Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Operation: Eat through my cupboard....

Anyone who's lived with me knows I have probably a years worth of food stored at any one time, all be it in slightly "different" combinations of meals. Primarily this is because i'm somewhat fickle in the food department, though I eat pretty much anything, what I fancy on a daily basis really changes, and if I don't have something I fancy in the house, I tend to eat chocolate for dinner, so it's important for me to keep my fridge/freezer/shelves stocked at all times so I can eat healthier than a bar of chocolate or nutella sandwiches (which though awesome, are not whole nutrition at it's best). The food stockpiling thing is all the rage right now too, so I feel slightly ahead of the times on this.

So i'm starting to think of the "big move". In reality my things will probably be shipped out sometime in November, which gives me until November to eat through my fridge/freezer/shelves. So i've decided, for a few weeks at least, not to buy any food. None. Now before anyone panics about this - I use dried milk because it's considerably cheaper than real milk, and I have a whole new Costco box of it, and I have a ton of frozen fruit and veg around, as well as multiple packets of yoghurt. So i'm not going to die of malnutrition here. It's just going to be a good exercise in using up the major components of my kitchen. So wish me luck as I go through the next few weeks, eating some pretty unusual meals i'm sure. In all this too, i'm going to keep bringing in my lunch to work, so there might be some eyebrows raised....we'll see!

Oh - and i'm starting to update my lab blog - so be sure to check that out as I'm running up to some Alaska projects. Tab is on the sidebar!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Happy Birthday and Happy BIRTH Day!

Happy Birthday to Jenny and happy BIRTH day to little d, born early this morning to Diane, Dan and big sister Dahlia! This morning Jenny, Hannah and I went to brunch at a fancy hotel, was awesome, though the rest of today I can see being taken up with lying on the couch snoozing with a full belly! Hope you've all had a good weekend!

Take time to sniff the plumeria...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back from SEA

Back from the 5 days with the UH SEA program. I wish I could say it was great, but man, the politics i've talked about before seemed to continue, not in the same way, but I guess it's just apparent my friend Alison is just not cut out for life at sea and was over her head. Now Alison is awesome and I adore her as a friend, but it's abundantly clear it was a good thing for me not to be on the first leg as she would have driven me crazy. By the time I arrived she had alienated the whole crew and was really rude to them, and wasn't much better to the students either, she was obviously "done", as was the crew. She'd organized some fantastic trips during the cruise, but a lot was done last minute, and really didn't cope well with the challenges that being at sea creates (weather not allowing you to sample, moorings not being good enough for certain areas etc.), nor did she seem to embrace all that SEA has to offer - namely the sailing and crewing component that makes up so much of what they do. It is the first of hopefully more UH cruises, and I hope this hasn't turned SEA off completely, Alison would be a great director for the program, as long as she remains on the ground, something myself and David, the other faculty involved talked about a lot on the way home today. So it was a tense 5 days, as I feel torn between Alison and SEA, seeing both sides. It was a learning experience for both sides, I hope both sides see their flaws and the ways to better work together in the future.

What was good is that I got to see a small slice of the SEA pie, got to ride the ship a little before i'm potentially  on a full cruise with them. I can honestly say all the SEA crew and science party were awesome in the way they handled the students, the students adored them and they were really learning. I'd feel very privileged to be able to work for SEA in the future. Some pics from the trip. 

Students up the rigging - having a great time! 
Two green sea turtles at the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on the Big Island.
We had a tour of the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park from an awesome guide. 
Student Rhonda enjoying some R&R while under sail from the Big Island to Maui. 
To do an Opihi survey (limpets that are a cultural food, now endangered in many parts) for a student project we had to hike 2 miles over lava to a site within the Ahihi-Kina'u Natural Area Reserve. On the way there were these brackish ponds, where rainwater had pooled and seawater had seeped through to create these lush pools teeming with shrimp and a nesting site for stilts. It was awesome, hiking through hot barren A'A' lava and over a crest would be these pools. Our Nature Conservancy guide Matt was awesome, as well as fearless during the Opihi transects - which were often sheer cliffs being pounded by the waves. All of us came back with scratches and bruises! 
Finding our way to the sites - these are areas that have been closed to fishing for the last two years, so are sampled by the Nature Conservancy regularly to look and see if they are recovering. So the sites we sampled were GPS points to make sure the same area was being sampled. Over barren, hot and dangerously sharp lava, the trek was a challenge, as was finding sites sometimes!  
This is what the end of the hike looked like - this was the final site of 15 we did. By this time the tide was so high it was too dangerous to keep surveying, so we sat, rehydrated and had a quick snorkel in this pool before heading back out of the closed reserve. Feel very special for being able to go in there. 
David, one of the other Hawaii Faculty displaying his Opihi wounds! 
What goes on at sea stays at sea. Well maybe not. These are some of the awesome SEA crew, who made clean up day a whole lot more fun than you could imagine. In the space of 3 hours the entire boat was scrubbed and cleaned, every surface inside and out. Everyone kicked in, science, students and crew alike. 
One of the students Andrew at the helm. I was in awe, by the time I arrived they had been at sea for 3 weeks, yet they knew every rope, every command and just got on to get the job done. It was awesome to see them take on the responsibility of the ship, take commands and pitch in together. What SEA is all about! 

