Sunday, April 28, 2013


This weekend, I was in Byron Bay (Lismore's consolation factor) refreshing my scuba diving skills to be able to go dive at Julian Rocks off the coast next weekend and...

I met another forestry student! A first-year/freshman forestry student! She's awesome AND SHE'S INTERESTED IN COMING TO NAU!!! Oh happy day. Someone who already knew about the exchange opportunity and is interested! *giddy inside* I love this girl and I've only known her about thirty-six hours. Fingers crossed that she goes! It wouldn't be for another year or so. My planning personality has already kicked into overdrive thinking of the classes she should take before she goes and what to expect. Ahhh! I'm so excited :) She would be the first SCU student to study at NAU since 2008. About damned time! This deserves a repeat of the Captain Picard meme:
(Last time, I promise =] )
How does it figure that I spend three months taking environmental science classes and only meet another forestry student scuba diving outside of school (apart from the upper level students I met a few weeks ago)? I love it! Now, to find the rest of these forestry rascals hiding about.

Hope you are all well.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Today, April 25, besides being my best friend's birthday, is known as Anzac Day in Australia. It is the most important national holiday, honoring past and present soldiers in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (hence ANZAC). April 25, 1915, Anzac troops set out on their first expedition as part of the Allied forces to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey) but after eight months and 8,000 Australian casualties, the Allied forces were evacuated. The day of the landing, April 25, became a day of remembrance for all military personnel who served and died in action. It's a bit of a combination between Veterans Day and Memorial Day in the USA (Veterans Day celebrates all those who served and Memorial Day celebrates and remembers all those who died while serving. I confess, I had to look that one up). In terms of national significance, Anzac Day is on the level of the Fourth of July, garnering much more public support, participation, and pride than perhaps either Veterans or Memorial Day get back home these days. The day starts with a Dawn Service to commemorate the "stand-to" of waiting for enemy attack and have a silent vigil to remember those lost. The morning memorial ceremony includes a parade and ceremony that includes "an introduction, hymn, prayer, an address, laying of wreaths, a recitation, the Last Post, a period of silence, either the Rouse or the Reveille, and the national anthem" (see for more).

I attended the parade and memorial ceremony this morning. I love the feeling of national unity and shared emotion for a common cause and I was really excited to watch the parade. It started with a bagpiping group in full regalia and followed with various military branches and organizations as well as children from schools all around Lismore, and of course, veterans. The ceremony included all the elements above. The main address was given by a Major in the Australian army who works to promote rights of services for contemporary veterans. The ceremony was held at the Lismore cenotaph war memorial. Below are some photos of the parade and memorial.

It should also be noted that Anzac cookies are a popular part of this day. Anzac cookies are rolled oat cookies that military wives supposedly sent soldiers overseas because of their long shelf life. Younger Australians seem to celebrate Anzac Day with several games of "Two-Up", a coin tossing gambling game that Wikipedia says is best played with pennies. How they play with pennies is beyond me since Australia's lowest coin is the five-cent coin. Guess they stash all the old pennies and bring them out once a year.

All in all, today was a really nice insight to Australian culture and it was beautiful sunny day. I'm a fan of any event that includes bagpipes. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Freshman once again

Dorm life, roommates, no car, weight gain, lifestyle adjustments, communicable diseases, sleep deprivation. Yep, I feel like a freshman again.

To be clear, I live in a flat with five other roommates, all of whom are wonderful. But after having lived on my own for two years, "master of my domain" and all, sharing a small space with so many people definitely had its challenges, especially with those new to living away from home. I'm going to feel like a proud, giddy spinster when I get to my cabin on the North Rim and have a place all to my own.

Not having my own car. Well, I can tell you that I'm a bit worried about the first time I drive again back in the States. I'm now used to riding on the left side of the car, I only look left first about half of the time now, and I'm just not sure if it'll be the same as riding a bicycle. Besides that, though, small and rather unvaried as Lismore is, I would enjoy the town a lot better if I had the independence of my own vehicle. The SCU campus is not conveniently located near the downtown area or any shopping area for that matter. I have a feeling there's a big difference between the "nightlife" and the dinner-time crowd downtown and I suspect I'd fit in more with the group going out for a drink and a bite to eat than the young, hip[ster] nightlife crowd.

