Bonus Becoming A Master – Things I wish I’d Known

Hindsight is always 20/20 so I wanted to share some of the things I wish I had known before I started my masters degree. If you’re new to my blog I have just completed my masters degree in Conservation from UCL and I recorded my journey with a series called becoming a master. Nevertheless here are five things I wish I had known before I started.

1 – Always start your assignments early. – You hear this piece of advice a lot at university, but when it comes to masters degree assignments they need more research than at undergraduate level which needs way more time. If you think you only need two weeks for an assignment double that for the amount of reading you need to do to go alongside!

2 – Go to careers events! – They might seem like a drag but your masters is normally only a year long and that year goes fast. Often these career events will allow you to see where you can go after your degree and what you need to do to get there.

3 – Talk to your lecturers – I was awful at doing this during my masters degree up until my dissertation, so learn from my mistakes! The best way to do well in assignments is to go and talk to the person whos marking it about what they’re really after. My masters assignments were often like the technical challenge in the great british bake off with very little information in the instructions. However, if you go and chat to your lecturers they will help! Also remember that your lecturers will often be your referees for job applications so it’s always good to make a great impression.

4 – Get Organised! – I spoke about organisation a lot during my weekly updates but honestly I think it’s the main thing that carried me through the masters process. Knowing exactly when you’re working, when deadlines are, and most importantly when you’re taking breaks is so important for keeping you as stress free as possible!

5 – Try and get some volunteer work in whilst not overloading yourself – I know it’s an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum to work out the right balance.  But! Volunteering and getting work experience is so important for after your degree and landing a great job. Volunteering will allow you to find out whether a certain type of work will be right for you and it looks great on your CV. However, it’s important to note that a masters degree has a full time job time commitment so try and get the balance right!

I hope these pieces of advice will help you on your masters degree journey. I might write another post soon about choosing the right masters degree to begin with soon so if you’d find that helpful let me know!

More Becoming A Master

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – The Last Working Week

Week 35!

Sorry, there wasn’t an update for you last week! Unfortunately it’s all been much of the same of writing, writing and writing my dissertation! I hand in my dissertation next week so I had to make sure my final piece was absolutely perfect this week.

I can’t really believe we’re already here. In one way it seems like it was last week that I was in Norfolk just starting this crazy ride and in another way that seems like a lifetime a go! But I will save all this sort of talk for next week when I will have given my precious document over to be torn apart by my tutors!

I have a feeling next week could get pretty emotional! See you then!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Back to GIS

Week 32

Hello and a very happy Sunday to you! So this week I have been using all my GIS skills once again but now I’m using them in my dissertation. If you didn’t know GIS stands for geographical information systems and is a really cool tool you can use to layer information that has a spatial element. Then you can build up the layers to see if there is a correlation between all of the information. I’ve talked about all the ins and outs with GIS before and you can read about it here if you’re interested.

In terms of GIS for my dissertation, I’ve been putting all my results from my field work onto a map to see if there is any connection between the biodiversity I’ve found and other spatial elements. Particularly when questioning whether the presence of trees in the hedgerows affect the general biodiversity. This is when I would show you my beautiful maps but I need to keep them to myself for a little while until my dissertation gets marked. However the basics behind it is I have mapped out the trees in my survey area as a layer and then I mapped over the biodiversity I found using the alpha biodiversity. This can then show me where the biodiversity is lower and if this happens to be where the hedgerows are dense with trees.

I’m using a similar technique to show the affect of badger damage on hedgerows. Badgers will often use the hedgerow to build part of their sets. This can often lead to lots of the plant life being destroyed. So I’m using GIS to see if that is an issue on my sample site too!

GIS is one of those tools that never fails to provide you with a fantastic figure and is a great skill for any budding biologist out there to learn!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – A Week In The Life

Week 31

Hello everyone, this week has been a busy one and instead of writing this on a Sunday and reflecting on the week just gone I’ve written a little each day. Hopefully this will show you that in my life currently there is no daily routine and every day is a little different.

Monday: Today I’ve been running a few errands, getting the shopping in and such as well as catching up on the emails I missed from being at home. I also spent a lot of today researching and writing for The Woodland Trust. I really love the volunteering I do for them as I just learn so much! If you’d like to see the work I do for them here are a few links:

Wild Orchids in the UK

Why Do Nettles Sting?

How to forage wild garlic!

