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Posts about: PhD

How I Survived my PhD Viva

8 April 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

13 March 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…..

Third Year Achievements

4 December 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!

Back in the office

15 August 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…..

Half way there….

20 March 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.

Read more…..

Things I Learned From My Interim Assessment

19 January 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.

Read more…..

Two More Zoos, Five More Cubs

21 September 2011

Suki and Juba at Marwell

I’m now coming to the end of the first year of my PhD – where has the year gone?! At the moment I’m preparing for my end of year assessment so my zoo trips are currently on hold, but so far I’ve visited eight zoos and collected 336 hours of behavioural data on 23 cheetahs. My most recent visits were to Marwell Wildlife and Whipsnade Zoo and there were interesting social groupings at both collections. Read more…..

Old Friends

21 August 2011

I had been looking forward to returning to Chester Zoo since I started collecting data. My Msc project was based solely at Chester, looking at how two pairs of male cheetahs (two siblings and two half-siblings) reacted to different housing conditions. Firstly, the two siblings were housed together before the arrival of the half-siblings. Then the four cheetahs were housed in two pairs, with the enclosure divided into two and one pair living on each side. The gate in the dividing fence was opened shortly afterwards, to allow all four access to the entire enclosure. Finally, one of the half-siblings left Chester and the remaining three cheetahs were housed in a trio. Read more…..

New Arrivals

2 August 2011

There was some exciting news at Chester Zoo this week as four, five week old cheetah cubs ventured outdoors for the first time. As luck would have it, I was studying the group of males there (more about them in my next post) so of course I was able to find the time to take some photos of the new arrivals with mum, Kinky Tail.

Read more…..

Patience

20 July 2011

So far I’ve visited five zoos to collect data on cheetah behaviour. I spend entire days at the cheetah enclosure and I record, from a list of behaviours, what each cheetah in the enclosure is doing, once per minute. Last week, for the first time, I was faced with a situation that no zoo researcher wants: an animal spending the majority of its time hiding! Read more…..