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An interview on 'How to write a PhD'

15 April 2022

Interview with Daniel Shea from Scholarly Communication

Daniel contacted me some time back about doing an interview for his podcast on Scholarly Communication. I had a listen to excerpts of some of his previous interviews and wrote back with enthusiasm. I had a copy of How to Write a PhD in Biological Sciences  delivered to Daniel and we set a date for the interview. I had spent some time working on the next book (How to Publish in Biological Sciences) and so did a quick recap of the contents of How to Write a PhD in Biological Sciences  in the morning before the interview. Nevertheless, I was not feeling particularly well prepared when we started talking. Daniel explained that he would give a prepared introduction, and after this would launch into the interview.

It was quite a shock when Daniel gave a very lengthy introduction including reading a quote from the book. What struck me most was that he had actually read the book - apparently from cover to cover (not something that I'd advise for anyone wanting to use it!). His insights were eye opening. He had picked up on exactly why I wrote the book and that it is likely to be of use to people beyond only those writing PhDs in Biological Sciences. Moreover, Daniel had me thinking very hard on my feet about exactly why it is that we have built up a system with so much assumed knowledge. 

I should qualify the statement on assumed knowledge by adding that this may not be the case for all students (PhD, MSc or others). There are certainly some students who are well informed, and have all the knowledge on the system that they are working within prior to starting their PhDs. It's hard to know exactly where this came from and whether it was in the form of curricula based activities or that they had benefited from exceptionally good contacts. Evidently, the book is not needed by all students, but my experience, both as an uninitiated student and as an advisor, suggests that a great many would gain some benefit from the contents.

I was also very happy that Daniel was enthusiastic for the Bookdown approach. I may not have given a particularly useful explanation of what Bookdown is or why it's so great, but I would encourage you to go look at a product:

To listen to Daniel Shea's interview with me, visit:

  Lab  Writing

A checklist for Angolan herps

01 April 2022

A trip to Angola 13 years ago...

It seems like a long time ago when in January 2009 we set off up the N7 through Namibia to Angola to join a SANBI expedition to the southern highlands of Angola and Iona National Park. Our team on reptiles and amphibians consisted of Krystal Tolley and myself (then from SANBI) and Bill Branch and Werner Conradie (from BayWorld). We were just one component of many teams from different disciplines that joined forces to inventory the biodiversity of southern Angola.

As time has gone by, there have been many more trips to Angola with many more people involved. Together, all of this data represents an important resource, and has now been written up as an updated herpetofaunal inventory for Iona National Park by Javier Lobón-Rovira and colleagues, and published in the journal Check List.

With 5 amphibians (the park is essentially a desert) and 70 reptile species, the new check list records 40 of these for the first time in Iona National Park. This is a remarkable achievement.

Read the full paper Open Access here.

Lobón-Rovira J, Vaz Pinto P, S. Becker F, Tolley KA, Measey J, Bennet B, Boon B, de Sá S, Conradie W (2022) An updated herpetofaunal species inventory of Iona National Park in southwestern Angola. Check List 18(2): 289-321.

  Frogs  Lab
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