Sunday, 17 November 2013

Treasure hunting

I am writing the methods section of my proposal. This is the part I have been looking forward to the least: finding out about stuff that I find difficult, wading through thick, sludgy papers with abstract nouns and acronyms and maths floating in them like giant sludge monsters. In the past it has been hell trying to learn anything about what software does (other than vague descriptors such as "demographic history estimation"), or how to use it.

This time, the learning process is a little different (at least so far). It is less like wading through a polluted mud flat and more like a treasure hunt. I guess I have become habituated to some of the jargon and it doesn't intimidate me any more (though I certainly don't understand what most of it means, and looking it up is confusing rather than clarifying). I can just skim over it, pluck out what I need and move on. As an undergraduate I was always told to read every paper all the way through, but ignoring that advice with regards to computer programs and statistics has saved me a lot of time, frustration and feeling like an idiot. I can chip away at the rest of the information in the papers once I have got to grips with the program, and maybe that will help me to do more things or improve my results.

In other news, I have got my hands on a leaf blower which will hopefully locate Cantuaria burrows by flipping up the trapdoor lids. I'm hoping to go looking for the spiders some time this week, and I'm also going to put out some pitfall traps and ramp traps (an alternative to pitfall traps which doesn't involve digging a hole) to see if I can collect some spiders that way. Since only male Cantuaria are supposed to wander about (unless a female is infected with a gigantic nematode which makes her head for water), I'm not too hopeful about the trapping as their mating season isn't until around April. But the leaf blowing will hopefully be fruitful.