PhD Month Two: The One When I Opened R

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

I don’t know if this will become a regular thing, but maybe it will… So, we’re talking October 2019; here's what I accomplished:

  1. Visited Vancouver Island to help service the camera traps and collect wolf scat.

  2. Got a yoga punch-pass so I could be stretchy and relaxed while on the island.

  3. Brought all kinds of preliminary data home with me, so now I need to start thinking hard about what research questions I want to ask and how I will answer them (see number 10 below).

  4. Climbed my first V6 boulder indoors!

  5. Started mentoring a high school student for his year 9 project on wolves as keystone species.

  6. Had a holiday!

  7. Started (re)learning R, R Markdown and revisited QGIS (free computer programs for data analysis and mapping).

  8. Made my first batches of soup since arriving in Canada – sweetcorn chowder, and vegetable with pearl barley.

  9. Classified and quality checked 1000’s of camera trap images.

  10. Submit my first university travel expenses claim.


As per before, here’s a whole host of things that I didn’t accomplish (some of which are even the same).


I didn’t…

  1. Start any hardcore data analysis.

  2. Lead a climb in Canada.

  3. Receive any additional funding.

  4. Buy a university gym membership.

  5. Have a meeting with my supervisory committee.

  6. Fix the dodgy chain on my bike so I can cycle more (yes, this was on the list last month too, but I’m going to a workshop next week to learn basic bike maintenance skills).

  7. Replace my hard drive (but I do have a memory stick and GDrive so I’m still able to back up my work).

  8. Find a horse to ride.

  9. Present in the vertebrate conservation discussion group.

  10. Make a clear plan of what research questions I want to ask and how I will answer them.

This month has flown by and it feels an awful lot like I haven’t actually achieved much. I spent the first three weeks of October on Vancouver Island and the last week on holiday – so I guess it feels that way because it is that way.


I’m at the stage in my project where a lot of the time I spend in the office is actually (re)learning how to do the things that I need to do in order to be successful. Sadly, what this really means is spending three or four days writing (and Googling and error checking and re-writing) something in R that would have taken me half an hour in Excel, knowing that it will save me days of time in the future, but feeling disheartened nonetheless.

One of only two photos we have together from our trip

Luckily this month ended with a visit from James.

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Photo Disclaimer: All photographs are property of Sophie May Watts or James Fleming unless otherwise stated.

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