[Late] Week 3 – Regret is the MacDonalds of my PhD

Have spent the past five days moving and getting sorted at a new flat which still has no internet. End result is that I couldn’t get into university soon enough this morning (lies). Spent the day putting together a research proposal for my DoC permit to collect Cambridgea reinga from three sites up North. While I understand why they’re asking me to provide such precise details about my practically non-existent research and require me to fill out a >10 page document + attachments which covers a wide range of potential activities that I may conduct at the site – trying to be specific about research that I haven’t even planned feels like pushing mashed potato through a pasta machine.

On the other hand, it’s a good exercise to do and I need to apply the same practice to the project as a whole. If there isn’t already something called ‘third week dip’ then I want to then I want to propose the idea that my productivity and therefore mood in the next three years is going to cycle with a period of three – four weeks. Will have to see whether things pan out this way.

So where am I at? Well I’m getting to the stage where there’s only so much more literature review I can do before it starts becoming unproductive. I’m reluctant to start formulating hypotheses and experiments until I’ve actually gotten a handle on some of the things that the buggers do and on how difficult it’s going to be for me to collect enough spider species for molecular analyses.

Side note: It still surprises me exactly how blase other PhD students are about how often they feel miserable during the course of their project.

atashitte honto baka

“I need a permit to collect Cambridgea reinga on public land”, a pictorial poem.

The grail is

.

.

.

In there.

.

.

Roughly

.

.

speaking roughly.

.

.

Somewhere.
Somewhere.

.

.

And

Cerberus rears  

its      ugly    head(s).

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Twelve apostles and 

.

.

.

.

cr3a

.

.

.

Everyone an Iscariot

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The lonely booth

.

.

                                   ring-rings 

.

.

.

“This is Judgement. Your call” 

.

.

.

“is important to us but”

.

.

.

“your princess”

.

.

.

.

“is in another castle”

.

.

.

.

.

“Still”

.

.

.

.

“Please leave a message”

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

*BEEP*

.

.

.

.

.

.

“I’m a student at the University of Auckland. I’m doing a PhD in spider geology and or botany”

The end.

References

Vink, C.J., Fitzgerald, B.M., Sirvid, P.J., & Dupérré, N. (2011). Reuniting males and females: redescriptions of Nuisiana arboris (Marples 1959) and Cambridgea reinga Forster & Wilton 1973 (Araneae: Desidae, Stiphidiidae). Zootaxa, 2739, 41-50.

Week 2 – Humble beginnings

[A/N: I wrote this on the 7th of November and forgot to post it. I can now look back at my task list for the weekend and laugh]

It’s been a big week and let me explain why because already this thing has already become a diary and, by Jove, it might as well continue that way:

    1. I got a desk (yay)
    2. I went down to a private farm in the Waitomo region for my first field trip (yay)
      1. There were fun caves (yay)
      2. The farm is really well kept and seems like it would be safe for some sustained, nocturnal field work (yay)
      3. I found lots of sheet-web spiders (yay)
        1. Most of the ones I collected seem to be the wrong species (boo).
        2. The spiders definitely don’t like white light but don’t seem to notice red light.
        3. I hadn’t really thought about how easy the spiders would be to keep in captivity but given that, with very little encouragement, they started spinning new webs even in their pottles, I’m optimistic about getting them set up in the lab.
        4. But still, as much as it would feel like cheating, if I can set up a camera for observations when I get them set up in the lab that would be cool.
    3. I finished the online academic integrity module (which ticks off one of my ~11 provisional goals) and it wasn’t nearly as tedious as I thought it would be and actually clarified some of the issues regarding creative commons to me (always a yay).
    4. I attended a doctoral induction course (tick #2) which put me in contact with various support services and also gave me the chance to talk to several other doctoral candidates. I have trouble not getting degree envy when these sorts of things happen. One candidate is doing an inter-disciplinary study of traditional Maori building structures and another is doing a multi-site study of dance education in Asia and the role of women within these education institutions. Also met a large number of very brave international students (considering how daunting this all seems to me, I can’t even imagine how terrifying it must be for a student for whom the country, as well as the university, is wholly alien).
    5. I got a free Speight’s umbrella from the University bar when we got kicked out into the rain at 8:30pm.

