2012: A Year of Adventure

It’s been so long since I posted anything that it’s a new year now. I got a little caught up with my work and ended up being too busy to blog for a bit. However, as it’s a new year, I thought I’d try and pump some life back into this thing.

It’s odd that we associate new resolutions with this time of year, the middle of winter. My walks to campus are stark. The trees are just bare, twisted skeletons in silhouette against a bleak sky. The spectrum of colours that comes in the form of wildflowers, butterflies, ladybugs, dragonflies, and summer birds has since faded away in favour of dull greys, greens and browns. Daylight is fleeting, and walks home are brisk. It seems counter-intuitive that we choose this time of year to make new beginnings. But winter can be a reminder of life’s incredible ability to persist. There is still life, animals that stay behind during the cold months and endure the foul weather. Just last week, I came across a patch of snow drops, beautiful little white flowers that dangle from their stems like delicate porcelain lanterns. They are among the first flowers to emerge from the ground, and after months of bare trees, they are a joyous find.

Perhaps then winter is more a time of hope. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year, but it was once a day of celebration as it meant that from there onwards, the days could only get longer. January is a month of looking ahead with anticipation – not just waiting for the sun to warm the ground and entice everything back to life, but at everything we have planned for the year. I definitely have a lot of things planned for 2012.

The two biggest events this year for me are my final two research cruises. This summer I am heading out into the Arctic Circle, getting as far north as Svalbard and finishing in Reykjavik, Iceland. The cruise is an exciting opportunity in so many ways. I am hoping to collect some interesting data, but to also see a lot of amazing wildlife. The Arctic is an incredibly productive place in the summer, so I’m expecting whales galore, and will be disappointed if I don’t see a polar bear. The next cruise is at the (literal) other end of the world, in the Southern Ocean (the ocean around Antarctica). That one involves an epic journey to the Falkland Islands, which I will probably write about closer to the time when I know more details. Once again, I’m hoping for a lot of interesting wildlife!

In between these two cruises, I will be attending my first international conference in Monterey Bay, California. I am fairly nervous about that. I have given presentations before, but not on such a grand scale. The first time I presented results from my PhD was at a departmental seminar, and I was overcome with nerves. I am a bit of a shy person who tries their very best not to attract large amounts of attention to themselves, and so the situation created by giving a presentation is one I usually try to avoid. I enjoy sharing science, but I hate having so many people paying attention to me all at once. So, I began presenting my data, and suddenly doubt crept in. A little voice started talking inside my head, parallel to the words that were coming out of my mouth. “What are you doing? Why did you just say that? Are you even paying attention to what you’re saying? Stop listening to me!!” When the presentation was over, it was opened up to the floor for questions. Someone asked me something, something that I knew the answer to. I could picture the table in the paper that I wanted to refer to. But somehow, the words that coalesced so easily into sentences in my brain got lost somewhere on their way to my mouth. But I was not so lucky as to be completely lost for words. No, silence would have been much better than what actually happened. I opened my mouth, and sound came out. “Uhhh… yeah, wuh…. I duh… ummm… I….” The little voice in my head piped up once again. “What the hell are you doing? Make a sentence. Okay, make a word at least. What… what are you doing? You know what you want to say. Oh my god, just STOP MAKING NOISE.”

Mercifully, the guy tried rephrasing the question, and I used the opportunity to reorganise my brain and actually form something coherent. Once he was done buying me some time, the words just fell from my mouth in a thankfully somewhat intelligent fashion. Then the whole thing was over and I was allowed to slip back into the audience, and anonymity. Now, this whole ordeal is fine in front of 30 or so people that you know (“fine” used very loosely here). Picture me doing this in front of several hundred people, many of which are leading experts in my field. That is the fear that paralyses me when I start thinking of the abstract to submit. 2012 is going to be about breaking through that. And possibly embarrassing myself on an international scale.

This time next year I will just be finishing the Antarctic cruise, and will begin the arduous home stretch that is thesis writing. The ability to write up relies on the data I can get out of my field trips and intervening lab work during the next 12 months. I just terrified myself with that thought. So, yup, 2012 is going to be an important year for me.

I would also like to use my blog to communicate science more this year, perhaps starting with an explanation of ocean acidification or phytoplankton. If anyone has any suggestions for an blog topic, then do leave them in the comments!

So, I guess this isn’t really an insightful blog entry, more just me saying “I will start blogging again now!” Watch this space.

I leave you with a baby seal for no particular reason.

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4 thoughts on “2012: A Year of Adventure

  1. Aww, Laura, I love your way of describing nature and the things that surround us. Speaking of New Year’s resolutions: you should have seen my Zumba class today – three times as many participants as usual 😉
    I have to say that I am immensely jealous of your two cruises and I am looking forward to extensive descriptions and pictures from both. Plus an international conference, yay! If you get the chance at all, go and see the Monterey Aquarium.
    Not so much jealousy on the presentation though. I can feel your pain. Even though I am not a particularly shy character I still struggle with speaking in front of people. Especially when the crowd is so big and their knowledge so vast and… STOP! You forget a few really important aspects:
    1) You are awesome! If they don’t see it, that’s their problem.
    2) You will have written an excellent abstract that senior Essex scientists will have nodded off, so there is a good chance that all those people in the crowd will be really interested in what you have to say. Ergo, no reason to be nervous.
    3) If those nerves still won’t leave you be there is always the old trick with the nude audience.
    4) And as to the little voice in your head, just leave it at home when you leave for California. If it still tries to talk to you while you’re there, remind it how expensive long-distance calls are and that it will have that taken out of its pocket money. That should shut it up.
    In German I wouldn’t wish you good luck because you don’t need luck seeing how brilliant you are. So I’m just going to say: Go, Laura, you rock!

    • Thank you Sandra for the lovely comment! I especially like the thought of reminding that little voice how expensive it is to call overseas hehe! I really want to go to the aquarium, the conference is actually in Monterey so I’m hoping they may even give us a little tour… I’m definitely going to spend some time there afterwards, that’s for sure!

      I have been reading your blog by the way, always with a big grin on my face! The way you write just makes me laugh!

  2. Pingback: I am an accomplished writer now – I think « island monkeys

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