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 Book Review Editor

A few titles recently sent out for review

A few titles recently sent out for review

Late one Friday, in November 2008, I hit send. I knew it was poorly worded but my email was gone.

“Not sure where I put your last email – but just wondering if you still needed applicants for this position?”

I began as the Ecological Society of Australia (ESA) Book Review Editor for the journals Austral Ecology (AE), and Ecological Management and Restoration (EMR), in March.  My third child was ~4 weeks old. Was I insane? Perhaps. Thanks to the previous editor, Ian Lunt, I was well equipped – his description of the role was detailed and methodical. I still use his guidelines and what few questions I had were quickly responded to.  I was ready.

My reasons for wanting the role were partly selfish. My post-doc had wound up, and given we were still collecting data, there were few papers on the radar (>20 have generated from the project since). I’d gone back to work 5 months after my eldest was born, so it wasn’t as if I couldn’t work. However, finding work in ecology was getting harder, and moving wasn’t an option. How many women do you know in ecology who work part-time/full-time with 3 or more children? I realised I now walked around with a label on my forehead – “she has three children”. I needed my career label to cover the label that now says “OMG now she has 4 children – she definitely can’t do it!” I needed to keep ‘in the loop’ and this was one way. Continue reading

Getting back into the ecological workplace after children

In 2006 I went to the Ecological Society of Australia annual conference in Sydney. I was 7 months pregnant with my third child. I sat and listened to an inspirational lecture by Dr Meg Lowman. During question time, a young female ecologist asked what would be Dr Lowman’s advice to women embarking on a career in ecology.

What followed was encouragement, field work advice and research direction. She took her preschool aged children into the field (also mentioned in this video from time 18.13).

At this my heart sank.

Let’s face it. In today’s day and age, I can’t take my children in the field with me.  Add to this that I am the primary carer, our families live interstate (no grandparent/aunt/uncle help), I have a special needs child, and my husband and I both working full-time is not realistic unless we want to heavily rely on childcare. So, in the past 10 years since my 1st born, and the last 3.5 years since my 4th born, have I any hope of continuing as an ecologist mother?

Yes, I do.

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