Bethany Templeton, Master of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan

Hi, I am Bethany. I grew up in a small town in southwest Quebec, near the American border. Since we lived in the bush, I spent a lot of time outside playing with sticks and leaves, and collecting dirt from the potholes on our long lane. I would go out diligently with my beach bucket and shovel to scoop up the fine, sandy matter that blew into the shallow wells. I also acquired a strainer so I could sieve out the undesirable pebbles. My dad helped me to drill holes in the top of my empty bubble containers so that I could shake out the “magical dust” that I had sieved. The worst days were when my dad grated the lane to fill the potholes, and I would have to wait a few weeks to go out and collect more stock. I guess, looking back, it should come as no surprise that I became a soil scientist.picture1

This is a picture of me at a restaurant on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador. 2019

When it became impossible to go collecting because of the weather I would pester my mom to teach me how to knit. Back then, she was really into knitting blankets and I was really into wanting to learn. Knitting was the first craft that I learned (age 6) and the first knit project I made was a bookmark. And that year, everyone (even my grade 1 teacher) got a wobbly, knobbly bookmark for Christmas. My grandma was so happy she put hers on the tree. Or maybe she put it on the tree so she wouldn’t have to use it!


This is the first Swedish weaving project that I did. It is a table runner. 2019.

My mom is a sewer, quilter and used to be knitter and her mom, my Gram, wasn’t big on crafting but, man, could she bake AND cook. My dad is a woodworker who makes wonderfully unique pieces out of recycled and reclaimed materials and his mom, my Grandma, is a bit like me. She likes to do a bit of everything. Her motto is to learn as much as you can because it is light to carry and you never know when it may come in handy.

In high school, I was the granny of my friend group. I think other kids thought I was weird but I liked what I was creating (during that phase was cross-stitch and baking cookies). When I got a sewing machine for my 15th birthday I was over the moon. There was no doubt then, kids thought I was weird. I can’t even remember how many pairs of boxer shorts and pajama pants I made. It seems all my friends got them for Christmas.

These are cards that I made for friends. Circa 2013.

When I started CEGEP (weird school in Quebec that is between high school and undergrad) and during my bachelor’s, I would give myself an hour every day to eat dinner, turn on a mindless tv show and crochet or knit. I can’t even remember how many afghans or hats I crocheted, or Izzy dolls I knit (check them out here: but it was a great way to destress and be creative. After my undergrad I was diagnosed with a nerve problem in my hands which effectively shut off my creative outlets. Since I now had a limit on how much I could do with my hands each day, I transferred my creativity from crafting to cooking. Since we all gotta eat, I figured why not get creative? Two birds, one stone.


Izzy dolls that I made during high school and CEGEP. 2006-2008.

When I started out, I was not a good cook, not even close. I was cocky and I thought, “Hey, how hard could this be? Just throw stuff in a pot and sprinkle in some spices that smell good.” Yeah right! Even my boyfriend at the time, who ate everything, did not want to eat my food. It was probably the first time I really failed at something creative.

Cooking was and still is essential, and I was still not a very good cook when I started my Masters. I knew how to make a few things but could never on a whim whip something up without a recipe. The more I cooked the more I learned and the more comfortable I became in the kitchen. When I started my Masters I was a vegetarian, and had been for about 5ish years. In the final year of my Masters I went vegan and so I had to learn how to cook in a different way. I was already used to tweaking recipes when baking and cooking gluten free since Megan, my roommate and blog-host, couldn’t eat gluten. She was a great guinea pig for my v-gf creations J Once I got the hang of cooking and baking vegan it was easy to de-glutenify it since we found an all-purpose mix to replace the flour. And although, even now, not all my attempts cooking and baking are successful, I’d say that about 98% of the time I get a thumbs up.


The first headband that I made. 2018.

When I finished my Masters, I moved to Ecuador. Moving to a new country with a very different culture and language is not easy, but I found comfort in what I recognized, food. Even though many of the spices and specialty foods were not available I was able to use my creativity and funnel it into the food I made (I was also lucky that I had thought ahead a bit and brought some of the spices that I really enjoy using). I still remember the day that I found Thai curry paste. I was so excited that I actually did a little dance in the grocery store! My creativity outside of the kitchen stagnated a bit once, but once I got a job at a local school my creativity was put to good use creating fun bulletin boards and other miscellaneous for our new media center.


This is the first quilt top that I have ever made. It was part of my 30 under 30 challenge. February 2019.

