What is the equivalent of a post-doc in other countries?

So, if you’ve decided that you really did love doing your PhD, and want to carry on doing research, there are pretty much two options open to you.

Option one: you are included in new grant application either with your PhD supervisor or a new research group.

Option two: you get on every mailing list you can, and scour university vacancy pages for an exciting advert.

In ecology and conservation, there are going to be a lot of interesting positions in other countries. However, its not necessarily clear what level these positions refer to, and unless you happen to know someone who has navigated the system in that country, it can be tricky to find out. I don’t remember having the UK academic career system formally explained to me at any point in my PhD, let alone the system of another country.

I just came across the European University Institute webpages, and they have a brilliant break down of the academic career paths in a wide number of different countries. Seems to me that this is a key resource for navigating job adverts in a field where people are generally very mobile and keen to work all over the world. I thought it was well worth highlighting. Enjoy.



New Website for Oxford Community Ecology Group!

The research group where I did my PhD now has an excellent new website, with up to date information on research projects, recent publications and PhD/Post Doc opportunities.  Definitely worth looking at it you are interested in tropical ecology, insects (particularly dung beetles!), conservation, and the processes that sustain the incredible species richness of the rainforests:



looking for riparian buffer zone legislation!

So far, ecological research on riparian zones (the land next to rivers, streams and lakes) gives a lot of different recommendations for management of these areas – a real challenge for setting up good environmental policies!

One of the most important guidelines refers to the width of riparian buffer zones. These are the corridors of natural habitat that are protected along rivers. They are crucial for maintaining water quality and biodiversity within the water and on the river banks. However, the required width for riparian buffer zones, which you’d think might be simple to specify, is pretty tricky to pin down.

riparian reserve river

River with healthy riparian buffer!

In spite of this, lot of countries do have pretty good legislation on how wide riparian buffers should be. As I’ve been talking to more people about my PhD research on riparian zones in oil palm plantations, and their role in biodiversity conservation, its become clear that there is quite a lot of variation in what different countries require by law.

I’m really interested in finding out how well the laws in place in different countries match up to the ecological recommendations. In particular, I’m looking for a description of how many meters of natural habitat have to be kept by the side of water bodies (rivers, lakes, or streams) – in the UK, for example, we only have to have 20m of vegetation on each side of a river (http://www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/INFD-6MVK4U).  Where I was working in malaysia for my PhD, the requirement varies between 5 and 50 m depending on the width of the river.

Theres lots of countries that it is hard to find the legislation for, so I’m now looking for help!

If you know where to find these requirements for your country, or the place where you do your research, and you might be able to help out, that would be great!  Either comment on this blog below or email me.

Thanks very much!

Data is art

I’ve recently been to some pretty inspiring events on data visualisation. Seeing information presented in striking, unusual and engaging ways is really exciting. There is a lot of detailed data out in the world, and a lot of different ways to make it accessible, beautiful and fun. Data visualisation skills are essential in conservation biology, a field in which communicating results to a wide audience effectively is really important.  There are a lot of info-graphics out there that immediately look exciting and then actually turn out to be confusing, or complicated and over-enthusiastically multicoloured, but luckily there’s a good number of really excellent graphics too.

Here are some of the things I’ve recently found and enjoyed looking at…

Carbon emissions by Stanford Kay, a pretty classic infographic:

Carbon Footprint

An infographic history of the world by valentinadefilippo highlighting how much of life is made up of single-celled organisms:

A reimagined periodic table by stefanie posavec showing similarities between different elements:


OneZoom is an impressive (although occasionally nauseating) fractal zooming tour of the history of the natural world:

The field of commemoration and listen-to-wikipedia-being-created-in-real-time are stunning entries into last years information is beautiful awards:


And if enjoying the images isnt enough… there are some big pots of money out there for the winners of data-vis challenges:



Landscapes for people, food and nature

I was invited to write a blog piece on our riparian reserve research for the Landscapes for Food, People and Nature Initiative.


The initiative fosters cross-sectoral dialogue, learning and action to improve food sustainability and biodiversity conservation. The partners involved include UNEP, the World Resources Institute, The World Agroforestry Centre, Conservation International and several others. Their aim is “to understand and support integrated agricultural landscape approaches to simultaneously meet goals for food production, ecosystem health and human wellbeing.” They are carrying out a global review of knowledge on integrated sustainable land management, through which they put people in touch with a wider range of beneficiaries of ecosystem services and help establish new institutions to manage rural and urban landscapes. 

My post “Assessing sustainable palm oil production with the help of dung beetles” has just gone out on their website.

Better palm oil debate


I was invited to submit a piece on my research to the Better Palm Oil Debate; an independent platform for discussion of issues surrounding palm oil.

The main message is that we can retain more species within oil palm plantations by protecting small amounts of native forest. Even though riparian reserves appear to be narrow, degraded strips of habitat, they can provide resources for many species that would not otherwise survive in oil palm plantations.

The full text is available at:


The first paper I’ve published on this data is open access and available to all, here.