Thursday, April 28, 2011

Exploring the earth with kids

I’m the product of a scientist mother. Mum taught me that housework can wait; exploring the world is much more fun. As a mum myself I’ve discovered housework can’t wait but let’s skip ironing in order to bend time and space. Mum was a trailing spouse but managed to carve out a career as a uni tutor, biology teacher and eventually a uni Lecturer in Horticulture. As a little person she took me to Macquarie uni where I loved the big bear and the atmosphere of the tutorial rooms. When I was an independent moody teenager she made herself scarce by lecturing at uni then coming home with stories of plants and science. She taught me that mothering and science can be combined.

Roll forward many years and now I take my three boys to Wollongong Uni. They adore the mineral collection in the Earth Science Department and imagine the Ninja Turtles using the crystals. Hubby and I take the kids on field trips such as Port Macquarie, Tamworth, Tasmania and Adelaide. In the future we plan to travel around Oz with the kids researching and promoting geodiversity. Kids make great scales for photos and useful images for conference presentations. We have learnt that conferences are more fun without the kids so we enjoy the mini all expenses paid holiday and leave them behind. I always miss them desperately and love coming home to their smiley faces.

Isaac and I on a freezing day in Adelaide collecting sediment samples for charcoal analysis. It was a family outing minus two brothers who were in childcare that day. 

The figure label in the journal is very different Figure 2 (A) The exposed profile of Wilson Bog following the erosion event in November 2005 showing the sharp contact between the lower siliciclastic gravels and sands and the upper peat unit.

Buckman S., Brownlie K., Bourman R.P., Murray-Wallace C.V., Morris R.H., Lachlan T.J., Roberts R.G., Arnold L.J and Cann J.H. (2009) Holocene palaeofire records in a high-level, proximal valley-fill (Wilsons Bog), Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia. The Holocene. 19,7,1-13.

Isaac a few years later pretending to drink contaminated water. The photo was part of the presentation I gave at the Australian Fire Authority Conference.

Morris R., Calliss S. (2009) Does an emergency response protect our water reservoirs? AFAC 2009 Conference Meeting Expectations, 21-24 Sept 2009, Surfers Paradise. 595-600

It is possible to blend a family with science but it’s not easy. I can’t read, think or do statistics when the lion cubs are wrestling in the room next door. (Yes three young boys love to wrestle). Spending time on the PhD is mostly possible when the kids are either in childcare or school. Forget study after they have gone to bed I’m way too tired. My studies are taking longer than anticipated but that’s because I like being involved in school and outer school stuff. I like to go to class reading, help with the canteen and watch the cross country. I’m always researching how to run a happy healthy home with the help of other mummy and granny bloggers. We need all types of contribution to science and mothering. I plan to enjoy the PhD journey and take a little longer so I can raise three more questioning scientist. All Mums are science Mums. Cooking a cake is one of the best chemical experiments around.

This blog is in response to Introducing #scimom

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wombeyan Caves and a PhD

Our family spent a lovely weekend at Wombeyan Caves. We cheated and stayed in a dorm to avoid packing up tents in the rain.  We all adored the caves and the lively camping ground. It reminded me of why I study geomorphology. Karst rock features in the caves were so diverse and amazing. The caves were still, damp, quiet, dark and sparkly (well I imagined they were quiet if I removed our kids screams of delight). A few bats flew around the stalagmites, stalactites, helictites, flow stones and columns (cave formations- speleothem). Bushfires even got into the story due to the smoke colouring some cave features.

My good friend who came along with her hubby and gorgeous kids asked that complex question. “Should I study a PhD whilst raising young children and working?”
Hmmm what answer do I give to that…  


But then after some thought- actually a whole night’s sleep of thought my answer was a bit longer.

Of course you should study a PhD. Sometimes it’s a wonderful journey. BUT before you start on the journey I recommend reading some books and thinking really hard about WHY you want to do a PhD. It’s not easy.

