Thursday, 29 August 2013

Musings on leg 1 of the IndigoV expedition and the meaning of science

As we near the start of the second leg of the IndigoV Indian Ocean expedition, it is time to reflect on what we have learnt during the first leg of the voyage.

- No matter how well prepared, something will go wrong
- When trying to lay low, try not to appear in newspapers
- Very fresh tuna is chewy but better than 2-minute noodles
- The Indigo V is relatively water-tight even during very big storms (luckily)
- If we say there will be restaurant quality food on board, let's not kid ourselves, the 2-minute noodles will do very well...
- Electrical equipment and seawater do not mix (actually, any equipment and seawater does not mix)
- Clothing drenched in seawater never drys properly
- There are a lot of (very) big ships sailing the Indian Ocean
- Never let a certain Martin Ostrowski at the helm when there are big waves and you want to sleep below deck. (I heard he likes to surf...)
- Whales are amazing and always appear when all the camera's batteries are flat

Jokes apart, the whole experiment of the Indigo V expedition was a unique experience, showing it is possible to run scientific expeditions with less expensive equipment, and in a more cash efficient way. Indeed, the whole expedition is running at the price of a single day from a standard research vessel.
"Accessible" projects such as the IndigoV Indian Ocean expedition are important on scientific grounds, but also vital to engage interest within the scientific community, as well as the general public and media.

This opens the wide and exciting world of crowd funding of science. We might never be as successful as the guys building a space telescope, but the general idea is the same in that research should not be conducted in a small dark laboratory, behind closed doors. Scientist should be engaging with wider community and be approachable even if it takes time out of staring at computers or petri dishes.

The main aim of science is to make people think, feel included and want to participate. I'm not particularly proud of myself when I have blank stares from people when I am trying to explain what I do!

So onward and upward (or north-east-ward to be more precise!) with the IndigoV Indian Ocean expedition. Good luck to the brave sailors.

To be continued....

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

My cats have probably forgotten me

After a week in Canberra, I was home for a day or so, and then had to fly off to England. I've just arrived in Leeds after 36 hours of travel time, where I am about to collapse into a coma. I'm here to visit with my collaborators and to give a talk at a membrane transporter workshop. My talk has one of my sillier titles to date- "Channeling David Attenborough- Studying Bacterial Drug Efflux Pumps in their Native Habitat".

The Met Hotel, my room is somewhere on the 3rd floor

Catching up on posts from last week

My birthday at the NHMRC panel. The chairperson's wife baked me a birthday cake! It came complete with birthday candles thanks to the NHMRC!

Photo thanks to Mark Schembri

Monday, 5 August 2013

If it's August this must be Canberra

It's that time of the year again, where I get to spend a week in Canberra on an NHMRC Grant Review Panel. Here's last year's post. Actually, even though my blog posts complain about it, I actually enjoy serving on the panel, it's interesting to see what other researchers are up to. Although, it's a little unfortunate that every year it seems to coincide with my birthday.

In other news, apparently we have a federal election happening, and there's even some chance Australia might win a cricket test. My schedule in Canberra is too busy to have time to pop over to see Kevin Rudd. Actually, he's probably off campaigning in a marginal electorate somewhere.

The Shine Dome- Home to the Australian Academy of Sciences, and where we have our initial briefing session for our Grant Review Panel

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Be Excellent to Each Other

I'm currently working on an ARC Centre of Excellence bid led by Eddie Holmes at the University of Sydney- The Centre of Excellence in Microbial Diversity, Evolution and Control. Eddie has done a heroic job herding us all together, and putting together an exciting proposal for what would be a globally unique Centre. This Centre aims to characterize the biodiversity of microbial species in Australia, how these microbes evolve, jump species boundaries and cause disease, and how best to control and eradicate them. 
Assuming no nervous breakdowns occur, the Centre proposal will be submitted next week. For those of you who haven't seen a Centre of Excellence proposal before, when printed out it makes a stack of paper about a foot or two high. I feel sorry for the panel that will have to review 22 of these applications.
I've previously been funded by the ARC as part of a SuperScience Fellowship, if our Centre of Excellence is funded that would make us both super and excellent.

And Party on Dudes