Tuesday: Today I’ve been running through my statistics focusing on finding statistically significant results. These are important as when something is statistically significant you can say with more confidence that one thing is affecting another. This can be difficult to show in ecology as there are lots of variables out in the outside world!

Wednesday: Today I’ve been continuing with my work on Tuesday but also developing my reasons why I’m finding certain results. Stats can sometimes leave you with more questions than answers! I’ve been developing theories and working out what I want to say with my dissertation. This has somewhat left me with a few moments of yelling into a pillow when I don’t know which way is best! – All the fun of a masters I guess!

Thursday: The statistics continued today and I managed to answer some questions that I had from yesterday. I also collated all the work I’ve done so far for my meeting tomorrow.

Friday: Today I had a meeting with my supervisor for my dissertation. He gave me lots of ideas about how to use all the data analysis I’ve doing to create a succinct and convincing story. Which is great because I have a lot of editing to do!

After my meeting I went to go and give blood for the first time! I’ve always wanted to do this because I have no reason why I cant do it and every time someone gives blood they can save three different lives. It’s an incredible thing to do so go and do it if you can. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as how I’d built it up in my head and the nurses were totally lovely!

Saturday: So today I wrote up everything from my meeting and got to some planning. Although I did spend the afternoon on the sims… everyone needs a break!

Sunday:  I’m currently writing this just before I’m about to head out to spend some time with friends and my wonderful other half. We’re heading to the pottermore pop up shop in London and I am so excited! If you are also a potter fan let me know in the comments!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this update!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Alpha Diversity

Week 30

Hello friends! This week I have been all about the alpha diversity statistics so I thought I would tell you about how and why I’m doing it. Alpha biodiversity is effectively a way of working out the biodiversity in a local area. This can be done within a quadrat or within sections of a transect. For my dissertation I am looking at the alpha biodiversity of each of my hedgerows in my study.

To do this I’m using some software called EstimateS and I put in my results and then it uses different formula to find different alpha biodiversity scores. There can be different scores as lots of different studies have developed different mathematical formula to work out the biodiversity. Each formula is more effective for different types of study. For example a study looking at insect species richness may find a different formula gives a more accurate representation of alpha biodiversity than a study looking at salt marsh plants. I have four different formula to choose from and hopefully by next week I will have settled on one to use.

It’s been another heavy computer week but I did head home to Cornwall this weekend (why this blog is a little late) to run around the fields and check up on my hedgerows.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little update and a little lesson on statistics!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Procrastination Queen

Week 29

Hi friends, I’ve tried to start this blog in several different ways and none of them seem to be working. I think it’s mostly because I don’t have much to say as I haven’t done much on my masters this week. *Hangs head in shame*. This has happened for a couple reasons, firstly I’ve been doing plenty of writing for the Woodland Trust. Their blog is one of the most comprehensive for all things wildlife and its a total honor to be writing for them. I’ve also been pre-writing a lot of blogs for this internet space so I can try out some other creative projects.

It has also been beautifully sunny here in London and I have been staring out of the window like a puppy so I have been going on a few outdoor runs. I used to hate exercising but I found a new app called Zombie Run and I am now addicted to it!

Really all the spells out is….

Image result for procrastination spongebob meme

Hopefully next week I’ll have some tips on how to beat this and a complete list of things I’ve done to get this masters degree done! But for now shall we just sit, have a cup of tea, pop on the telly and forget we have stuff to do!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Cornish Lass – Becoming A Master

Week 22

Hello! So this week seems to have been a long one. That could have been from a combination of factors. I spent the first half of my week working on assignments and going a little crazy for being inside so much and then I got on the longest train journey (wasn’t really, it was just very busy) to spend the easter holidays with my family.

I if you did not know come from Cornwall and in my humble opinion it is one of the best parts of England. I’m lucky that where I come from is a holiday destination because its just amazing. On Friday I got to go the beach where there was even a small area of salt marsh which I was happy to see. My garden at home I’ve actively encouraged to be a little paradise for nature and I was so happy to see tadpoles in the pond and bees in the trees.

And unfortunately that’s all I really have to say with this week. I thought it was important to give myself a little bit of time off from working this weekend, but here I am at 8am on a Sunday about to do some more work on my assignments! Alas deadlines are coming soon and then these posts will get much more exciting again I promise!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – GIS: The Good, The Bad and the Downright Ugly

Week 21

Good Morning folks, as I start writing this it is 8:50am on Tuesday and I am sitting down for a day with my good friend ArcMap. That if you did not know is a piece of Geographical Information Software, otherwise known as GIS. I’ve taken a module this term in Environmental GIS which has been my favourite out of the four I’ve had this term. That however does not mean I don’t occasionally fall out with it. So I thought for this weeks BAM I’d talk about the pros and cons of GIS. I’m also spending this week finishing my assignment for this class. I’ll let you know at the end of this blog if I’ve done it by the time you read this.