The books include

Phillips and Pugh (2010) How to get a PhD: a handbook for students and their supervisors

Evans and Grant (2008) Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life

And the website worth reading

Then after you have read all this, ask your partner if he is also ready for the ride.

Then GO FOR IT jump on that rollercoaster and enjoy the ride!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Aliens in the basement

We’ve had a wet summer and it’s brought the mould into our home. I was heading down the steps last week and was greated by an alien scene with a horrendous smell. All these cocoons were swinging from the roof threatening the release of evil creatures; actually the creatures had already been released. Honestly I have no idea what they are. They are on average 10mm in length, 3mm wide. Does anyone know what they are?

It’s likely they had been there for a while. I don’t go downstairs very often. I’m not the keenest at house cleaning so when avoidance is possible I accept it.  How else can I explore the world, raise three boys and study this never ending PhD. The smell has gone. I aired the rooms by opening the house up including all the windows, doors and garage for a few days.

If you do know what these little creatures are I’d love to know.

On My Mind: A Friday home photo initiative of Down To Earth. Rhonda’s blog is worth a follow, it’s very helpful for homemakers in training such as myself.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

To DS or Not

A peaceful car journey was completed yesterday from Port Macquarie all the way home. I’d like to say its cause my kids are awesome at travelling but that’s just lying. The truth! It’s the DS, DSi, IPod and IPhones that bought the peace. When they first came out we thought they were just another unnecessary electric gadget. Now I accept they are an essential part of the next generation. We had a gadget break and the whole car turned into an imaginary game involving a toy bat, a plastic red back spider and five super hero figurines. There was larva and various weapons but no hurling insults at the drivers for making a boring car journey. The DS inspired the kids imagination, there was no brain dead robots from playing these vivid computer games.

The DS gave us the freedom to take the boys away on a geology field trip looking at rocks. We swam at the beach, hunted for sea creatures, climbed rocks, explored National Parks, watched a movie and spent time together. Rather than being the Mum stuck at home awaiting for my hubby to return from his uni field work we went along. Overall the DS made our adventure peaceful and possible with minimal

“are we there yet” 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Easter Hats

I love the way kids happily put on a silly hat with pride. Pride that they made it and everyone is looking. Its the Aussie tradition of wearing a hat decorated for easter and parading around the school yards. My big decision now is whether to be disciplined enough to stay at home and study or whether to sneak out for a peak at the spectical. Most likely I'll do both, study all morning then take a lunch break to watch the parade, then back home again to hit the books. Have a great Easter everyone!

This photo is for On My Mind a weekly opportunity to share an image from home. Check out Down to Earth Blog.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


What's normal?

Is my life normal?  is my extended family normal?  is my thought process normal?

Most definiately NOT.

I've spent all of today trying to make my data normal. You know what, it just isn't NORMAL. I've tried the log, the square root, the unthinkables such as Arsine (it caused SPSS to go into warning mode) and made Q-Q plots and Lilliefors Significance Corrections only to reassure me that my data and my existence is not normal. So rather than conform to the straight line I'm accepting non-parametric analysis into my stats and chilling out about the lack of normality in my home life.  

The big red circle is almost a straight line but the outliers destroy the significance of the normality. So be it, life is not normal, neither is erosion.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Soccer Mum

Recently I purged my brain of the Mount Bold erosion discussion using dot points. It only took a couple of hours of rough writing but now the details are out. Sometimes it is better to just write whatever comes to mind. Soccer training on Friday was a great setting for some simple reminiscing and editing about my research.

Maybe it’s the academic Mum in me but when my little man scored the first goal of the season on Sat I failed to notice. Thanks goodness for the other Mums giving me a quick rib to cheer. Hubby was away looking at rocks in Adelaide so I was juggling three boys all having different games at different times in two different locations with only one of me and one car. I struggle a bit with cheering at soccer. If one kid gets a goal that means another kid failed to stop the goal. Should I really cheer at another person’s failure? It’s a bit like I struggle with the negativity of academic reviewers. Maybe I just need to toughen up princess.
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