So what’s the big news?
Here’s a hint (and my current desktop background):
I’ll be spending my summer in Southern Canada, working with the University of Saskatchewan. The ongoing project is investigating the ecology and population dynamics of black-tailed prairie dogs, which live across the Great Plains of North America. Prairie dogs are burrowing ground squirrels from the Sciuridae family, which live in large social colonies on prairie grassland. The work will involve live trapping, handling, marking and monitoring behaviour, and I have already been warned that there will lots of walking and fending off biting insects!
We’ll be based at Parks Canada housing in the park itself, 45 minutes from civilisation, so I’ll be off the grid for a while. It will certainly take some getting used to, to not be able to pull out my phone and check messages/social media whenever I want – but on many levels I am looking forward to the enforced isolation. I’ll be working with 6 other like-minded ecologists so I shouldn’t be lonely, but I think it could be good to really unplug and be ‘present’ throughout the experience.
In the few months before leaving, I’ll be working part-time and developing my fitness to tackle the 10 km a day, with a heavy bag, in high heat. I’m enjoying the challenge though; it’s given me a great excuse to spend more time wandering the hills. Working full time hours and the long commutes to the RSPB did impact on how much physio I managed, but I am still in a good position. However, I would rather be over confident about my physical capabilities than risk it (probably understandable given my history of back problems) so I’ll be training hard before going.
Here’s an interesting and amusing blog I came across during my interview prep, detailing a researcher’s experiences on the prairie: Adventures on the Prairie