During my life I have tried so many different creative outlets. I tend to get really excited about something new, go out and buy supplies and maybe a book, and then figure it out. I will master it/practice until I am happy with the results that I am getting and then move onto the next challenge. Types of crafts I have tried:

  • Knitting
  • Crochet
  • Spool knitting
  • Friendship bracelets with embroidery floss
  • Hemp bracelets
  • Gimp bracelets
  • Beading
  • Quilling
  • Punch needle
  • Cross stitch
  • Embroidery
  • Filography (card embroidery)
  • Smocking
  • Swedish stars
  • Swedish weaving
  • Tatting
  • Pysanky
  • Painting with acrylics
  • Sewing- new fabric and upcycling old clothes
  • Latch hook rugs
  • Candle making
  • Woodworking
  • Tin punch
  • Headbands and hair ribbons
  • Quilting
  • Stained glass
  • Baking
  • Cooking

I would like to try weaving and spinning next. There is actually a local chapter where I live that teachers those who are interested how to spin. More recently, I have really gotten into DIY cosmetics and aromatherapy. We shall see where it takes me.

The year everyone got tatted snowflakes for Christmas. 2012.


Megan Hinzman, University of Saskatchewan, Master’s thesis linocuts

I was lucky enough in my Master’s thesis to be able to incorporate some of my artistic interests into my research. I carved linocuts (stamps) to represent my research findings from my 40 interviews on Haida Gwaii during the summers of 2015 and 2016. Below I have included segments from the second chapter of my thesis. I left much of the analysis out to focus on the linocuts and explaining my thought process behind them. However, if you are interested in reading the whole thing or would like to know references please email me at msh840 at .

After conducting my interviews on Haida Gwaii I started making word maps, theme webs, and other ways to visually represent my findings. This process evolved into more purely artistic imaginings of the data. I find that art projects; quilting, printmaking, and sculpting with polymer clay helps me process what I have learned or what I have been thinking about. Using art as a way to both process and create information is known as “arts-based research.” The process of “knowing through the arts takes place in ways that are distinctly different yet complementary to more logical cognition” (McNiff 2007, 30). I decided to make linocuts that would augment and express my written findings.

Stamp One: The Marine Environment

marine environment 1

“Living here in Masset we just live very close to the ocean anyway. We get a lot of our food from the ocean. We fish for salmon throughout the season, dig clams. There’s a lot of different reasons why the ocean is important to our lives, generally speaking.” –Interviewee F1, (Female, 30s)

The first linocut I made for my Haida Gwaii series is intended to show the richness and diversity of the marine environment; the sea urchins, kelp beds, seaweed, sea stars, clams, king crabs, herring, salmon, and marine birds. This stamp is meant to show the complexity of the marine environment and the dependence of the health of the system on many keystone species (Paine 1969).

Stamp Two: Deer and Herring

herring and deer 1

“Know that food costs quite a bit here and so being able to sort of eat, especially over the winter, salmon and deer.” –Interviewee M5, (Male, 40s)

I carved this linocut to represent Haida Gwaii residents’ dependence on both the marine and terrestrial environments. The herring is meant to represent the marine environment because it is an important cultural keystone species (Garibaldi and Turner 2004). The health of other “main” marine species is linked in one way or another to herring population and health, thus the herring, in a way, directly supports all human life on Haida Gwaii. The deer, although an introduced species on the islands that have created significant ecological changes, are likewise an important protein source for locals. I intend the deer and the herring circling the islands as a metaphor for the dependence residents have on harvesting their own foods to be able to afford to live on Haida Gwaii.

I also wanted this stamp to show the connection between the land and the sea, a connection that residents are keenly aware of. One woman explained the intertwining between the marine and terrestrial environments, “salmon are a land fish you could say, like land birds, they come up all the streams and rivers to spawn.” Interviewee F10 (Female, 70s) Another woman went on and explained the same understanding of connectedness, “There’s a Haida saying that everything depends on everything else; the forest depends on the salmon. So, in the cedar they find the very same things that are in the salmon, the bears feed on the salmon, they carry the carcass into the woods, those carcasses fertilize the cedars and it’s all this big cycle.” Interviewee F14 (Female, 40s) To many residents the marine and terrestrial environments are part of a whole and what impacts one impacts the other. The environmental system is a cycle and the health of one is dependent upon the health of the other.

Stamp Three: Herring Laying Roe on Kelp

herring 1

I knew in my stamp series for my thesis I would have to make a stamp showing a herring laying roe (eggs) on kelp. At the time of our interviews 2015-2016 a significant conflict was going on between the Council of the Haida Nation and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans over the opening of the Pacific herring fishery.

