Down Under

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Well, here we are, I arrived in Down Under (Australia’s nickname), where I am about to spend at least 3 years for my PhD with Deakin University near Melbourne. During this time, I will work on the foraging ecology of different species of seabirds – shags and penguins. I’ll spend a lot of time in the field, so keep in mind that if you wanna contact me, I might not be able to answer right away. I hope to share with you through this part of my blog my new life, with my impressions, my rants, my favorites, pieces of advice for travellers or expats who will chose or have chosen Melbourne, my fieldwork and research in general! Feel free to leave comments and contact me with questions and suggestions. Enjoy!

Possums and vollies !

Possum

Joey ringtail possums

I have been meaning to write about an activity I started a few months ago before leaving Australia and that I am looking forward to resume upon return from Kerguelen: volunteering for Wildlife Victoria, an organisation which aims at protecting native species! One of their volunteers, Melanie, who came to assist me in the field for my research on little penguins, introduced me to them and gave me the drive to help! This organisation, based on public participation, is meant to help native animals in distress – for various reasons, mostly interactions with us! These animals include kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, possums, wombats, lorikeets, flying foxes and much more! In most of the rescues I do, the animals have been hit by cars or attacked by pets. The call center receives calls from members of the public, from every day and night, including week ends and then send text messages to their closest volunteers to ask whether or not they are free to go help. When we answer positively, we are assigned the case and contact the member of the public to confirm rescue details and give them an ETA. To increase the chance of survival of these animals, we need to act fast! Most of the time, we judge on spot whether it is necessary to intervene, and whether it is safe to do so, for the animals as well as for the people involved. Once the animal is caught, we drive them to the vet, most of the time, where it receives the necessary care and is thereafter taken to a carer that will host it at home during the time it needs to recover or become independent, especially for the orphans – mostly for marsupials who keep their young in their pouch. This can mean months of dedication and hard work, especially when joeys need to receive hourly feed for example. I really admire these loving people who care for these animals as a full-time job, making them part of their family! In this context, I met with Julie, a carer who has become my advisor when I have questions regarding my rescues. Unfortunately, I don’t usually have the time to do more than a couple of rescues a week but she’s always available to help! She also taught me how to handle possums and kangaroos, including how to feed and toilet them. It always fascinating to be in contact with animals we are not used to, especially for me these marsupials who are such an Australian icon and stay pretty exotic! I also can’t wait to work with flying foxes – the bats that cross the Melbourne sky at night and look so big. Thanks to Wildlife Victoria, I got my rabies shots for free and I am now able to work with bats ! Being volunteer for such an organisation can be a sad hobby because we can’t always save the animals we rescue but it is so rewarding at times especially when we get to save joeys, which mother was dead or died during the rescue, I find! We also get to release animals in the wild when it is back in shape after its stay at the vet or the carer, which is always a nice experience ! In a urban environment like Melbourne, it is always nice to know that we can still make a difference and increase native animals’ well being !

Zosterops à dos gris

Young silvereye

 

Last few months' news

Once again, it’s been months since my last article ! I had been so busy I had trouble finding time to write ! Sorry about that! So a lot happened since my last article: a move and housewarming party, 2 weeks of « vacation » up north where Pip’s parents live, to go to the Bluesfest amongst other things, the purchase of a new car, which really has not been easy, my uni confirmation, work and analyses, my first experience as a demonstrator, some lab work…. Alright, here are some more details!

For those who are not aware, Pip and I moved to a new place, at the beginning of March ! After inspecting tons of places, we finally found what we wanted, still in Hawthorn, the same suburb our previous house share was in, which is pretty nice and well located ! It’s only 20 minutes by tram to uni and going to the city is nice and quick! Now we’ve got two bedrooms so if you fancy a visit, you’re welcome to stay with us!

A little after that, I started working at uni as a demonstrator for a teacher who needed assistants for the pracs of her unit, Animal Diversity. I really enjoyed this job; our role was to answer students’ questions and assist them with their dissections, observations of slides, live and preserved specimens under the microscopes. I’ve learned not too long ago that I will be able to keep demonstrating next semester, for a unit called Biology Form and Function! Can’t wait to keep on demonstrating; it’s both very interesting and well paid!

After our trip to Byron and Noosa, which is the focus of another article, I had to do my confirmation at uni! A year into our PhD, we have to prove that we are on track! We thus need to put together a report with a literature review, a proposal and a description of progress made so far so that the committee can make sure our project is feasible with the amount of time and money that we have. In theory, it can ask us to discontinue our project even though this occurs very rarely. Everything went well for me, including the 20 minute-presentation that was part of the process after handing in my report! Apparently, I am doing a good enough job!Yay!   

And now as far as work goes, most of time is spent in front of my computer. I really need to start analysing the data that I have collected so far on little penguins! I thus have to learn programming in order to become fluent in using the appropriate statistical softwares and Geographic Information Systems. And even if this isn’t the most delightful part of my project, I’ll be glad when I can come up with fancy maps and graphs, and analyses to figure out what the birds did! But to interrupt this routine I had to do a bit of lab work – it had been a while since I had been in a lab altogether but I had to process the blood samples collected in the field so they could be sent to another lab for analysis; the results of those will give me information about what the diet of the instrumented birds was during deployments! I had to dry the samples, crush them and add solutions to remove undesirable components of the blood. Nice change of scenery!

I also had to buy a new car since the van had decided to give up on us unfortunately just at the start of our trip to Byron! After searching for week and being ripped off by a car dealer to which we had to return the car and ask for our money back, we finally found a car that should be reliable and hopefully last me for my remaining time in Oz – 2 years or so! Not a van anymore, this time it is a Holden Commodore! Should do! Hopefully this will allow us to go out a bit more. In the meantime, we stayed in Melbourne. We went to the Etihad Stadium to see my first live rubgy game in Oz : France-Australia during the test matches! If you have been following, you already know that it did not end well for the Frenchies, which was expected but it could have been much worst judging by what had happened the week before in Sydney! I was expecting more people and definitely more cheering, especially knowing that Australia was winning but apparently Victorians don’t fancy rugby that much! There were a few Frenchies trying to get their fellow countrymen going and it was still fun! Recently, we also had fun in Saint-Kilda, a nice suburb by the sea, where the Alliance Française organised free concerts for Music Day ! Good tunes !! Here is a video for you to enjoy!!  

etihad stadium rugby oz france

Test match France-Australia at the Etihad Stadium 

Overview of the concerts organised by the Alliance Française at Saint-Kilda

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