The freshman fifteen. Ugh, what a nightmare. Thankfully, that extreme has not been reached (I think I'd cry if that ever happened), but weight gain was definitely an aspect of my experience here. That trend is on the reverse, no thanks to three cumulative weeks of being indisposed with bouts of the cold virus (hence communicable diseases. What did you think I meant?), stress from procrastinating on writing that research report I just couldn't quite finish (let alone start) before I left for Australia, and flat out laziness.

I won't lie. It took me the better part of three months to figure out a healthy routine here. Between staying on campus late to utilize internet, dabbling in Australian party life, being sick and injured for several weeks (inhibiting my exercising frequency/motivation), and figuring out how to fairly store a week's worth of food in a fridge shared by six, I struggled to take charge of my lifestyle. Last week I had a breakthrough and *fingers crossed*, I think I've got it down now. I'm still fighting senioritis to the nth degree and general apathy toward school work but I think with this upswing, that will improve. The key is sleep. Sleep and exercise. I can check the latter off my list for today but for now, time to sleep. So goodnight to you all and Happy ANZAC Day!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sounds like home

Lismore is in a very rainy area of New South Wales (the Northern Rivers area to be exact). Three weeks of solid rain welcomed most of the students back to uni in February and we've had rain systems passing through quite regularly since then. But, with as much rain as Lismore receives, there have only been a few true thunderstorm systems. Tonight was one of them. It began raining about two hours ago with some spectacularly close lightening and the thunder has continued to rumble in the background. I love listening to thunderstorms. It reminds me of monsoon season in northern Arizona, practically the only time it can rain steadily for two hours straight. All at once I feel nostalgic and excited for home. In less time than I'm maybe ready for, I'll be going back to Flagstaff and in just a few short months I'll be sitting in my cabin on the North Rim listening to the thunderstorms outside; something so powerful that is so incredibly peaceful. I love that I can listen to this storm and feel like a part of home is here with me. And while I'm not counting down the days or even the weeks before I come home, I am looking forward to monsoon season. For now, time for a cup of tea and a glimpse of the future.


Monday, April 15, 2013

One down, two to go

Before I left for Australia, I knew I wanted to bring a few things with me to help prevent homesickness and help me to feel more at home and comfortable in my new dorm that I share with five other people. Among these were a selection of my many sarongs that triple as wall decorations, extra blankets, and clothing. Another item I brought was the largest bottle of Sriracha sauce I could find. Over the last couple of years, I have been exposed to a variety of excellent hot sauces by the kindness of a wonderful friend and Sriracha became one of my indispensable favorites to have around the house (who needs ketchup when you've got Sriracha?). My parents, submitting to my pleas for food from home, sent me not only one, but two bottles of Sriracha, bless them. 
So, first thoughts when I opened the box and saw these little (well, large) beauties: I've been here two months. I leave in two months. And I only just finished the first bottle. 

Solution: Share the love, of course! As an only child, I naturally hide (or horde, take your pick) things I don't really want to share with other people. I'm very selfish. But even I don't think I could reasonably go through two large bottles of Sriracha in two months. I like the stuff; I don't want to make myself hate it. So roomies, have at it!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

To prove I am actually in school over here...

Just in case y'all were curious, I've decided to use this post as a method of studying wetland types for my Wetland Ecosystems class. If you don't care, just don't read on.

Now, if you ever wondered what the bleep the difference was between a swamp or a marsh, or what the hell a fen is, never fear. I've got you covered (Maybe. I'm learning too!). To make it fun, keep in mind every movie that's ever used one of these and we can test together if Hollywood always or never gets it right. See below, beautiful people.

Swamp: wetland dominated by trees.
Movie examples: Gollum calls that endless marsh a swamp, right? My memory is failing me. I think it would be a marsh. Maybe a fen. In any case...Don't follow the lights!

Marsh: wetland dominated by herbaceous plants
Movie examples: Lord of the Rings?