      so it begins
      And so it begins

Naturally the most disappointing thing was the fact that I collected the wrong species. I think they’re Sombrero spiders (Stiphidion facetum) rather than Cambridgea spp. and I had suspected that they might be the wrong kind but it wasn’t until I got back to Auckland and checked in my book that I found this to be the case. I haven’t looked at all of my collections yet but I think I’ll just have to take a more careful explore now that I have a better idea about what they look like. It’s a little embarrassing but I have been informed well ahead of time that doctoral candidacy basically consists of feeling like a doofus 24/7 for 3+ years.

Over the weekend I’m going to be teaching at a postgraduate writing retreat hosted by Te fale pouawhina, Student Learning Services but I should be able to get some reading and writing done as well. Namely:

  1. Read up on key reviews/papers regarding male aggression and morphology.
  2. Start getting my head around the phylogenetic work I’ll be aiming to do during the winter
  3. Get my Miomantis manuscript to a point that I would be willing to allow another set of human eyes read it
  4. Review Tuakana tutor applications
  5. Begin writing if only about the Cambridgea group

I am hoping that I’ll be able to be in at uni and working a little more consistently next week but MOVING HOUSE.

Week 1 Day 1 – Dear Diary, today I.

I’m already lost. Literally. My day started with wandering around the university wondering what to do because my designated desk still had its previous occupant’s possessions on it.
So I found one of two trusty companions of western adulthood, coffee (the other being wine), and took stock.

GPOY

Today I am a doctoral candidate at the University of Auckland in the department of Biological Sciences. The current plan is that my PhD project will the reproductive behaviour and morphology of New Zealand sheet-web spiders Cambridgea spp. with a particular focus on how these behaviours compare between different species within the group.

This is likely to involve the study of male-male competition using both behavioural observations and morphometric analyses of male weaponry i.e. fang thingies called ‘chelicerae’. Depending on which species I ultimately focus on, it may also involve comparison of male genitalia and other reproductive appendages as there is evidence to suggest that there are differences within the males of single species.

I also have an interest in issues around science communication and am trying to find a way in include a reflective component in my PhD which would involve a qualitative analysis of how primary biology research is communicated to the public with the hope of using my own research as a case study.

This week’s goals:

a. Begin reading up on the major areas of research and start developing a sense of the profiles of each of the fields
b. Do the academic integrity module which is compulsory for all doctoral students
c. Get myself a swipe card (which is not necessarily the easiest job on this list)
d. Begin identifying spiders to focus on and use to develop a phylogeny
e. Make as many bad puns as possible
f. Brush up on spider morphology because my main experience so far has been in insects.

I will probably come back in three years, read the preceding paragraphs and laugh/cry/both. But it will be okay because, by that time, I will be a fully fledged…something.

If you put cotton wool in your ears, 'doctoral' almost sounds like 'duck turtle'
If you put cotton wool in your ears, ‘doctoral’ almost sounds like ‘duck turtle’

Flux

The new purpose for this thing is for me to log my weekly progress in my PhD which officially begins on the 1st of November i.e. eight days from now.

I had wanted to put writing my first post off because I had hoped that things would’ve brightened by now but the fact of the matter is that I am scared, stressed and anxious. My reasons (personal, professional, extra-curricular even) for being so are valid but it don’t improve things none.

End result – I want to change my project but – for the life of me – I can’t tell if that’s because I actually want to change or if the negativity has just thrown a pall over everything.

I have been told by multiple people that feeling scared about your PhD is natural given the size of the undertaking. That there are other things going on at the moment naturally exacerbates things and theses facts do make me feel less like an insane person.

But fair to say, it’s not the start I’d wanted.

On the upside – have found a useful anxiety tool: stressor mind-mapping! Like many horror writer would tell you, the best (i.e. worst for your trousers) monsters are the ones you can’t see entirely make out.

Pink for things I can change. Blue for things I can’t change. Teal for feels and orange for ‘answers’ and self-consolation.