Friday, 14 November 2014

“He could see the honey, he could smell the honey, but he couldn’t quite reach the honey.” - A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh)

Ooooooh. Blog layout update. It's slightly different to the previous layout. 

We had Miss J. stay with us last night. As always, it was super, uber, most excellent fun. Wine was drunk, talks were had and there was much merriment. During these happy times, Miss J. mentioned that I haven't blogged about any furniture renovation projects in a long time. I defended myself, saying that I live in a very small house, which is now full of furniture that doesn't need renovating. How sad. 

Hopefully we will move to a bigger house sometime after January, when our lease is up. Our current place is excellent in that it's a 15 minute walk to UTAS, and it has reasonable rent. However, the reason the rent is so reasonable is that we're right next to the southern outlet, which means that we hear cars and trucks going past all day long. Also, neighbours suck. We have the O'Crazies with their loud domestics on one side, the Squeaky McBedsprings on the other, in addition to someone in the building having shocking driving skills that has resulted in my car being hit 3 times while in the building's private carpark! AND THEY NEVER LEFT A NOTE. Come December I'll be keeping an eye on the rental market for a stand alone house. With a backyard and a shed, so I can attempt renovations once more! Renovating in my lounge room, or in our teeny tiny backyard (it's perhaps, 2 x 2 metres?) was challenging. 

So what have I been doing with all my post-honours free time, given that I have no renovation projects to fill it?

I've been crafting.

I'm making Christmas cards and tags, ft. tiny origami Saint Nicholas'! Some of them are blue. They're old school. 

Christmas cards in the stores are expensive. They want 10 of my moneys for a pack of 5 cards? No thank you. I valiantly decided to stand up to consumerism (or something) and make my own cards! However, with the cost of the card, the origami paper, the twine, and how long it takes me to make them (teeny tiny = mucho time taken) I'm not much better off. Also, all the colour on the origami paper is rubbing off on my desk and now it has red smudges all over it. Oh well. I guess I'll have to repaint it! Maybe mint green.

Delicious mint green desks.

But that won't be happening any time soon! I'm off to Bruny Island with the Honours cohort on Tuesday for a holiday! I get back Thursday (which just so happens to be the DAY FACE STARTS HIS PHD, OHMIGERD), then on Friday I'm catching the Spirit to the mainland! Family and mainland-friends visiting time. I'll be there until the 9th of December, and after that, high country brumby business begins! Yeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwww! Excitement is at maximum capacity. Field trips and dates will be finalised over the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Much love.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” - Albert Einstein


Well done, us!

The thesis was due in at 9 am yesterday. We celebrated with bubbly at 10 am (because 9 am is far too early for bubbly), breakfast at 11 am, and naps at 12 pm.

I fell asleep at 6 pm last night, and have only just gotten up (it's 3:13 pm). Thesis-ing ruins your sleep patterns. 

I'm not really sure what to do now. The past 9 months of my life have been consistent research. I keep glancing over my shoulder at the huge pile of text books and journal articles piled on the floor. I feel a bit guilty for writing this rather than reading them. 

I don't think the freedom has quite hit me yet. 

Face will be starting his PhD in 3 weeks! That's two weeks notice at Sush, and a weeks holiday for Face. Then he must master the genetics of eucalypts! He's pretty pleased with himself. Research is far superior to working for an honest living. Honest livings mean you have sore and cracked hands from having them in dirty dishwater all day. This way only his brain will be sore and cracked.

At the moment it looks like I'll be at uni with him, but working rather than student-ing! My head supervisor has offered me a position as a field researcher over the summer. I'll be chasing brumbies all around the Victorian high country and gathering data on the herds. It's a test run to see if I'd like to do a PhD on the subject. I think yes

Very exciting things happening in the life of Kitkat and Face!

Much love. xx 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

"The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is the world’s largest extant marsupial carnivore..." - Every biologist writing about Tasmanian devils, ever.


Want a few snapshots of my life right now?

What do all these graphs and numbers mean?! WHAT COULD THEY MEAN?!

Not that I'm feeling stressed, or anything. 

Except, I'm a little stressed.

I've just about hit the lock-down stage, so not much will be happening over the next couple of weeks.

Moving on to Face news:

Face has found a PhD, had a meeting with his supervisors, and been accepted!


He's officially going to be spending the next 3 - 4 years of his life studying eucalypt genetics. With the possibility of a trip to France or Brazil to look at the tree genes over there, just to add some super extra excitement to the mix. He's just waiting on scholarship news to start, and he's hoping to hear about the moneys really soon, 'cause he's pretty sick of making sushi.

No time to write more, must get back to unravelling the twisted and cruel world of statistics.  

Love love. xx

Sunday, 31 August 2014

“Out of the way! We are in the throes of an exceptional emergency! This is no occasion for sport- there is lace at stake!" - Elizabeth Gaskell (Cranford)

Know what tomorrow is, bloggers?

That's right! Hurray!

Of course, being that we still live in Hobart, the celebration the occasion entails will probably be interrupted by rain. What'cha gonna do.