Friday, June 18, 2010

See where we are

Click here to see where the ship is for the next week - there are also audio podcasts and twitterupdates occasionally. See you in a week!

The only way to travel out to the boat, with pup in tow!

The Robert C Seamans with Mauna Loa in the background.

Beautiful day to join a cruise.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The whole enchilada and heading out again!

First off, this is another "Hi and Bye", this time to a world without internet or telephones! Saturday at the butt crack of dawn i'm headed on the SEA sailing vessel the Seamans, to join the last 5 days of the UH student cruise. Yes there was a lot of politics on that one, but I still feel an attachment so after multiple askings, i'm headed on the last few days. And there is no internet, and we'll likely be out of phone range for most of it. What will I do with myself??

And the whole enchilada on Maine. Well, it's been a tough few weeks. They offered me the job while I was there on the interview, which is a most bizarre thing, nice and to the point, but confused the hell out of me. The job is basically the same position I have here Assistant Professor on the research faculty. So that equates to no salary and having to bring everything in on grants. Since grant success is down to a whopping 10% these days, it's a pretty tall order. The position was originally advertised as a hard money position, but Maine, as everywhere, has been hit by the economy so they had the hard money taken away. So why go?

Well, the main (Maine, get it?) thing for me is longevity. In two years the director is hoping to get these positions (they're hoping to take on 3 people) into partial support (to the tune of ~5 months per year) - no promises unfortunately, but i've been told from many sources the director is hard headed and openly honest - so if he says he's going to try, he's going to fight for it. After that, because i'll be at the university, and it's all unionized, if a fully supported position comes along that I can apply for, i would be given preference. Those who have been at the Darling Marine Center long enough have (mostly) all slid into those positions eventually. Here in Hawaii I just keep being told "wait another year", as the years roll on.

So, no promises, why go? Well, i've spent the last 5 weeks pondering on that one. Torturing myself quite literally. Going to Maine means moving across the widest part of the country possible, with just 6 months of salary on hand. That's damn scary. So why go? We went back and forth a lot with offers, they don't have much to give right now, but I think whats really drawn me is that they have pulled out everything they possibly could. Here is what I am getting out of the move -

- Two labs (one with student office space) and an office (with a water view!!!)
- The histology lab (additional to my 2 labs)
- Use of the TEM and SEM lab for free - when the director retires in ~5 years, they will become mine
- Dedicated space in the flowing seawater facility - where the water is cold, so perfect for growing my corals
- Dedicated cold room with flowing seawater - perfect for growing antarctic corals!
- Use of molecular facilities
- Small startup, which includes 2.5 months of salary for me and some funds for some pieces of equipment (not that I need anything, all the facilities and big equipment I use are there already)
- My grants moved without losing $$s on overhead changes (this is actually way more huge than it sounds)
- Housing at the center for a few months to get me set up
- Moving costs all paid
- A greencard, with all costs paid

So, not inconsiderable. Not what I really need (salary), but considering they have nothing to give, they pulled everything they possibly could out there.

Most of all, I like it there. It's a more "me" environment than Hawaii will ever be (baring suddenly winning the lottery and not having to worry about money). It's more realistic to live, I could actually buy a house one day. I would love to do some work with the director there too - a fantastic invertebrate reproduction specialist, who knows the ins and outs of the TEM like no-one else - I could really learn a thing or two. And the people were friendly, i've had some wonderful emails, and my friend Les, who pushed me to apply in the first place, said he had an email from a friend of his there who said "Thankyou for sending her our way". Makes me think it's not all fluff and they are kind of excited....

So yesterday I signed off on it. Handed in my resignation in Hawaii and in December i'll be headed that way. And so the next adventure begins....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


It's official.....i'm moving to Maine at the end of the year. Long story, 5 weeks of torture, but I finally decided this is what's best for my future. Resigned this morning. May the next adventure begin.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Iceland in pictures

Had a great day with Nicole showing me around today - she used to be a postdoc with a friend of mine in Woods Hole, and moved to another postdoc in Reykjavik around a month ago, so offered to show me around to help fix my underwhelmed feeling today. It was awesome. My view on Iceland - somewhat changed. Would I come back? Probably not unless I was in this direction, but at least i'm not leaving feeling I really didn't like it here, I did thoroughly enjoy today. Here it is, in pictures. Tomorrow i'm off towards Hawaii, unfortunately a two day journey, so it's another overnight in Seattle.

We searched for a trail head this morning for a wee while. Came across this golf course. Yes that's a steam plume coming up in the background, many areas of Iceland release geothermal plumes of fumes and even water, and it's a daily part of life.

When we finally found the trailhead we went on a spectacular hour hike following a "hot river". My last river crossing was in Patagonia where the water was around 20F. So much nicer when the water is 40F.....!
The whole valley filled with geothermal plumes of steam, water and even mud!

