The Post-PhD Conversation


My PhD graduation.

This is the conversation you have with your partner, your PhD supervisor, your peers, mentors, sponsors, or those who have long ago finished their PhD.


It’s that conversation where you go in with the obvious question –

what do I want to do after my PhD?

– and come out with a plan.

Let’s look at what your conversation might be. Here are 5 options.

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The ecological gift

Searching for children’s STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) based gifts isn’t hard. A google search will turn up items like building blocks, Lego, electronic/snap circuit sets, robotic kits, electronic toys, K’NEX, telescope, test-tube kits, science in a box kits etc. etc.

While these choices are great, why not instead buy something different – like the younger versions of the toys – tools, I mean tools- that ecologists use?

Despite much searching I couldn’t find any useful lists on the web to refer you to. So I’ve made my own based on my childhood, presents we have been given, suggestions given to me and from the experience of having four children of my own.

This list is sorted from least to more expensive; these gifts will keep on giving and fuel the ecologist in any child.

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Moss Lady


e regnans landscape2


I looked around. I swore I heard someone calling out. The silver wattle swayed. The mountain ash towered. No. I must have been dreaming. I was tired. I reckoned I still had enough daylight to do one more site but maybe the three I had done would do. I was stuffed. I shook my head and refocused.

“Helloooo? Moss Lady. Are you there?”

I wasn’t dreaming. The Melbourne Water crew thought it amusing that I would spend my days looking for moss. ‘Moss Lady’. It was novel and easier to say than my real name, so it stuck. I doubt they actually remembered my real name.

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How a childhood outdoors shaped my ecological career



As a child, getting out in the Australian ‘bush’ was a regular event (image taken ~1982)

My father scanned all the family photos and it has been interesting to compare the places we visited back in the 1970’s and 1980’s with what they look like now. But what also struck me was the importance of our holidays, from my childhood to now.

Filing the photos made me realise that for me, my childhood camping trips with my family in the Australian bush are what I would class as my first and most significant childhood introduction to ecology. I also believe it influenced why I chose to become an ecologist.

What was your first significant encounter with the environment as a child?  Do you believe it influenced your subsequent career choice?

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The majestic Pencil Pine: pushed to the brink

On Jan 13th 2016, approximately 70 lightning strikes hit the west of Tasmania.

About 20 of those strikes started fires.

So many lightning strikes. There were more than usual. However, fire caused by dry lightning in this area is totally expected. What was not expected is the devastation that followed.

Pencil pine lake mckenzie_RobBlakers1

Pencil Pine at Lake McKenzie, post-fire, 2016. © Rob Blakers

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Ecology detectives: species on the move on Heard Island

It was the 25
th November 1853. Captain John Heard sighted land*. Heard’s wife, who was on board, called the land “a frigid looking place”.


How right she was, and so wrong too. 



Heard Island. The view from aboard the Southern Supporter. © Robb Clifton

Research involving historical data can turn up many a query and solve many a mystery. So can investing in scientific research and monitoring. The following scientific expedition involved much detective work including historical literature which informed monitoring and research.

Heard Island crew

Heard Island 2003-2004 expeditioners (source Australian Antarctic Magazine Issue 7 Spring 2004)

On Heard Island, one hundred and fifty years after it was first sighted, 28 scientists and support crew landed. I went ashore with 12 people to ‘Try Pot Beach’ otherwise known as ‘The Spit’, as part of the Terrestrial Ecologist crew. So started two and a half months on subantarctic Heard Island. Continue reading

The Dos and Don’ts in an interview

(or, Why a music performance is similar to an interview)

1fe511d7b7fdbf9753a53795d540e5f6The first position in my field that I applied for was before handing in my Hons. thesis, and I had started working before giving my defence. The first position I applied for after my PhD I was accepted into without an interview. The next applied for position I didn’t get, after that I gave a 70% performance in a post-doc interview and got the position, and recently I was knocked back.

Getting knocked back can take the wind out of your sails but learning from your mistakes and moving forward with positivity is much more productive. And today I tried again. Continue reading