As lovely as winter can be, I'm more than ready to bid it adieu and start welcoming in warmer weather. It has been substantially warmer here over the last couple of weeks, with highs around 15°C. Dress weather! For realsies. I think I've finally acclimatised. From dress weather we'll soon be moving on to bikini weather, which I'm particularly looking forward to, as I'm living close to the beach for the first time in my life. 

Closely connected to the commencement of beach season will be the release of the Honours cohort from full-time thesis mode! We've already booked a house at Narawntapu National Park in party anticipation. So on the second week on November, look out for a bunch of vitamin D deficient kids on the beaches of Narawntapu, blinking in the sunlight and looking very confused at the absence of spreadsheets, data and critical comments on their writing style. 

 Face may or may-not be able to celebrate with us, as HE GOT A JOB!! Whooooo! He's now a prestigious kitchen-hand at Sush, a sushi shop in the Hobart CBD. He doesn't even like sushi. Kit, however, does, and fully intends to abuse his staff discount. 

Furthermore, Face has found a few more PhD proposals that interest him. At the moment, it looks like we'll be staying in Hobart for the next 3-4 years! Kit is happy-sad about this. Happy, because she's pleased that Face will be studying something that interests him, and sad 'cause I really miss my birdie, and it'll be another 3 years before she can live with me again! Waaahhhhhhh. :'( But happy-Face beats bird-sad. Also, Hobart is a pretty cool place to live, so we'll be fiiiiiiiiiine. Now Face just has to contact the supervisors and decide between studying stem cells (important), the genetics of giant kelp beds (boring), environmental genetics stuff based on what foxes in Tasmania are preying on (controversial! [some people don't believe there are foxes in Tasmania. When evidence (scat collections and genetic identification) strongly implies there are here, just not in the numbers seen on the mainland, which is what surveys have been based off and rah rah rah! *shakes fist* It's a fairly hot topic which gets a lot of haters] and interesting!), or the genetics of DFTD (IMPORTANT AND DEVILS AND OH-MY-GAWD SO INTERESTING). 
Please note the comments in brackets are not based on Face's opinion.

Well, that's about it for news! I'm off to watch more devil videos. I'm so sick of watching devil videos. 

Much love. xx  

Sunday, 17 August 2014

“You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.” - Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray)

There are tiny blossoms on all the trees around Hobart!
That means winter is very nearly over!
Kit is so very sick of winter!

Let's all celebrate the blossoms! 

Face and Kit did some celebrating today by defying winter and doing a (mostly) out-of-doors activity. But not for very long, because it was cold outside.

Today they went to the Salmon Ponds, where they dined on delicious crepes and walked around looking at fish.

Face was super excited about all the fishy fun.

Dem fish were huge

While admittedly not the most exciting of weekend activities, it was lovely there. Very pretty gardens and such. Furthermore, it has inspired in Kit the desire to go fishing, having never been. Face is of the opinion that she won't actually enjoy it all that much. There's a pretty good chance of him being right. But the idea of spending your day reading on a riverbank (that's where people fish, right?) sounds so idyllic that she'll probably have to try it for herself before she's truly convinced that he's right.  

 A trip to the Salmon Ponds concludes all the fun stuff Kit and Face have done this weekend! Kit's thesis due date is getting fairly close, so she's having to spend a lot of time actually doing thesis-based stuff. She still has 25-ish devil videos to watch, and the dietary analysis will begin on Wednesday (hopefully), after being put off due to the grant application assignment. Work work work. Oh! Face did show Kit how to work Windows Movie Maker so she can take snippets of her devil videos for her final seminar.

Hence, adorable devil videos all over the 'net.

That's Armin. Who Kit has talked about before. He's so gosh darn cute. 

In other news, Face has found a PhD project which interests him! Something about stem cells. Or turning other cells into stem cells. Which sounds super impressive, but Kit's interest is limited due to the lack of fluffy animals involved. Not really. She's pretty excited for Face. He hasn't done any enquiring or applying or anything at this point, since our plans for next year are... Non-existent. But finding a project that interests Face is a good step towards actually having plans!

Much love. xx 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

“Ah! There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.” - Jane Austen

Kit is home, after all her busyness! 
She is very tired. Most of today, and yesterday, were spent catching up on sleep.
Right now, she should be working on her grant application assignment, but she doesn't want to. It's not due until the 11th of August. There's still time, right? How long can it take to write up a grant application?

Side note: Face was just downstairs cooking Kit's dinner. He has super cool headphones that are wireless, so while he's doing stuff in the kitchen, he generally has music and such playing through them. Being the super geek that he is, while downstairs he was listening to a commentary of an on-line card game. Neeeeeeeerd. But he foolishly left his computer unlocked and vulnerable, so Kit paused the nerdy on-line card game and belted Justin Bieber out the headphones instead.

Oh Kit, you little scamp! 

She doesn't get dinner now.

Back to business. 

Kit was on (the extremely beautiful) Maria Island from the 16th until the 20th of July, with some members of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP) and a couple of fellow volunteers. 