I’ll start with the cons…

  1. The dreaded X – Now I’ll admit I am still learning how to use the software, so I do on occasion come across this X in my results field after running some analysis. Thats all well and good if you know how to fix it. I often don’t and sometimes the error messages are not helpful at all. Thank goodness for the internet, it’s saved me so many times from the X.
  2. Waiting – My biggest flaw is arguably that I can be a very impatient person, particularly when I have a lot on my plate. Arc Map can at times be impossibly slow (right now I’m waiting for some raster calculation results). I can therefore get a little annoyed by this, particularly if my results come back with an X.

Now on to the pros

  1. Pretty Maps – You can create some really amazing stuff with GIS, not to mention the amount of maps online. I even found a GIS map of Westeros!
  2. The sheer joy when it works –  Getting the little tick of approval is just marvelous! Its such a sense of achievement when it all goes the right way!

Hopefully some of you who work with GIS can appreciate my snuggles. Hope you’re enjoying BEDA so far you can catch up with any episodes missed on the extras page!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Bouncing Back.

Week 15

Hello! So late last week I got a mark back that I wasn’t happy with. It happens to us all. I still passed the assignment but not with the standard that I expect from myself. I’ll be honest that it hit me hard. I always strive to be the best I can and this time I didn’t make it. I disappointed myself, it’s kind of simple as that.  I had it happen to me once in my undergrad degree as well and I learnt a lot from that time. I thought it might be helpful to write down my techniques for dealing with this situation for if I encounter this again or if any of you are struggling with the same thing.

Number 1: Walk away from everything for a little while.

You see the grade. You feel what you feel. For me this time I got angry and upset so it was important for me to walk away from the situation. By doing that you give yourself a little rest which you probably need. You also gain some clarity for when you come back. They say you should never respond to message when your feeling angry/upset, I firmly believe that you shouldn’t read feedback when feeling that way either. It doesn’t help anyone.

Number 2: Prepare for the comments.

Any good marker should be giving you a lot of feedback on your work. When you haven’t done well a lot of that feedback will be hard. So you should prepare both mentally and physically. Get comfy, have a drink, have a snack, maybe even a friend.

Number 3: Read your feedback

I think this is the hardest step, because its all too easy to leave that assignment behind. I don’t think that’s a good thing to do. By reading the feedback you will end up understanding where you went wrong. For example on my latest assignment my structure wasn’t great and I mislabeled a diagram. Big mistakes but it’s something I’ve learnt for next time. I also find its good if you can take notes from your feedback. It’ll save you having to go through this process again when you’re writing the next assignment.

Number 4: Don’t beat yourself up about it!

Bad grades happen to literally everyone. There is no point in beating yourself up for days on end about something you can’t do anything about.

Hope this may have been of help to some of you! Next week there will be three posts on thatbiologist!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Sleepy Superhero

Week 13

go-to-sleep

Hello! So here we are at the end of another week and I am TIRED! I took some much needed time off this weekend but what I’ve learnt so far is that masters degrees are full throttle the whole time. In my undergrad, January was always a sleepy month where you could relax a little but with my masters I just don’t have the time to do that. Last week I submitted my assignments for last term and this week I’ve started ones for this term. I’m not complaining though, (I know it sounds like I am), I like being kept on my toes. I love all the new things I’m learning too. This past week I learnt that I can fully identify 17 different diatom taxa. I learnt I can put a digital photograph into a GIS map. I learnt what the thermocline is and how it affects coral reefs (more to come on that, it’s really cool). I also learnt about core extrusion from my field trip last week.

So after all that plus doing all the writing that I do everyday I am pretty tired. However, I keep going! I love what I do and I always feel like with what I’m learning I can make a real difference. I always come away from the week feeling I can save the world even if I am on occasion a bit of a sleepy superhero.

So on to the highlight of the week for me, which was getting approval for my dissertation idea. It’s just the bare bones of the project that I’ll start in the summer. I’ll write about it more once I get the official go ahead for it but I’m super excited to get going with it!

That’s all from me this week, I’m heading back to bed!

Sweet Dreams!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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