While this stamp is a straight forward image of a herring, I was thinking of the communities’ concerns and the political significance of the herring while I was designing and carving the stamp. The fight over the herring represents the fight over the marine environment and how the residents of Haida Gwaii, specifically the Council of the Haida Nation have had to be such forceful advocates for their non-human neighbors. It has taken over ten years for the herring population to inch back from near collapse, and they are still nowhere near their original numbers.

Stamp Four: LNG and Enbridge


“One major oil spill could finish us for years.”  –Interviewee, (Male, 70s)

Another major environmental and political conflict during my time on Haida Gwaii centered on the proposed LNG and Enbridge pipelines. It was a significant theme through many of my interviews, and residents were afraid of what the pipeline and resulting supertankers could mean to marine and human life on Haida Gwaii. As I discussed at length in the previous chapter, many people fear the possibility an oil spill, and how that would impact marine life. I had originally not intended to include a stamp about the pipelines because I felt the other stamps explained my time on Haida Gwaii. However, when I thought back to my interviews it felt wrong to leave out something that captured the attention of so many locals. I want to give a full picture of my conversations with residents and it is important to include Enbridge and LNG. In this stamp I reproduce the common lawn sign that people used to protest the pipelines (in the upper-right and lower-left quadrants), contrasted with an aerial view of a supertanker and a segment of oil pipeline. This is intended to show the two, starkly polarized sides of the conflict.  For Haida Gwaii residents, the strong shared opposition to the proposed pipelines was very black and white. If there are no supertankers transporting oil off of the Coast of British Columbia there is no threat to the marine environment, “there’s no off shore oil and gas occurring, so there’s no opportunity for oil spills. It’s probably one of the healthiest marine environments along the coast actually.” Interviewee F10 (Female, 70s) Residents talk about environmental in terms of risk, the risk of the herring fishery causing the herring population to collapse and the risk of the tankers spilling oil along the B.C. coast.

Stamp Five: The Seine Boat

seine boat 1

“I remember being interviewed for the New York Times, he’s sitting in an office in New York, in his mind he couldn’t understand there’s people in this world who are concerned about that tree being healthy and the ocean being clean. Because my future depends on it and the health of my children and grandchildren depend on it. No, you get your food from the store, that connection’s not there, it’s broken.”  –Interviewee M8, (Male, 70s)

The final stamp is intended to illustrate the residents of Haida Gwaii’s special connection to their ocean. Locals view outsiders and “city people” as lacking a fundamental connection to place and the natural world and thus for the most part unable to understand why they are so passionate about protecting the environment. In this stamp, I am representing this special relationship in anthropocentric terms, using the value of human life as a metaphor for the value Haida Gwaii residents put on the marine environment and marine resources. When locals see what they believe to be unsustainable harvesting of fish, any species of fish, they see their families and their communities being irreparably harmed. In a sense they see their children’s health and future being dragged from the ocean. That is why they are so passionate and so vocal about protecting their environment.

The global trend to focus on resource development has come at the expense of human communities. I also intend with this stamp to illustrate unsustainable development and extraction is consuming communities by removing important resources, undermining relationships, creating conflicts, and leaving communities with a sense of powerlessness. Rural communities have been disenfranchised from their local environments and forced to carry the burdens and costs of often unwanted resource development. Not only do the communities absorb environmental harm but they do so while not receiving the financial or employment benefits. The concerns over the pipelines tells the same story as the seine boat, the residents of Haida Gwaii bore the risk of an oil spill, the people who profit from the shipping of oil are not dependent on the marine environment to feed their families and would not have to move if there was an oil spill. Local control over the local environment would be an incredibly positive global trend and while slowing business development I believe it would likely encourage environmental protection as people would treat their environment more cautiously than outsiders would. I feel that locally controlled sustainable development in an area, such as Haida Gwaii, would generate well-paid local employment and encourage community growth while being mindful of environmental health.


Being able to incorporate my outside artistic interests into my Masters research was a very fulfilling experience for me and I feel the images I was able to create helped to communicate my findings. I hope my thesis encourages other students in the School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) to pursue using alternative formats and approaches for analyzing and communicating their findings. SENS currently has a policy to allow students to use alternative formats as the principle component of their thesis, yet no student has yet taken advantage of this opportunity. My work reveals just some of the potential for using this policy to explore one’s standpoint in relation to their research, and also to use their work to tap into dimensions of sustainability that cannot be effectively explored or communicated through scientific writing for venues such as peer reviewed journals. Hopefully my reflections in this section will inspire future students to experiment with their work in whatever way best resonates with them and with their research partners/collaborators. My prints are currently being displayed in the SENS main office.


