Thursday, February 28, 2013


The irony of it all. I've just completed uploading my budget and budget justification to Fastlane (NSF's system for electronic proposal submissions) last night. A large proposal with over 10 PIs, thus with only a small portion going to me, of course. Still, this will be my first proposal submission where I am listed as a PI.

Of course, you've probably heard about a little thing called the Sequester. Its almost as hard to ignore in D.C. as a Red Sox win while living in Boston. Our proposal is due next Monday... the first week when funds will be sequestered away from all of the federal agencies.  NSF has reassured scientists across the country that existing grants will be honored. However... new grants are on the chopping block. We may have put all of this effort in and in the end have a 0% chance of being funded (as opposed to the normal 5-30% chance).

Ah... its good to be an early career scientist.

Back from the haze and diving down deep

I've now mostly caught up from being away for 3 weeks and have gotten over the 12 hour jet lag. So, really, I have no more excuses not to post something. Luckily from me, Deep Sea News had a great post to day on what it takes to be a deep sea biologist. I'm a little afraid that I'm revealing too much about myself, as obviously gone through all of their points to fully embrace the insanity of deep sea biology.  Here's #1:

"Love and Pain…Like Sunshine and Rain. Welcome to Deep-Sea Science.  Before you start, you better realize what exactly you are heading into.  Deep-sea science can be both extremely rewarding and extremely heart breaking.  To be a deep-sea scientist is to be one part scientist, one part explorer, and three parts masochist. The logistical difficulties and financial requirements of sampling an environment covered with miles of water will pretty much make every project you want to do either impossible or close to it.  While other graduates students and scientists in your department drive a truck down to their field site and take samples till the cows come home, you will be having a nervous breakdown because of insufficient data.  A project that takes other scientists a weekend and $250 to do will take you three years and $250,000. So, deep-sea science is not for the faint of heart.  However, if you can manage to get a chance (which likely will not happen), then you will probably discover something new, a species, a habitat, a process, or a biological adaptation. Deep-sea science is a young field compared to many other science disciplines.  You will never be at a loss for questions, because most of the answers are still unknown.  Too bad you won’t be able address all of them.  I write this with tongue-in-cheek of course, but I am serious.  This is a tough field and doing deep-sea science isn’t easy.  Think about this for some time before you move to number 2."

#2 - 11 found here

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Adapt to this...

Part of what I'm in Indonesia to do is to review a marine program which includes efforts to help Indonesian coastal communities adapt to climate change. Most of the effort is focused on rural villages on remote islands. I must say, it makes for good site visits.... do you sense the but?  Here it is... but there's a HUGE problem in the urban areas.

While Jakarta looks like its headed towards Panem with the huge shopping malls and high fashion, its still a third world, developing city. I've already experienced the open sewers, ad hoc landfills and 100% unsafe piped water, but today was another adventure.

An hour or two of rain. That's all it took to cause massive gridlock (in an already congested traffic pattern) due to flooded streets.  After waiting 30 min for a taxi we ordered from the hotel (all of the taxis are full when in rains), we decided to trek it. We waded through ankle to mid-calf high water for about a mile to get to our hotel.

The water itself wasn't an issue - just standing water, no current - as long as I didn't think about what was IN the water. I mention the open sewers, right? Eww.  The bigger issue was that the sidewalks and streets are in such disrepair, you never knew if you were about to step in a giant hole. I also kept imagining a car going my and splashing us - like in the movies. But the cars weren't going fast enough to get more than a wave going. Luckily, we made it back to the hotel with no twisted ankles... just wet and with shoes that should likely be tossed out.

As a colleague at USAID said... "Welcome to Jakarta."

Monday, February 4, 2013

Meetings in Jakarta

The first thing that I learned about Jakarta was that physical displacement was HARD to do. Often you could walk to meetings faster than you can drive... that is if there were sidewalks and it wasn't 85-90 degrees plus 90% humidity, oh and yeah, the air pollution (though I'm told that its leagues better than it was 10 years ago). I learned my lesson the hard way... I was nearly late for my first meeting.

Brown flood waters fill the streets of central Jakarta
I took 45 min to go 2.5 miles; and then tack on another 10 minutes to get an elevator... and I was a couple minutes late for a meeting at the UN. Luckily it was an informal meeting and we ended up at Starbucks in search for air conditioning.

First, you might be asking why we were on the search for AC. Well, the UN's AC was out due to electricity problems following the massive floods in Jakarta after a rivers spilled over and flood gates had to be raised. Luckily for me, most of the flooding had receded by the time I arrived, but we still took some taxis through a couple of questionable streets in both Jakarta and then in Kendari.

Second, you might be thinking... Starbucks?  Yes, in many ways it was like taking a different mix of ethnicities and throwing them into a city in the USA. Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Ace Hardware, Gap, Banana Republic, and the list of familiar names goes on and on. The defining differences between Jakarta and a US city, the traffic is a little worse than say DC or LA, but really its the slums two blocks away that surround the skyscraper islands. Its a strange mix of modern and traditional, economic growth and adverse poverty. Thus is Jakarta... an embodiment of the two worlds of Indonesia.

After learning my lesson about the speed of physical mobility in Jakarta, I planned better for meetings across town with USAID, the Indonesian government, and with our "partners". "Partners" in USAID speak means the companies and NGOs to which we give money to actually implement the development activities. I'm not good at names and I've even worse when they're names I don't know.  Its a good thing I've been collecting business cards... though I'm worried I'm running out of my USAID cards!!

All and all it was a long and crazy week in a Jakarta.