Bog: typically alkaline wetland dominated by peat-rooted sedges and sphagnum moss (I had to look that one up. It's a genus of moss commonly referred to as peat moss that can grow in wet habitats and stores lots of water really well, even when dead, and in drier conditions. That's cool, right?). Bog of Eternal Stench, anyone? Sounds better than Swamp of Eternal Stench.

Fen: wetland dominated by sedges and grasses rooted in shallow peat. Mostly common to Canada. Usually alkaline.
Movies: I have no idea...

Wet meadow: wetland dominated by herbaceous plants rooted in flooded soils. We've got lots of these in northern Arizona but there are hardly any in Australia because of the variable rainfall. At least, that's what my professor tells me. I feel like I've seen some wet meadows though. 
Movies: what movie line says "Hey, go check out that wet meadow over yonder!" Yeah, right. 

Shallow water: wetland community dominated by true aquatic plants in >25cm of water.
Movies: Again, not quite sure where this would be referenced in a movie.

Wetlands are important because water flow slows or becomes stagnant due to the presence of rooted plants. The slow-flowing water allows the plants to act as filters, trapping sediments and nutrients, which makes wetlands more productive than surrounding ecosystems. However, bacteria can use up the available oxygen really quickly especially in stagnant waters which can lead to rapid accumulation of methane, hydrogen sulphide, and ammonia (all causes of stinky wetlands). 

Wetland Function and Services (as taken from my class slide notes):

  • Runoff regulation and flood prevention (wetlands slow the velocity of water)
  • Soil erosion prevention and sediment control
  • Soil fertility maintenance
  • Organic matter and nutrients storage and recycling
  • Biological diversity maintenance
  • Carrier (human habitat, cultivation, recreation, aesthetics)
  • Production (produce oxygen, medicinal and genetic resources)
  • Information (historical, religious, spiritual)
Why else are wetlands important? They store an enormous amount of carbon and can act as carbon sinks. They are very sensitive to climatic changes especially at high latitudes, which are most threatened under a warming climate (think melting permafrost and a carbon sink suddenly becoming a carbon source). Additionally, wetlands areas are decreasing rapidly because of infilling, drainage, urban expansion, and peat extraction.

Maybe that wasn't fun per se but I hope you learned something. Helped me out. Time to take my quiz! 

New Zealand post is still in progress.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Campfire Talk

There's something wonderful about a campfire in the bush on a rainy night and waking up to the smell of smoke still in my hair. 

Earlier this week I finally met some other forestry students from SCU. Lauded though the program here may be, the number of students is very small. Currently, there are fourteen first years (freshmen) who remain ambiguously out of touch and only about four students slated to graduate in the next year. The number of faculty and lecturers is barely half a dozen and the program offices are tucked away in a hidden section of the sciences buildings. It was by chance that I found the professor who helped set up this exchange program and after meeting with him about a month ago, I was a little discouraged at how small the program was, how out of touch he was with anyone at NAU, and how negatively forestry is viewed in this part of Australia. [The one time I wore my NAU Forestry t-shirt, the green one with the crossed axes, I got some very odd looks]. The Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, where Lismore is, is a very "hippie" area with a lot of environmental activism and protesting of things like coal seam gas mining (A.K.A. fracking). That's an issue in and of itself but my point is that this culture of protesting anything that appears outwardly harmful or destructive explains a bit why many people's faces tend to shut down or become disinterested when I say I'm a forestry major. SCU seems to have a very strong environmental sciences program but forestry is the black sheep, the ugly duckling, and even some of my environmental science professors are outspokenly against forestry.

