It’s that time of year again when I write a reflective piece on the year that was.
But… has it really been a year since the last one? Well- not exactly. The last one was posted on the 30th of December 2020, so I still have a week or so until it’s been a full twelve months, but…
Seriously, what even was this year?? 😂
I was right into my summer gardening. I dunno if it was the soil, or weather, or the fact I finally built a protective cover over my crop, but the tomatoes were going crazy. I had some strawberries growing as well, but the poor capsicums just got completely taken over by the tomatoes. 🍅 We didn’t get a good yield because of it, so I’ve refrained from planting tomatoes in both beds (more on that later).
I also learnt that using the copper infused, Eco-treated pine (as opposed to the cheaper, traditional treated pine which contains arsenic as well) meant that snails didn’t like climbing into the garden beds as much. Turns out, they hate copper. You can actually get copper strips to place around the perimeter of your garden beds to ward off snails if you wanted to (and had lots of money).
The two raised garden beds have been so handy this year.
Once autumn had kicked in I pulled all the tomatoes and capsicum plants out, and had sown seeds for broccoli and sugar snap peas. I also threw in some rocket and spinach seeds as well, and all of them ended up growing very well. Nothing like home grown vegetables to pick at through winter/spring.
I even expanded the garden beds and got a third one- although this one doesn’t have any netting or frames around it… for now. We’ll see how it goes.
This is how the garden looks today. You can see the beginnings of more tasty summer pickings on the way.
There is a bird’s eye chilli in here 🌶.
Also get a load of them cornflowers! So pretty! We also have so many more bees flying around now. 🐝
I dunno why but there’s a distinct shortage of yellow capsicum seedlings this year. At least, around where I live.
Note how the capsicums and tomatoes are in separate beds this year. 😂 we’ll see how they grow!
I also began my newest hobby (which is obviously still ongoing).
It’s since blown up in proportion (quite literally), in that it’s gone from 1 fish to 7 fish and two snails (snails that I purchased, not the pest ones that have also gone rampant), and also from a 29 L tank to a 76 L tank.
We’ve had some ups and downs along the way.
First we lost our first fish, Miele.
No idea why. The water parameters seemed fine. The other fish seemed perfectly fine…
But Miele is now resting beneath my beloved Ginkgo tree.
Because that way, they’ll always be a part of the family.
We still wanted a catfish, so I got Hoover shortly after.
Who’s undergone quite a rapid transformation!
Because as it turns out, he’s a golden Chinese algae eater. So while he looked dull and spotted as a juvenile, he is now fully orange.
Which matches with our mystery snail, Garry.
Note he still has spots here because this was taken a few months ago.
We also got three extra Danios after shifting everyone into the larger tank…
Which now looks a bit more like this…
I’d like to get more drift wood for hiding spots, but I’ll wait for the pay cheque after Christmas is over. 😂💸
Now, my last post was about me setting up the 29 L tank for a Betta, named Germaine.
Germaine was a beautifully blue Betta that just seemed perfect for the smaller tank. I even got a snail friend for him, and named him Larry.
Now, keen fish keepers might be able to tell already, but as he was my first Betta, I didn’t notice the initial signs of fin melt (a bacterial infection that causes the fins to curl and fuse together) until it was too late. You can see it a bit more in the first photo (roughly 18 hours post-purchase), and the discolouration/white tips of his fins in the last photo (upon purchase). Apparently those are the first few signs of fin melt/rot.
I tried treating him, but it was just too late. The progression was so rapid in the end that he’d passed before I could really do anything. The water parameters again seemed fine, and I’d literally just done a 25% water change before I got him (in a pre-established/cycled tank)… *sigh* 😞
The tank is currently empty (except for other pest snails). Larry is in the main tank with everyone else. It would be nice to try and get another Betta again, but definitely not any time soon. It was all quite traumatic, as you can imagine.
Germaine is now lying beneath my Japanese Maple (a housewarming gift from my mum), so that he can also be a part of the family forever.
