Tag Archives: Education

PooPiDy Poo, School Started Again!

After much administrative drama, I’m finally starting the master’s program I wanted to do! Hum, hum, let me introduce you to the M.Sc. in Behaviour, Evolution and Conservation of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland!

This program takes place within the Department of Ecology and Evolution of the School of Biology. So far, it appears to be a mysteriously biological place (read: with lots of machines and freezers and shit), where most people don’t get why a psych major might want to come. “Fool”, some say. “WHY” others ponder.

When faced with their reaction, I give them my usual speech. No, I am not scared to have trouble understanding – most of our courses don’t have prerequisites. Yes, I have knowledge of things like population biology and evolution because I don’t limit my learning to what is taught in a degree. Also, I know more about behaviour than anyone else in my class. I’ll continue to study it for my thesis, AND I haven’t had to suffer through physics and biochemistry classes.

All in all, I’m pretty great.

I’ll stop here before I start sounding waaay too narcissistic and full of myself (although I think it’s sometimes good to feel like that).

Bye!

PhD position – Reindeer/Caribou Ecology

To start in September 2013 at the earliest. Financial support available for 3 years. In Robert B. Weladji’s lab at Concordia University, Canada. Project includes GPS data analysis and field work in northern Finland (man I’d love to go there…).

Application deadline: 20th March 2013

Details: PhD_POSITION_ECOLOGY_2013

8 Tips for Seeking Internships in Science

These tips aren’t about finding research internships per se, but hopefully they’ll help you in your search for those valued practical experiences 😉

'Search Bar' post illustration

Tip 1 – DEFINE YOUR CRITERIA

I HIGHLY suggest (see what I did there?) you take the time to assess which criteria are the most important to you. If you keep them in mind while you’re seeking, it will guide you and save you time, much like an internal lighthouse helping you make sense of the sea of opportunities. Think of the following: are you limited geographically and/or financially? What are your availabilities? Do you have a favourite research topic?

Tip 2 – ASK YOUR PROFESSORS

They’re the people who have succeeded in your field of interest. Besides, it’s likely that they, too, have gone through an internship-seeking stage in their life, so that they know about where to search, how to apply, etc. Maybe they even know people who might be interested in free labour, or are themselves interested. PS: this can help build a relationship with your professors – an essential step in professional networking.

Tip 3 – REMEMBER ARTICLES YOU HAVE ENJOYED

If you liked them, there is a good chance you would also like working on that topic yourself. Simply look up authors’ information. This should lead you to the research group they belong to, which, in turn, could direct you to internship opportunities. If not, contact them anyway!

Tip 4 – EXPLORE PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS’ WEBSITES

Taken together, they ABOUND with information regarding the scientific discipline they’re concerned with, including internship, scholarship and job listings. If you are interested in ethology research, you can check out the list I have made of animal behaviour related professional associations.

Tip 5 – SUBSCRIBE TO MAILING LISTS

The listings I mentioned earlier are sometimes published through mailing lists. These are great because offers arrive directly in your inbox, without you having to search for them. Neat, right? For example, MARMAM is a mailing list for “researchers and managers working with marine mammals” (to subscribe: link).

Tip 6 – EXPAND YOUR SEARCH BEYOND UNIVERSITY LABS

Universities hold great research groups along with great scientists – and that’s great. But it could be a good idea to broaden your horizon by considering companies or non-profit organisations. For one thing, you’d be expanding your pool of possibilities. For another, the difference in internship experience could enhance your transferable skills, such as adaptability. If you study biology, you might want to check out websites of natural parks, reserves and wildlife protection organisations (such as LPO in France).

Tip 7 – ALLOW FOR MORE TIME THAN NECESSARY

This one might seem self-evident, but it really is not. In my experience, there are ALWAYS unforseen complications. Usually they are of an administrative nature and can range from agreements that must be signed to visa applications which can take months. The more time the better, of course, but I would say beginning at least 6 months prior to your preferred starting date is a good rule of thumb.

Tip 8 – OVERESTIMATE YOUR CHANCES

Sometimes, getting accepted to be a willing slave can be a competitive process. Don’t let that stop you from applying. Even when requirements are clearly stated and you (think you) don’t fulfill them completely, apply nonetheless! You wouldn’t lose anything. Even if you get rejected, the time you have spent working on your application goes into perfecting your writing skills.

As a final bit of general advice: do send cover letters regardless of whether there is an actual internship offer. I mean, let’s be real, most of the time there won’t be any. It’s up to you to prove your worth and convince people they should totally take you to work with them, even if they didn’t know they needed someone in the first place. I wish you all the good luck in your search!

PS: I would like to thank my friends Tiffany, Amandine and Sophie for providing me with ideas and insights on the subject ^_^

Learning task for canaris

 

In the summer of 2012, I was an intern at the Laboratory of Compared Ethology and Cognition in Nanterre, France.

My supervisor wanted to test the learning abilities of common domestic canaris Serinus canaria, so I co-designed with her and carried out a learning task. The basic principle of the task is the following: remove the obstacles to get the food hidden underneath. We guided our subjects through 4 levels of difficulty, the criterion of success being to eat out of at least 2 (out of 10) wells in the 15 minutes allocated for the task.

Common domesticated canary Serinus canaria

Common domesticated canary Serinus canaria

Below is a compilation of video clips of a test period at the 4th level. After first taking time to approach the experimental apparatus, the bird goes on to executing the task. It took him about 10 minutes to eat out of 8 wells.

That particular individual was rather “gifted” compared to others, since he was the first one to complete the 4 levels of the task. I am therefore pretty sure that he could have finished eating all the bits of food, i.e. uncover the 10 wells. Maybe the fact that, at some point, the camera almost fell of the tripod troubled him in some way. Maybe.