How I Survived my PhD Viva

By Apr.08, 2014

I submitted my thesis on 24th January. Soon after, I was given a date for my viva: 26th March. Once I had the date, I felt able to think more clearly about the viva and how I’d prepare for it. Read more…..


Things I Learned From My Internal Evaluation

By Mar.13, 2014

Since my last post, I’ve submitted my thesis and started to prepare for my final viva, which is scheduled for later this month. My viva preparations have made me think back to my Internal Evaluation last year, the second progression point that I was required to pass to continue with my PhD. Read more…..

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Third Year Achievements

By Dec.04, 2013

Last Friday, I submitted my “Notice of Presentation of a PhD” form, on which I declared that I’ll submit my thesis on January 24th, 2014. It’s good to have an official deadline to work towards, as opposed to an “I’ll do it by the end of the week/month/year (delete as appropriate)” sort of deadline that you try to impose on yourself but is very easy to move (or to miss altogether). This mini-milestone got me thinking about what I achieved in the third year of my PhD.

In February, I passed my Internal Evaluation. I wrote a small version of my thesis based on the data I’d collected and analysed at the time, and set it out in the chapters that I envisaged having in the final document. This was useful for two reasons: it brought together all the work I’d done up until then, and allowed me to get some feedback from my supervisor and examiners on my plan for the structure of my thesis. The assessment itself was a useful experience, giving me a chance to practice defending my work. It turns out I’ll need a lot more practice before my Viva! I came away from the assessment thinking I’d done OK, but I still have a habit of doubting myself when I’m questioned, especially when the people questioning me are two professors. But I passed the assessment first time, and with valuable feedback from my examiners, was given the green light to carry on and write up.

After our wedding and honeymoon in April, I finished data collection with one more zoo visit to take the total number of hours I’ve spent watching cheetahs to 784. There are 37 cheetahs included in my sample, which is rather a large number for a zoo-based behavioural study.

In June, I had my second paper accepted for publication. The paper on coalition behaviour in male cheetahs was published in the journal Zoo Biology and has led to my supervisors and I submitting another article on the same theme. Hopefully it’ll be accepted before my Viva! A post on the cheetah paper was also published on the Thoughtful Animal blog on the Scientific American web site. (You can follow the author, Jason Goldman, on Twitter.)

Presenting at the 2nd International Symposium on Zoo Animal Welfare. Photo by Geoff Hosey

Presenting at the 2nd International Symposium on Zoo Animal Welfare.
Photo by Geoff Hosey

In July, I presented my work at an international conference for the first time at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago (the abstract for my talk is here). At the conference, I met the Collection Development Manager from Wellington Zoo, New Zealand. Thanks to him, I received cheetah personality questionnaires for a further 16 cheetahs, taking the total number of questionnaires to 120. This is the biggest sample size for any study of big cat personality that I’m aware of.

As I write this, I’m struck by the fact that all these events probably deserved their own blog post. I’ll try and catch up soon. In the meantime, back to thesis writing!

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Back in the office

By Aug.15, 2012

A couple of milestones have passed since I wrote my last post. My review paper has been firmly accepted and will appear in Animal Welfare in November. I hope this will be the first publication of many! I also gave my first full conference paper at the Salford Postgraduate Annual Research Conference (SPARC), which I then adapted for the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) Research Symposium.  Read more…..

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Half way there….

By Mar.20, 2012

I’m finding it hard to believe that I’m exactly half-way through my PhD. Strangely, it also feels like a long time since I wrote this post about the first six months. Now seems like a good time to make another list of things I’ve done so far.


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Things I Learned From My Interim Assessment

By Jan.19, 2012

During the last week before the Christmas break I had my PhD Interim Assessment. The purpose of the exam is to assess the progress made during the first year, and to make sure that the project is likely to meet the requirements of the award of a PhD.



Good News for Chester’s Cheetah Cubs

By Jan.17, 2012

Happy New Year!

I’m currently working on my first post of 2012 but I wanted to share some good news from Chester Zoo.

After the sad loss of their sisters in November, Rufaa and Juba have recovered well from cowpox and are now allowed back outside into their enclosure along with mum, KT. I was collecting data at Chester before Christmas and it was a shame that they were still confined indoors whilst I was there. This is fantastic news and I look forward to seeing them again on my next visit!



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Kinza and Shendi

By Nov.24, 2011

In between writing and publishing my last post there has been some very sad news from Chester Zoo. The two female cheetah cubs, Kinza and Shendi, have passed away. It’s believed that they contracted cowpox from a wild rodent. I would like to pass on my condolences to the carnivore keepers at Chester, I know they will be devastated and they work so hard. Here’s hoping that KT and her two male cubs, Rufaa and Juba, get well soon.


A Varied Teaching Schedule

By Nov.24, 2011

My teaching schedule has been quite hectic recently and I’ve been involved in teaching an array of different sessions this semester in the classroom, the field and the laboratory. Last week, three separate sessions made me think about the variety of teaching that my GTA role has entailed.


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My Journey So Far

By Oct.20, 2011

My answer to Meme 2 of the Writing Researcher Challenge: How did you get here?