It was a week of hard work and long hours, but it was extraordinary being so close to the wild devils. Devils have got a really bad reputation, with snarling and growling and biting and general nasty behaviour expected (thanks for that, Loony Toons). Captive devils do habituate to humans, and once they've lost their fear of people they'll sometimes challenge them like they would another devil. Most of the captive devils Kit has worked with were still pretty keen on keeping their distance though. The devils on Maria Island were a completely different story. They froze up as soon as they were handled and were as timid as anything. 

For example: This is Guernsey.

She's been released from the sack at this point. But we had a hard time getting her to leave. She was doing a pretty good job of pretending to be invisible. After a while she realised that she was free and took off into the bush very quickly.

We caught 34 devils in total - including 3 island-born devils which hadn't been caught before. Very exciting! They were micro-chipped, had an ear biopsy and blood taken (an honours project at the University of Sydney will be using ear biopsies to look at Maria Island devil lineage), basic information such as weight, canine length and sex were recorded, and then they were named!

Tiritiri Matangi (), Canary (), and Rottness ().

There's an island theme going for the 2013 born devils. Others in that cohort include Maria (of course), Caledonia, Guernsey, Tahiti, Statia, Rapa Nui, Ral Kurru, Aotearoa, and Macca. Macca might be short for Macquarie? Otherwise his name is just weird. 

Kit chose the name Canary. What a perfect name for a devil! Or so Kit thinks. That's Canary in the picture above. 

Canary and Tiritiri - as well as many of the other island-born devils caught - had pouch young!
While female devils don't generally breed until they're around 2 years of age, 1 year old devils have been seen with pouch young before - when they're in areas of low devil density. 

The pouch young were at a range of ages. Some looked like squirmy pink jellybeans and some were distinct little devils.

Endangered animals breeding! We love it!!

Along with the devils, Maria Island has a few other endangered species introduced, such as Cape Barren geese and Flinders Island wombats. There's a few macropods as well, including forester kangaroos, red-necked wallabies and pademelons.

The next part of Kit's project will involve dietary analysis from the scats collected, so she can determine which of these delicious critters the devils have been eating. 

After the Maria Island trip, Kit spent the entire week locked up in the UTAS labs drying and grinding up devil poop. It wasn't pleasant. Devil poop smells bad. Kit smelt bad. Many the showers were had. 
Once all the devil poop had been pulverised, it was packed on ice and flown with Kit to the University of Queensland, where there's an endocrinology laboratory. Kit spent a week up there learning all about endocrinology and hormone assays. 

Of the 121 poop samples Kit took with her, 33 didn't have enough faecal material in them for hormone extraction. At least .1g of poop dust was needed, but as devils eat eveeeeeerything, a lot of what came out the other end were essentially hairballs. Good for diet analysis, not good for hormone analysis. There was also a few other interesting tidbits that came out.


Gosh damn devils are tough.

Continuing with the endocrinology side of things, methanol was added to her devil poop samples (corticosterone - the steroid hormone Kit is interested in - dissolves in methanol) and they were placed on a rotator overnight. In the morning the samples were run through a centrifuge and then the liquid decanted. Leaving Kit with...

Extract of Tasmanian devil poop!

Endocrinology is hard. The techniques (especially correct pipetting) are tricky to learn, and there's approximately a zillion steps in which you can do something wrong and screw up the entire assay. 



Standard curves, extractions, serial dilutions, parallelisms. Kit still hasn't completely gotten her head around most of it. Kit spent a majority of the week learning the necessary techniques and attempting to de-fuddle her poor confused brain. Suddenly chemistry and maths when Kit hasn't dealt with any of that since first year! She also had a go at running an assay.

Which failed.

Well, it didn't fail. It did work, and in the words of her instructor it was "not bad" for a first assay.

But there's the 'not bad' which means 'hey! Pretty good! Not bad at all!' and then there's the 'not bad' with a long pause between the two words. Which means 'look, I don't want to hurt your feelings, but it's not good'. Kit's assay tended towards the latter.

Kit's pipetting needs a lot more work before she can go around endocrine-ing stuff. Her covariance of variation (CV) was huge for her repeated samples (good science = same sample more than once to check for error!), and her standard curve was... Whack. We don't like whack. In science, un-whack standard curves are preferred.

As said, it's tricky. But Kit tried, and she learnt a lot in her week there. So the samples shall be analysed by the Science Lady who instructed her, and she can expect the results in a fortnight! Which then leaves two and a half months to analyse everything and write it all up! 

... Wah.

To summarise! Maria Island was awesome. Would go again out of 10. Endocrinology is hard. Devils eat all of everything. Most importantly - to all the baby scientists out there: GUYS. PRACTICE YOUR PIPETTING. PRACTICE IT, GUYS.

Kit will now play herself out with some more photos! Because she didn't want to clog up the rest of the post with scenery photos, but Maria Island is just too gosh darn beautiful not to share.

Much love. xx 

Super Devil! Da na nah na! 

There was a farming family on Maria Island until the 1970s-ish. Who Kit assumes were the French's, as the farm house and shearing shed they left behind is known as French's Farm.

Run down stock yards make excellent photos!

Devil paws are adorable. Amiright?!