A mud pot! First time i've seen one - so much more vigorous than I was expecting!

Couldn't stop taking pictures of the valley and river...

A few of the locals. If the ground was 40F where I lived, I would spend a lot of time sitting down too!

Another valley shot, very cool...or warm....
The end of the trail for us - a hot river! And what better to do in a hot river than.....

...chat to strange blokes in speedos! The water was really relaxing, we ate lunch then jumped right in for a good hour soak, so nice!

And the hike back out.....the valley was still spectacular....

...even in sepia....

Our trusty steed for the day!
After Nicole kindly drove me around the "Golden Circle". Which included the quite spectacular Gullfoss waterfall.

Nicole in front of the waterfall. So much closer than you would ever be allowed in the US or UK.

Also on the Golden Circle tour......more hot pots! This time at Geysir.

And this is the famous Geysir....where all Geysers got their name....those are people for scale.

A hot pot at Geysir, pretty blue.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Diving the Divide

End of the conference yesterday, and phew, has it been great and exhausting! It's always good to catch up with folks, I always get to catch up with the European crowd at this meeting too, which I really enjoy, as it doesn't happen too often. But jet lag, combined with late nights and midnight sun have meant not much in the way of sleep this week. It's 8.30pm, i'm in bed, and as soon as this post goes out i'm turning out the light to try and catch up.

So this week has also been my birthday, wowsers another year tacked on there. Don't ask me which year, i'm way to tired to remember. The conference dinner fell on my birthday, so I got a whole round of Happy Birthday from the deep sea biology crowd, a tad embarrassing, but it was followed up by a few glasses of wine so that was good. For my birthday I decided to go diving in the plate divide today, the area between the american and european plates, and an area that increases by around 2cm per year. It was good, a little brief for what it costs, but the good thing is it got me another 2 dry suit dives.

All in all i've been a little underwhelmed by Iceland. The people generally have not been too friendly (there are of course exceptions), the weather has been overcast, the countryside bleak, the food pretty bad (except for tonights Meat Soup....don't ask me what was in it, but it was delicious!), and the sights somewhat disappointing. To try and fix this my dive buddy Nicole and I are going to rent a car tomorrow and take a wander outside of Reykjavik - I hope it can change my mind.

Nicole and I unable to breath in our way too tight dry suits. The benefit - no leaks this time. The problem - swollen purple hands and a slight light headed feeling here and there...

America to the right, Europe to the left - diving in the rift valley! I wish this picture was me, it isn't, but it's exactly what we saw!

I wish I could say it was awesome, it was pretty cool, but we were on a group tour and the guys in front kept kicking up sediment. There were moments like the above, the geology was awesome, but the whole dive was just so so because of the crowd factor. My dry suit was so tight I couldn't stretch up enough to put my mask on, so that didn't make me feel great, I thought they would have more gear available to go with, but they just bought one set per person and hope they fitted, so it was kind of a make do situation. I'm not totally disappointed or anything, I guess I was just hoping for a little more....

Looking above the ridge.
Into the starting point.
I moved out of my apartment today - it's been awesome to stay with Jeff and students, really saved a boat load. So i'm now in a cheap guesthouse until Monday when I fly back. A guesthouse with possibly the smallest en-suite i've ever seen!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Iceland here I come....

Our conference field trip today - we went to Laugarvatn - heralded as the second most beautiful place in Iceland (the first now being covered in ash). It was a loooooooooooooooong ass drive out there, 3-4hrs, which kind of put a damper on things - I think most would have been much happier with somewhere closer. The hike at the end was nice, the place nice, nothing too spectacular, but then again I am kind of spoilt for dramatic volcano scapes these days....

The long drive out in 4WD buses! Eric and Scott for scale....

They took us to this park, where we had sandwiches and then were left to wander for a few hours before a lamb BBQ. The scenery was stark, basalt and lava scapes, with hydrothermal pockets, lots of steam oozing from rocks, was pretty cool.

Looking over a river myself and student Anela went to explore.

Looking over the lava field.
We did a little "off roading"...

The result of the volcano, even many hundreds of miles away - here is an ice bench, covered with ash.

A hot hydrothermal pool at the end. I didn't partake, I was going too, but the water was a little "gooey" as someone put it, and there were 100 deep sea biologists also in there.....

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I'm here, after an exhausting two days of travel. We overnighted in Olympia on the way over, luckily another group going from the university has (literally) taken me in and I got to stay with a colleagues folks along with his grad students overnight in a beautiful spot in Olympia. Just enough time in the morning to squeak in a hike before heading back to the airport. We got into Reykjavik this morning, and again the same group took me in and rather than staying in the hostel i'm now staying in the apartment they've rented. So nice...:0)

I'm about to hit the hay, i'm totally toast, and the meeting starts early tomorrow. Already caught up with a few folks from lives past at registration today, looking forward to more tomorrow.

A wee hike in the AM with Jeff and his grad students.

Beautiful old growth forest on the Puget Sound

Old railway, used to transport logs to Seattle.

And in Reykjavik, looking for somewhere to eat before heading in.....

..........and we did not eat here.....