Friday, 6 March 2009

Smells of Spring


The weather has been improving, which is lovely news. The swallows have properly settled in and are bringing their friends and family along. I saw lots of kestrels hunting in cereal fields, and also a Crested Lark (pic). Lovely stuff.

The project proposal has been completed. At least, this latest draft is. So far the comments have been encouraging. I had a good chat with one of my supervisors over the phone, and he said that he's very pleased with the document. We talked about the one major question that remains to be sorted out: how to delimit the "landscape". The problem is that when you stand in the countryside and look around, the topography determines how far you can see. As well as making a qualitative description of the landscape (e.g. cereal fields with scattered olive groves and remnants of scrub), I want to quantify landscape, in terms of heterogeneity (some sort of measure of how diverse the mosaic is), and this means that I need to have an estimate of the area that I am quantifying over. This is tricky, because my maps are at too low a resolution to be able to make meaningful intrapolations from them about what's on the ground. Anyway, I'm still waiting for thoughts from my main supervisor, who is the methodological genius, on this matter, as well as on the proposal in general. So far he said that the new structure is great, but hasn't read it properly yet.

Re-writing this proposal so that it is clear enough and detailed enough to be understood by someone who is not involved in the project at all has been an experience. And all experiences are useful, and hence good, whether they were pleasant or not. Looking at this proposal now, it is nearly at the stage where it permits me to stop thinking, and just go ahead and collect the data. It was the same when I was deciding on the methods for my MSc research project. It was horribly stressful and hard going, until the methods were settled and then I just went out and got on with things without having to do too much thinking (especially after the first few sites are surveyed and I got the hang of it). Of course, this stage is immediately followed by further stress and frustration in the statistical analysis. I don't mind the stats as much as some people seem to, but it still involves wracking nerves.

But that comes later on. For now, I can say that I have learnt two main lessons from this experience: 1. The "why" before the "how". Actions must fit into the context and not the other way around. 2. Precision in uncertainty. There is no room for vague statements; everything must be explicit, including the gaps.

1 comment:

Theopemptou said...

Hi,
Please check this out:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cypnature/
This is the discussion group of birdwatchers in Cyprus
C. Theopemptou

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