I'm still trying to get a feel for how large the forest industry is here in Australia but from what I'm told, there are not many job openings. There's no National Forest Service with an abundance of seasonal positions like in the US, though state forest land is managed primarily for timber. Private industry provides most of the old-school forestry-type jobs as far as I can tell. Many of the forestry students at SCU are external, meaning they take many of their classes online and come for a week in the middle of the semester to do all the lab work within a short, three-day period. Consequently, I finally met a few forestry blokes this week and spent a couple nights out with them. I was so excited to finally have the chance to meet some other forestry students (I'm a geek, what can I say) and these guys did not disappoint. Nearly all of them have some level of experience in the timber industry that far surpasses my own knowledge and I envy them their experience. I love silviculture with a passion but have never had any "on the job" application with it outside of the one semester back home at NAU. One of the guys here was a third-generation logger in Tasmania before the industry fell out and reminds me of some one of those big Logging Sports guys from Montana or OSU that I often heard about from our Logging Sports team members. He knows his forestry and forest operations better than any professor back home or here even, I'm sure, and acts as a student liaison, something he's well suited to. And, his name is Mick. It's a common Aussie nickname, but it just makes everything that much more awesome.

Anyways, last night he, his wife, and a couple other forestry blokes took me with them on their habitual residential-week excursion into the bush. I'm not saying these guys are rednecks, but they are very close to the redneck stereotype, in the best possible way (I can say that, my dad's a redneck). Getting a campfire going in near-constant 100% humidity is not an easy task, but they made it happen. I finally made a connection to forestry people and if I'm lucky, Mick and his wife, Carly, will take me hiking with them sometime soon! (Since I went hiking in New Zealand, I've been chomping at the bit wanting to go hiking more. Not having a car of my own sucks!). 

For all you NAU forestry people wanting to come here, I'm going to do my best before I leave to get an active communication going again between the two forestry departments and I'm going to try to track down the first year students here to get them interested in going to NAU. I would be so excited to see an Aussie student at NAU again and I think they could get a lot out of it. Because the program here is so small, many classes are only offered every other year, but for those of you wanting to come next year, you're going to have the opportunity to take some really neat subjects. I believe Native Forest Silviculture, Forest Operations, and Wildland Fire Ecology are all being offered next year. The first one I was most excited about of course, but I would have loved to take the other two to get an Australian perspective and also because Forest Operations back home was just... Well, I'll leave it at that. Apparently, it suffered similarly here last time it was offered but I think it would be worth taking again especially since there's basically no timber industry in the Southwest USA and there is more here. The fire class is basically like the intro class back home but I've only gotten bits and pieces of fire ecology in Australia and I think this class would at the very least give you a great understanding of fire in this part of the world. 

The picture I painted may seem a little bleak and discouraging, and it is a bit. Unfortunately, the forestry program here at SCU is undergoing its own challenges very similarly to NAU's. It's not 100% perfect but the experience is absolutely well worth it. Do not let me discourage any of you who were interested in coming here. Without a doubt, it is one of the best things I've done in my life and even if my "forestry" experiences here have seemed a little lacking, it's only because I wasn't proactive enough in the beginning to make the connection. Don't expect people to find you; you go find them! So I challenge you all: Go get 'em and good on ya for doing it.



Gifts from home! Time to bring the heat Down Under

About a month and a half ago, I expressed to my parents that I was seriously missing green chilis from home (the chili pickings here are rather slim) and entreated them to send me some. I was also concerned that I would run out of my beloved Sriracha sauce, one thing that I brought with me just to have something from home to help me settle in. Well, they promised to send me a care package and just look at all the loot! The biggest and most wonderful surprise of all was the new Nalgene bottle I got. If you didn't know, a few weeks after I arrived, my beloved purple Nalgene bottle cracked majorly after I dropped it (for about the millionth time) and since then I've used another one that's perfectly functional but [semi embarrassingly] decorated with an "I <3 Dolphins" sticker across it. I tell you, I had the biggest smile on my face when I saw the new Nalgene. Not bad for a belated Easter basket if I do say so myself :)

I'm excited to make my flatmates some real New Mexico-style green chili stew now. Thing is, it took me two months to go through one bottle of Sriracha... Now I've got two! I will definitely be sharing the Sriracha love down here. Thank you, Mom and Dad! =)

And yes, that is a TY Beanie Baby duckling. Blast from the past, eh?

New Zealand post coming soon! Also, I met some actual forestry students yesterday. It's wonderful to finally connect with some like-minded individuals, in terms of academic passion/interest. More on that later...