This April has been full to the brim with everything I love about science and academia – an art-science collaboration to give science outreach a creative spin, a conference to learn about cool research and meet new people, a coding workshop to spread our love for efficient coding practices and start new collaborations, a drone symposium to learn about the role of drone technology in advancing ecology, and finally fieldwork across beautiful woodlands in Scotland.
I was very happy to help with the awesome outreach events Team Shrub organised for the Edinburgh International Science Festival. A great collaboration between scientists, science communicators (James Howie and the ASCUS Lab) and artists (Simon Sloan and Archie Crofton) resulted in a wonderful collection of photographs, data visualisations and fieldwork artifacts under the theme of “Arctic from Above” – Team Shrub’s first exhibition! You can still check out the exhibition in the Summerhall War Memorial Library before it closes on the 12th May!
We attended the Scottish Ecology, Environment and Conservation Conference, which brought together graduate students, academics and policy makers from the universities of Aberdeen, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling, and from organisations like the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage. It was fantastic to learn about the cool research happening around Scotland and the world, and there were many opportunities to meet people and chat. I was happy to receive feedback on my talk, titled “Are rare species more likely to be declining than common species?” (on the talk, and my prolific use of hexagons on slides… can’t resist hexagons in graphic design!). The research started from a tutorial group discussion, part of the Critical Thinking honours course, and it’s been great to see it develop!
One of my favourite aspects of conferences is getting to learn more about topics I wouldn’t have naturally pursued myself – for example decision-making in hummingbirds and the effects of available options on dietary preferences, as presented by Georgina Glaser from the University of St. Andrew’s. Julen González Redín‘s talk took us to Australia, where he is looking at scenarios for sustainable land use in the tropics. The talk brought back memories from when I visited the Cairns area – the most I have ever been rained on, but such beautiful rainforests!
Inspired by the positive feedback from our Coding Club workshops in Edinburgh, we were keen to make links with other people across Scotland that have undertaken similar statistics and programming initiatives. As I’m always curious to see how other people lead such workshops and wouldn’t want to miss a chance to learn something new, I attended the “Data Archiving and Coding Workshop” at the BES Annual Meeting in Liverpool last December. Great things happen at coding workshops, among which the start of exciting new collaborations! Sitting at my table was Francesca Mancini, a PhD student from the University of Aberdeen, who was about to start a coding study group in her department. When I found out that this year’s Scottish Ecology, Environment and Conservation Conference will take place in Aberdeen, I immediately thought of Francesca, and thanks to great work and enthusiasm from her and our Coding Club team in Edinburgh, we organised Coding Club’s first joint workshop that took place just before the opening of the conference.
I find it so inspirational when people come together to learn, especially when the material they are learning is often seen as scary and hard (and the dramatic R error messages sure don’t help!). We were very happy to meet new people from Aberdeen and are hoping to continue developing this collaboration through future joint workshops in both Edinburgh and Aberdeen. You can read more about our joint workshop and the Aberdeen Study Group over at Francesca’s website.
Shortly after our joint workshop in Aberdeen, we attended the Impact Awards at the University of Edinburgh, where Coding Club was shortlisted in the “Best Student-Staff Collaboration” category. After hearing about many wonderful initiatives improving student learning and experience at university, we left the ceremony with even more inspiration and drive to continue building the academic environment we dream of. We also left with a trophy, as Coding Club was the winner in its category!
Recent advances in drone technologies are offering exciting new perspectives for ecology and environmental sciences – for Team Shrub, drone research is an essential part of our work to understand how global change alters plant communities and ecosystem processes. We love hearing about how people from different disciplines are using drones to advance their research, and the visit of our fellow Team Shrub member Jeff Kerby was the perfect occasion to organise an afternoon full of drone science!
Fieldwork in Scotland
In April and May I’ll be working as a field assistant collecting data on tree and blue tit phenology along a latitudinal transect in Scotland – I have really enjoyed seeing more of Scotland and contributing to great research. In addition to of course seeing lots of blue tits as they are building their nests and going forth with their breeding season, my path along the transect has included exciting wildlife sightings – a tawny owl, red squirrels, many siskins, black and red grouse, and more!