it’s complicated’.

Academics work hard, in part, because we have to, in part because we love it, and partly because of dedication to our students. But the endemic overwork problem must be addressed. The pressure to work long hours translates through the academic eco-system to PhD students, who are often tasked with impossible workloads too. When unrealistic expectations are a feature of PhD study; stress, overwork and mental health issues are the inevitable result.

Stopping the vicious cycle is a…

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Redefining “Nature”—Ted Talk of the Week

I love TED Talks. For those of you who haven’t experienced the inspiration of TED yet (seriously, check TED out!), TED is a nonprofit organization focused on “ideas worth spreading”. Begun in 1984 as a conference about Technology, Entertainment, and Design, TED talks are short, inspiring/entertaining/powerful/funny/awe inspiring talks that cover virtually every topic imaginable.

If you’re new to TED, here are the top, must-see TED talks, according to TED.

I love watching TED talks on my lunch break or when I need a short pick-me up. They are a great way to take a step back from work while still staying engaged.


I recently came across this TED talk from TEDSummit 2016, given by Emma Marris, a writer on environmental science policy and culture. Titled “Nature is everywhere – we just need to learn to see it“, Ms. Marris presents a very compelling argument for why we need to see Nature everywhere, and why we need to broaden and expand our definition of nature.

We often have this idea of what Nature is, what Nature should be. When you think of Nature what image immediately comes to mind? Clear mountain streams running through pristine grasslands? Or old growth forests with ancient trees and lush undergrowth? Something like these images, found by simply searching for “Nature”.

 

Those pictures are amazing. They’re beautiful. They ARE nature. But is that the only definition of nature? As Emma Marris questions in her amazing talk, is this nature too? 

 

Does that count as nature? The little bushes along the sidewalk? The lone tree in the median? Even in a smaller city or the suburbs, does your 1/4 acre backyard count as nature?

As environmental scientists, we tend to think in terms of natural systems, what nature once was. How the system should be. This is important. We need to understand how natural systems work and function in order to understand sustainability and how to protect our ecosystems.

But, in our human dominated planet, we also need to think about what we have. How can we use what is available to us for the betterment of all?


For the first time in human history, the majority of humans now live in urban areas. And more and more, our mega-cities, and even our suburbs, are becoming more and more man-made and less and less nature. Those beautiful images of Nature above are amazing. We should all strive to protect and love those places. But most of humanity does not visit those places. Even those that strive to get out in nature don’t generally live there. We live in cities. And too much, we don’t think that nature can be in cities.

The beauty of Emma Marris’ talk is that she shows how Nature IS there. There is nature everywhere. All around us. From the bushes in the park, to the abandoned lot next door. It may not be the natural ecosystem that ecologists yearn for, but it is still nature.

What is most important, Marris argues (and I agree!) is that this is the nature that everyone has access too, everyday! We need to encourage everyone, especially our children to go play with nature, investigate nature, love nature.

Because you can find nature just outside your front door, no matter where your front door is.

 

My favorite line from Emma Marris’ TED talk is this:

“We have to let children touch nature, because that which is untouched is unloved”.

~Emma Marris, TEDSummit 2016

If future generation don’t KNOW nature, why would they chose to protect it?

Restoring the natural water cycle in cities: My research

As I mentioned in my About Me page, I am a doctoral student at Iowa State University. I study urban hydrology and geographical information systems, also known as GIS. In this post, I go into a bit more detail about what I actually study, and how I conduct my research. I will go into more detail on many of the topics I talk about here later in expanded topic posts, but for now, here’s a little about my research!

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In short, I study the effects of urbanization on the environment, specifically on the natural hydrologic cycle. Now, that’s a very big topic. (Literally, the hydrologic cycle is global. Ha!) Narrowing that huge topic down, I specifically study stormwater in urban residential areas and the things that homeowners (or renters!) can do to help restore a more natural, and sustainable hydrologic cycle. Continue reading

Falling off the wagon… The academic calendar to the rescue!

I fell off the wagon a bit there at the end of the last semester…

Rocky Mountain National Park

SciNatura.com

I had one big post about Blogging for Productivity at the end of February, and then the end of semester crunch hit. With a few lasts gasps (hey there, Henrietta and hey look! Snow!) I slowly gave up on some of my internally enforced deadlines (case in point—my blog).

SciNatura is really important to me. However, at this point in SciNatura’s existence, I am accountable to no one but myself to post new material. I don’t pretended to have a following eagerly awaiting my next post. I’m still building and defining my blog. With only internally enforced deadlines for blog posts, when everything else on my plate started becoming more and more time consuming, with more and more pressing deadlines, SciNatura got kicked down the road…

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HeLa-The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

This is the first post in my “What I’m Reading–Personal Reads” series. Stereotypical, I always feel like I don’t have enough time to read, but I try to carve out personal reading time whenever I can. It’s hard sometimes, especially after I’ve spent a whole day reading journal articles and books for research. That makes it hard to feel up to reading in my free time in the evenings. But reading is important to me, both for how much I really do enjoy it, and for how much one can learn from reading. I read both fiction and nonfiction, and print books and audio-books (I’m not a huge fan of e-books though, I already spend too much time looking at screens., e-ink or not…).

And so, without further ado, my first “What I’m Reading” post!


HeLa cells are a wonder of nature. These human cells are immortal. They continuously reproduce, indefinitely, under laboratory conditions.

HeLa cells have done marvelous things for humanity, from helping to discover the polio vaccine, to aiding in cancer research. HeLa cells have been cloned, irradiated, and sent into space. Over 60,000 articles have been published about HeLa.

You can even purchase your own vial of HeLa easily, and fairly inexpensively, online.

HeLa isn’t a new story. It’s been around since the cells were first harvested and grown in the 1950’s. Scientists around the world have learned about, and been using HeLa, for decades.

The real story, the jaw-dropping, nauseating true side of the story, is that HeLa cells were once Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman born in 1920 whose cells were taken by a doctor and used in medical research…

…without her knowledge or consent.

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