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!

Phillip Island

This month, I discover a new, fantastic place, about an hour and half from Melbourne: Phillip Island. It is located at the entrance of the Western Port Bay and is connected to the mainland by a bridge near San Remo. It is an important place for little penguin research, which are the major tourist attraction on the island. The “Penguin Parade” is indeed very popular as it is one of the rare places set up for tourists to observe the penguins coming back ashore at sunset to spend the night in their burrows, among other things.

About  32000 little penguins live on the island ; it is thus the second largest little penguin colony on Earth, after the one in Gabo Island, where I spend a fair amount of time for my fieldwork soon. And while I am at it, I might as well give you a bit more info about my new friends! If you want to see more photos and videos, you might want go the following link (to a great website about the wildlife of the world): http://www.arkive.org/little-penguin/eudyptula-minor/. The little penguin is the smallest penguin species on Earth -  about 40 cm de hauteur and around 1 kg, and it feeds on mostly fishes, caught during dives more or less deep or more or less far from the colony depending on the season and reproductive status. It is the only resident penguin species in Australia and New Zealand. Although it is not listed as endangered, serious declines have been shown over the past decades because of human disturbance, habitat loss and predation by domestic and introduced  animals, like foxes. The laying dates vary quite a lot in different regions and even within a colony and are a priori linked to oceanographic conditions in the area. When the pair is formed or reunited, they lay two eggs most of the time, in a burrow, which will become two chicks their parents will have to work hard to feed is all goes well. During about two weeks, one adult always guard the chick at the nest while the others’ mission is to bring back food to the ckicks. When the chicks are big enough to stay warm and be by themselves, both adults forage simultaneously. So know you know a little more about little penguins, which are one of the key species of my PhD!

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A new friend!

Some of you already know the good news: I now have a vehicle! A Ford Econovan 1999 to be precise. Some of you asked me for photos, so here it is. My new friend, who has already seen a lot apparently according to the number of kms it has under its belt, should allow me to discover Down Under differently! From the Great Ocean Road to the Grampians – a mountain range which highest point is Mont Williams (1167 meter-high if you must know ! fyi too, the highest point of Victoria, Mont Bogong, reaches 1 986 meters and is located in the Australian Alps), including numerous national parks, forests and mountains of Victoria, there are many things to discover! Not to mention wildlife – I’ll talk about my wild encounters some more in my next article! For now, the van’s a bit temperamental and doesn’t start very well and there are a few things it needs done before really taking it for a spin but I can’t wait! Especially now that I got used to driving on the wrong side of the road – I have to admit I struggled a bit and scared the heck out of Pip, with whom I started driving!

I haven’t named it yet, but if you have any suggestions, knock yourselves out! The set-up of the van’s quite nice with a ‘couch’ that can be turned into a bed, lots of storage space and a space for the kitchen stuff – portable stove, some water containers and so on. I can’t wait to tell you more about those new adventures coming up! But on the downside, I recently learned that in Aussie, weirdly enough when you consider the number of backpackers, it is actually illegal to stop for the night on the side of the road (I swear it’s true…). So we will not be able to stop just anywhere, unless we want to take the risk of getting fines – and Aussie cops give them away pretty easily, as I have already experienced! Apparently, some websites provide travellers with lists of places where it is permitted to stop for the night but there aren’t that many apparently! I’ll research it some more and let you know in case there are some backpackers that could use the info among my readers. Another fact about this kinda topic that I found pretty funny is that in Aussie when you get your driver’s licence, if you get it for manual cars you are not allowed to drive manuals. If you get an open licence, however, you can drive both… Alright, I’ll stop here and just add a few photos of the van and my current house – although I’m trying to move out and find a new place, which hopefully will happen soon! I’ll keep you posted!

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The van 




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My house 






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