Showing posts from January, 2017

The world is small.

I first met Anya in Göttingen. It was 2011, and we were fresh college graduates, on Fulbright grants to Germany, where we lived and studied. We had no shortage of things to bond over. As Americans of German heritage with typical German-sounding names and relative fluency in the language, we could both pass for German anytime we wanted. In fact, we often tried to. We were both Lutheran, women in science, and danced ballet. I immediately recognized Anya as one of my tribe. I saw her again in Berlin in 2012, at a conference for Fulbright grantees across Europe. We established contact on social media, but I really figured I'd never see her again. Fast-forward to this weekend. I headed up to Boston to spend the day with some friends from my new church. The group had an e-mail thread going over the past week to arrange our plans. I didn't even notice it until she sent a message to the group, but there it was on my computer screen: Anya's name. As it turns out, the couple that

The worst: Part 2

A couple of days ago, a very strange e-mail showed up in my inbox. It was an automatically-generated message from the website of a scientific journal, announcing my new username and password for that journal's site. I was awfully confused, because I've never submitted a paper to this particular journal nor had any contact with the editor. I thought it was a technical glitch or that the message was intended for someone with a similar e-mail address. The next morning, everything was explained. I received a second e-mail from the same journal, this one not automatic. It was a request from the editor, asking me to review a paper that had been recently submitted to the journal. How exciting! I've been through the peer-review process plenty of times, mostly as an author, but this time I get to be on the other side of the equation. Truth be told, I've actually been asked to review a paper two other times, but for some reason, this time feels more real. The journal is more

To code

My friend, Cassidy, has this meme on the wall in her office. How fitting! It's a quiet, gray day in Woods Hole. I've been indoors most of the day, working on a desktop computer in the lab. I'm analyzing a dataset that was collected last summer, and I'm actually having a lot of fun with the analysis. Most of my Ph.D. work involved analyzing and making meaning out of previously-collected datasets, so it's something I'm very comfortable with. Give me a mess of numbers, and I will find any important pattern that hides within. In many ways, analyzing data is my comfort zone, so it was nice to return to that familiar territory today. The only problem? I'm doing the analysis in Matlab, a statistical program that is entirely code-based. I'm brand-new to Matlab and actually not that experienced at coding in general, but I am determined to learn as much as I can. Code-based programs like Matlab and R are incredibly powerful - you can literally do anything i


When I first got to WHOI, I had a hard time filling my day. I would get to 4 pm and run out of things to do. I spent a lot of time putting out feelers and trying to get projects started, but I was advised not to take on too much. I was told not to overwhelm myself. It's been a few months now, and things have finally started to pick up. I'm not overwhelmed, though. I'm...whelmed. And I like it that way. Regular readers of this blog should be familiar with my habit of keeping multiple projects going at once and rotating among them as needed. My proverbial plate (I prefer the term Endlessly Rotating Wheel of Chaos) is now finally full again. Settlement plates, all built and attached to their PVC backing First off, I finished building the settlement plates for my succession project. I took me way more time than I expected to drill all the holes, attach all the screws, and get everything in order, but I got it done! With my settlement plates finished, all I have to d

Walk as lions

"If we're gonna fly we fly like eagles Arms out wide... If we're gonna stand, we stand as giants If we're gonna walk, we walk as lions" - "Lions" by Skillet Not long after I started at WHOI, my advisor suggested I get on the schedule to give a departmental seminar. I contacted the person in charge, put my name on the list, and voila! Today was my presentation. Ready to present! Photo by Cassidy D'Aloia. Giving a seminar is a highly efficient way to introduce my new department to myself and my research. I had a large sample of my new colleagues in one room as a captive audience and the opportunity to make a first impression. I knew the talk would be very important for defining others' perceptions of me, so I selected my material carefully. I practiced my talk numerous times and even got feedback from a small group. If I was going to give a talk, I was going to give a great talk. And my prep work seems to have paid off. I was reassure

Svalbard protocol

If you've followed this blog for a while, you'll know much of my field work ends up being in the Arctic. More specifically, the European Arctic. Svalbard. I've made 5 trips to the archipelago since 2011, and I don't ever plan to stop. After my first few trips, I got a handle on what life looked like in the high north and started adjusting my habits accordingly. Whenever I'm in Svalbard, I wear thin base layers of synthetic fabric covered by heavy wool sweaters. I pull on snowpants and fur boots before going outside. I make sure I always have a hat. I really do love the cold, and now that I'm living on Cape Cod, I'm reminded of my love for winter all over again. The Cape got 14" (35 cm) of snow last weekend, so my world is almost entirely white. I've adopted what I call the "Svalbard protocol" - thin base layers, heavy wool sweaters, snowpants, fur boots. I feel like I'm back in my favorite place on Earth, and it makes my heart sing.

White stuff

The Shining Sea Bikeway with fresh snow Ladies and gentlemen, my world has been covered in white powder. It snowed a good 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) on Cape Cod last night, and the white stuff just keeps falling. I got to ride my bike to WHOI in the snow this morning, and judging by the single tire track I saw on the bike path, I was exactly the second person to do so. The ride was absolutely stunning. Check out the picture at right. 210 settlement plates, all cut and ready to go Once I got to the lab, there was even more white stuff to be had! I had been waiting on a table saw to be available so I could cut the lexan I ordered into settlement plates, and today was the day! Phil, a delightful WHOI employee who has been connecting me with power tools and training, helped me load the giant sheets into a pick-up and take them over to the machine shop. Originally, the objective was just to transport the sheets, but I ended up cutting them all today. If you've ever tried to handle a

Time for science

Friends, I am back in my office and ready for some science! I've been restricted to working on my laptop the last two weeks, so I took the opportunity to do some non-computer things today. Tubularia in a dish of seawater under the microscope. First of all, I visited my monitoring plates at docks around Woods Hole. These are settlement plates I had built and outplanted over the winter just to see what might recruit where, and to practice identifying those recruits. Well, as it turns out, not much actually settles on docks in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in the late fall and winter (which I kind of expected). My monitoring log for November and December was very boring. Today, though, I actually found a few individuals! At one site, there were a handful of what looked like red-tipped rose buds to me. I wasn't sure what they were, so I scraped a cluster off with my fingernail and took it back to the lab. No sooner had I dropped the sample into a dish of seawater than I reali

The return

It first occurred to me in 2012: you have not lived in a place until you've left it and come back. I remember I was driving along the Umpqua River when I realized it, on highway 38 near Scottsburg, Oregon. I had been in New Zealand for a week and a half and was on my way back to Coos Bay, my home base at the time. Looking out over the Umpqua, it occurred to me what a neat place I lived in. That was the first time Oregon ever felt like home. Today, I returned to Falmouth, Massachusetts, for the first time after a long trip away. Of course I had left Falmouth before - I had been to Boston , and even my church is in another town, 45 minutes away. But short trips don't count. To live in a place, you have to leave it for a while - and then come back. As I pulled into the WHOI parking lot this morning, my eyes couldn't help but catch the Atlantic, pale blue in the clouded light. It's been two weeks since I've seen her, and I'm very glad to have the ocean in my vie