November 20, 2019

Envision students’ highlights and challenges

Oliver Baines

We asked our students what their biggest highlights and challenges have been throughout their time as Envision PhD students.

Both my most exciting and challenging moments were during fieldwork in Greenland this summer. Hiking for multiple hours every day was really draining, and I was nervous using expensive equipment and to finally commit to methods I’d been planning in theory for months. It was completely worth it however, both for the amazing views of icebergs and whales and for all the data I’m now able to work with!

Oliver Baines, University of Nottingham

As a 4th year PhD student looking back at my experience, I have found that some of my most challenging moments have been working in the lab. Long hours in a sterile environment, often without anything fruitful to show for it; yet throughout all of this, there is one thing in particular that makes it such an enjoyable experience, and that is the fantastic people you get to share it with.

Will Perry, Bangor University

This summer I undertook fieldwork in Uganda as part of my PhD, travelling to the crater lakes located close to Rwenzori mountains to collect lake sediments, which I will use to investigate environmental change over the past few hundred years influencing the lakes. Fieldwork presented some unique challenges, including using heavy coring equipment in deep lakes from the confines of a small inflatable boat and having to chase monkeys away from stealing limnology equipment, but was by far the highlight of PhD so far. Visiting my beautiful field sites in person gave my research so much context, and reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the project – and it isn’t every day that you see wild elephants on the commute back from a day’s field work!

Laura Hunt, University of Nottingham

One of the most challenging parts of my PhD so far has been organising the export of my monkey urine samples from Zanzibar to the UK for oxidative stress analysis. It seemed like a never ending list of problems to overcome but it was incredibly rewarding when it finally came together and I got them safely to Bangor University.

Zoe Melvin, Bangor University

Part of my research involves exploring differences between ozone tolerant and ozone sensitive wheat cultivars. A contact I made at a conference before the PhD started has proved fruitful. I’ve recently been able to run contrasting sets of wheat seedheads through a CT scanner at the National Plant Phenotyping Centre in Aberystwyth. These scans are revealing the effects of ozone on seed formation more clearly than normal seed weight analysis. The CT scans can be turned into clear 3D visuals of the seedhead, including a rotating 3D image.

Clare Brewster, CEH

Getting to attend the summer conference ahead of starting was a brilliant opportunity to meet fellow new starters, current students and staff, and to listen to the research that is currently happening in the programme. It definitely left me excited and eager to start!

Hollie Ball, Lancaster University

My most challenging PhD moment was the first meeting with our project partner, who had agreed to support the data collection but hadn’t had any involvement in my work prior to that meeting. Suddenly the PhD went from working with my small bubble of supervisors to managing a small field team in a country I’d never worked in before. The outputs of this work and the good relationship I’ve now built with the project partner is one of now one of the most rewarding aspects of the PhD, as well as reflecting on how much I’ve learnt in the process. My most exciting moments in the PhD have come from all the wonderful people I’ve met around the world (from Seychelles to Sweden!) and hearing that a lab group in Kenya were reading my first PhD paper in their discussion group.

Anna Woodhead, Lancaster University

I’ve only been working on my PhD for 7 weeks but the amount I have learnt through reading journal articles is amazing, and it’s really helped motivate and inspire me.

Katie Sieradzan, Bangor University

Being hosted at a research institute and registered at a university in different cities means I get double the resource access but really have to manage the logistics carefully!

Bede West, CEH

Although my project mapping secondary forest in the Brazilian Amazon is almost entirely desk-based, being part of Envision has enabled me to visit Brazil and experience the ecosystem I study first hand. Witnessing the wide spread destruction reinforced the urgency of the situation and I came home with a renewed sense of purpose and a desire for my research to have a tangible impact. As an Envision student, I have had so many opportunities to meet new people from all over the world. In July 2019, I participated in an international workshop on modelling biodiversity and ecosystem services. Whilst the skills I gained on the course were useful it was the opportunity to network with my peers and build lasting friendships that I found invaluable.

Charlotte Smith, Lancaster University

I presented my work at an international conference in Graz and at two UK conferences, which were exciting experiences. I was overwhelmed by the interest in my work at the conferences and can’t wait to share more results and findings soon.

Eilidh Forster, Bangor University

Without doubt the most challenging and yet most exciting part of my PhD was my fieldwork with NOAA in Hawai`i. It involved a lot of planning, both scientific and logistic and was probably the most exhausting few weeks of my life. I was doing something completely different to anything I’d done before and had a lot of on-the-job learning to do out in the field, but it allowed me to push so far outside of my comfort zone and really grow as a researcher.

Beth Francis, Bangor University

I really enjoy the networking and training events put on for Envision students, such as the 2019 summer conference where we did fun activities organised between talks and seminars.

Amy Gresham, Bangor University

The most challenging part so far was my industrial strategy linked CASE placement at United Utilities. Switching from an academic environment to delivering time-critical output provided a great, but challenging opportunity for me to develop my skills. You can read about Giles’ Envision highlight experience of Powerboat Training paid for by Envision RTSG top-up funding.

Giles Exley, Lancaster University

Envision is unique in bringing together research institutes using state-of-the-art facilities and supportive supervisors and organisers, whilst encouraging academic and personal development. I feel lucky and privileged to be part of a training partnership that listens to students’ needs and cares about the progress of its students.

Hattie Roberts, Lancaster University

I have been so fortunate to be involved in fantastic field work in Africa but it all comes with a healthy amount of challenge especially when face to face with a hippo while trying to collect water samples.

Fiona Sach, BGS