Q: What “day to day” type activities that you do?
My PhD is a mixture of field and lab work, as well as data analysis and modelling. As I study litter bed ignitability, most of my field and lab work is concentrated in summer to capture how ignitability and moisture conditions change over the fire season. A typical field day consists of going to different forest sites and collecting litter (leaves, twigs and bark on the forest floor), then taking these back to the lab to watch them burn! In the lab, I record whether or not the litter ignited, and if it did, how quickly it spread, how long it burnt, and how tall the flames were.
Q: What pathway did you take to get into the research?
My pathway was pretty normal, I did both my undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of Melbourne. It was during my postgraduate studies that I become interested in fire behaviour through subjects run by our group. I also really enjoyed studying at the Creswick Campus. During my postgraduate studies I had a part-time job at a private plantation company as a resource forester, helping to schedule forest inventories of the plantation estate and process the data. In-between the end of my post-graduate and starting my PhD I did a little bit of work as a research assistant which really helped with my skills in project planning and data analysis, including using R.
Q: What’s something you’re proud of from your PhD?
I’m proud of the field and lab work I’ve done. In total I’ve collected 690 litter samples from forests around Daylesford and Powelltown. If someone had said to me before I started that I’d collect that many samples I probably wouldn’t have believed it! The data from these samples is going to be really valuable for determining ignition thresholds for fire occurrence.
Q: What’s the most interesting thing that you have done during your PhD?
The most interesting thing I’ve done was to be part of a project measuring ignition in the field. Being able to observe ignition in the field and see how different fuel and plant species ignited was really cool!
Q: Do you have any advice for future PhD students?
I think some good advice would be don’t be disheartened if things don’t go to plan or have to change. It is very likely that you may not achieve everything you set out to do in your initial thesis plan at confirmation. I think being able to adapt, modify a chapter or design a completely new chapter is a really valuable skill to learn.