How NOT to hand in your PhD – The Thesis Whisperer

Sage advice for those nearing the end! I will bookmark this and potentially tattoo it onto the insides of my eyelids.

…and then it’ll get to that day and all of my careful planning will have gone completely out of the window.

But I feel better knowing I tried.

How NOT to hand in your PhD.

Also as an afterthought – this blog is AMAZING.



One of the definite perks of being a researcher, as I’m beginning to discover, is travel. We have a tradition in our lab group where if we head off to another city or country, we bring back a snow globe. There’s a windowsill up the back of our main laboratory that’s full of them.

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I got to add mine to the ledge this week! (I got back from Madison ages ago… but I have a memory like a sieve… with large holes… the sort you use to drain spaghetti…) I’m pretty sure it’s the first one there to feature anything dairy related to that’s… an achievement…?

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I’m heading to the Australian Synchrotron in July… I wonder if they sell snow globes…


If I could just interrupt you for a second…

So I just read this:

“Tens of millions of people in over 100 countries with coral reefs along their coastline depend on the economic and social goods and services provided by these rich ecosystems, valued at U.S.$ 375×1012/year.”

That’s from a book called “Coral Bleaching: Patterns, Processes, Causes and Consequences (Ecological Studies)“, edited by Madeleine van Oppen and Janice Lough.

Let’s take that number out of scientific notation shall we? Each year, coral reefs around the world are estimated to contribute $3 750 000 000 000. What?!

Also that was from a study done in 2003… so there should be a correction for inflation there somewhere….

This number just blew my mind, so I thought I’d share 🙂

As you were.


Sky Glow

In today’s media, conservation campaigns by not-for-profit organisations like PETA and Greenpeace are not uncommon. We’re used to the idea that our natural resources need protecting, our oceans are under threat, climate change, polar bears, blah blah blah we-need-to-do-something-I’m-not-even-kidding blah. There’s so much out there in our faces that sometimes we can switch off.

But this morning, I read about something that I never thought would need protecting.


Researchers from the University of Exeter in the UK published an article in Scientific Reports this week that highlights the ever-increasing issue of artificial lights in cities.

We take illumination for granted. In a place like Sydney, city lights are just something you get used to. Brightness in cities is convenient and in many ways, safer. But what is it doing to the economy? What effect is it having on us? What is the extra light doing to the animals and plants that live in and around our cities?

Since 2001, artificial “sky glow” has been recognised as an issue and is considered one of the most prevalent forms of man-made (anthropogenic) pollution. The authors of the paper outline a number of problems associated with this increase in sky glow including interruptions of sleep and melanin production in humans, migration patterns for birds and behavioural problems in animals that rely on lunar light.

In fact, the disruption of the lunar light available and the obstruction of the moon in general can have dire effects on the ecological cycles as a whole. Organisms rely on a lunar clock and for things like foraging and then the breakdown of organic matter in soils. Artificial lights essentially add to the number of hours of full-moon equivalent light which can seriously stuff around an animal that can’t understand that the light’s coming from a number of street lights, office blocks and neon advertisements in the nearby city and not from the night sky.

I had never thought about this issue. I’ve grown up in cities with light blaring in through my window at night. The glow on the horizon, for me, is completely normal. So I started doing some extra reading and I’ve discovered a wealth of information and organisations. Like these guys: the International Dark-Sky Association.

Once a source of wonder–and one half of the entire planet’s natural environment—the star-filled nights of just a few years ago are vanishing in a yellow haze. Human-produced light pollution not only mars our view of the stars; poor lighting threatens astronomy, disrupts ecosystems, affects human circadian rhythms, and wastes energy to the tune of $2.2 billion per year in the U.S. alone.

This group is heavily involved in policy, promoting the idea of lighting “what you need, when you need it.”

The World At Night is another group that I’ve found. They’re dedicated to documenting what we’re missing in a series of incredible galleries of photographs. Take a look – I wasted an afternoon trawling through the panoramic and stunning pictures.

night sky

The thing that stands out for me in all of this new information though, is what happens when 60% of the population living in cities is separated from the night sky. Davies et al., refer to this as the “extinction of experience”. Essentially, not being able to see the stars in the sky isolates us from the natural environment and our connection to conservation issues. Perhaps this is why apathy is so prevalent in our culture. I know before I started studying it, I was nowhere near as informed or cared nearly as much as I do now, about climate change and responsible consumption of our natural resources. I do think it’s slightly more complicated than not being able to see stars, but I can see how being isolated in our little patch of artificial sky glow would contribute to our sense of responsibility for our planet.

Who knows, perhaps this idea will catch on and light sources like these backyard geneticists are creating will become more commonplace.

Less Than Half a Percent

According to (a Discovery channel initiative), less than half a percent of the world’s oceans has been discovered. Less than half a percent.

I find that incredibly difficult to wrap my head around. Just like I find it extremely difficult to wrap my head around the sheer size of some of the things that live down there. At a recent TED talk, Edith Widder, an oceanographer, presented the first footage of the Giant Squid to EVER be caught on camera. This creature is huge (as the name suggests), but I didn’t realise just how big. Edith says that the Squid filmed was about the size of a two story house.


Anyway, while you all wait for me to get my act together and post the rest of Charlie’s interview (which I will do soon!), have a look at this. It is truly unbelievable.