On a more positive note, we’ve really cranked up the camping trips this year (at least, compared to last year).
We’re very happy with our set up and location thus far. I can’t really see us going anywhere else any time soon, although my partner is keen to do lightweight camping one day.
Given I’m not super keen on summer camping (food spoilage, billions of bugs, heat, bushfire risk…), we were thinking of saving up leave and spending more days outdoors during autumn/winter. My work schedule should let me take some time off around then, so fingers crossed we get more opportunities to explore the area next year.
If anyone was curious about our gear as well, I made a post about it.
In terms of the main content (i.e. Ph. D stuff, science stuff, career stuff), I wrote a few career pieces for Ph. D students at the start of the year, including whether you need a LinkedIn profile or not as you approach the end of your degree, a piece to explain why resourcefulness is one of the most useful skills after a Ph. D, and a piece on how to take criticism.
I wrote a post for International Day of Women and Girls in Science to thank all of my amazing female mentors (and peers) who have shaped me into the person I am today. Both of my Ph. D supervisors are truly inspiring women, but they’re among a cohort of other awesome women and girls who I’ve met along the way.
There were a number of other posts this year, but the highlights or most popular ones were the top ten useful skills after a Ph. D, Academia vs Industry, when to decide to call it quits on your degree, a little post addressed to lab newbies, why I’m generally against doing a Ph. D (cLiCkBaIt), and what makes a good scientist.
I also wrote up my entire Oration, too. I’m still very content with my Ph. D, and I’ll always hold bacteria close to my heart (but not too close, because then I’ll be very sick!).
Also I tried that Twitter trend of getting an AI program to illustrate your thesis, and this is what it came up with.
But speaking of bugs, if you’d like a cool school holiday project/fun for your
terrors children, here’s a fun little experiment you can do with yeast.
Overall this year still feels like it’s gone too quickly. Everything feels like a blur now, and I don’t know how it’s almost 2022.
On a personal note, I’ve spent most of the year living in fear that I’ll pass on COVID to someone I care about. Obviously I’m vaccinated (triple vaccinated now! For which I am eternally grateful), but I just worry that I’ll inadvertently catch it and pass it on to someone else who might not be as protected as I am. Because at the end of the day, vaccinations aren’t about protecting yourself. It’s about protecting those around you who may be more vulnerable (i.e. immunocompromised). Children who are yet to be vaccinated, elderly people whose immune systems might not have mounted a good response against their vaccine doses- hell, people with decreased immune systems because of illness/disabilities… I just don’t want them to get sick because of me- and it terrifies me still.
But obviously it’s not all been bad. I definitely handled lockdowns better this year than I did last year- mostly because my partner is now living with me and we’re not separated for months at a time. That’s been a huge improvement overall.
I’ve kicked some work goals by organising a conference, which taught me to appreciate admin people even more… That yeast experiment I developed above will now be part of my casual teaching job… but also a part of the science curriculum at a local high school, because the teacher there loved the set up so much that they wanted to adopt it for their own use.
Oh! And I drew stuff!! For a review article!
It’s on how our body’s initial line of defence (the innate immune response) fights against influenza during infection in the upper respiratory tract- basically from your neck up. The flu virus and torso I borrowed the template from Biorender, but the rest I drew from scratch while using Biorender’s templates as inspiration. Don’t worry, we have a subscription and we’ve acknowledged them in the publication.
I’ve no idea how next year will pan out. I’m not going to make any wishes or make any hopeful comments, because I always prepare for the worst (so that I’m never disappointed).
But all I can say now is, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and a Happy New Year, wherever you may be.
I hope you get a bit of a break and much needed rest.
And if you’d like to catch up on all my posts, please check out this index post.
See you next year!
Some food pics from the year…
A Ph. D graduate in Microbiology, residing in Victoria, Australia. Currently working in multiple locations but still in the STEM field. 👀 🦠 🧫 🧬