Skylar Bayer, Ph.D. (University of Maine), 2018 Knauss Fellow

Hello from Washington, D.C.! My name is Skylar Bayer, and despite my current location, I spent the last six years of my life living in Maine for my Ph.D. through the University of Maine. I still consider it my home since my house, husband and two awesome dogs are still all there while I complete this marine science policy fellowship this year!

Thom and Me

Thom & Me, Misha (tan dog) and Millie (black and tan dog) at our wedding day in Owls Head, Maine.


Us in front of our house! (November 2017)

Hobbies have been a very important way for me to get through the last eight years (two years for my masters and six years for my Ph.D.) They have made me maintain a healthy balance of my life and my work. Finishing a Ph.D. required surviving a series of sprints for sure, but I was mostly concerned with making it through the whole marathon (i.e. the Ph.D. program).

There are a few things to understand about me as a person. One is that I had heart surgery when I was born, so I have always maintained some kind of sport/physical activity in my life. Another is that six months into my Ph.D. program I was further diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia that kept me from SCUBA diving in my lab… which was a SCUBA diving lab. In addition, during the early years of my program, I had a big family medical emergency among many other events that come along with being an adult. Thus, taking time to appreciate life, spend time with family and friends is very important to me. As well as finding things to laugh about.

Dogs and walking in the woods!

SO to begin with, hobby number one has been taking care of my dog Millie a.k.a. Milbert a.k.a. Milbalina a.k.a. my darling thesis dog.

I got Millie three months into graduate school with no real knowledge of what I was doing as a pet owner. Growing up we had a dog that occasionally lived with us, but she was half husky and ran away all the time. Plus, I didn’t raise her as a puppy. So this was a whole new experience.

Millie has kept me going on walks out in the woods regularly, kept me getting up very early in the morning and always going home at a reasonable hour. She has also scared me to death by trying to play with sheep, goats, horses and seals (yes, even seals!)

Science Communication & Storytelling!

When I was diagnosed with my heart condition, I was no longer able to SCUBA dive in my lab. Instead I became the boat driver. So I felt like I had to fill in a skill gap, one that I could easily do from a remote coast in Maine. One that presented itself readily was… online science communication!

I started my blog, Strictlyfishwrap, as basically practice for getting better at writing. The biggest lift my blog gave me was when it landed me on the The Colbert Report. (I will not spoil it for you, go watch the clip).

That gave me a big boost in my confidence as a science communicator. I started Tweeting, really as a networking tool, and looked for science communication conferences.

I went to one conference in Miami in 2013 and pitched a story for The Story Collider about diving in Alvin, and it went over great and it made it onto their podcast.

I ended up producing a few shows in Maine between 2014 and 2016. Storytelling changed my life. It gave me a great outlet to practice my communication skills that I could use while teaching and during scientific presentations. You can hear some of my favorite stories that I’ve told here.

Erin Barker and I

Erin Barker and I co-hosting for a Story Collider show in 2015. Photo by Jesse Stuart.

This led me to The Corner which is a local storytelling group in Lewiston, Maine. It takes about 75 minutes to drive there once a month, but it is totally worth it. Over several years, my husband and I became very good friends with the founder of The Corner and have made many friends along the way. The community there is rich with a diversity of stories and is a place that feels like home now (I miss it). Local storytelling events are a great place to make friends with your local community members.

In February of 2015 I became a local sports reporter/reader at VSTV for seven months. It was to make ends meet for a few semesters! I woke up at 4 AM five days a week to read off a teleprompter for a few takes of local and national sports news. I really loved the people I worked with but was happy to sleep in again after my time there ended.

Set of VSTV

My former co-worker, Lyn, and I goofing around on set of VSTV.

Before the TV work, I had started a radio show at a local radio station. I used the recording equipment at the radio station to make a podcast, The Strictlyfishwrap Science Radio Hour on WRFR-LP, and once my husband became my husband, he became my co-host, too.

WRFR-LP radio

Thom & Me in the WRFR-LP radio studio in Rockland, Maine.

This has led to numerous creative opportunities in multiple types of media. I am still trying to figure out if there are mediums I prefer other than just straight up live storytelling. Here’s a list of all the things I’ve tried so far.

Interview IMCC

Interviewing the conference organizer for the International Marine Conservation Congress in Newfoundland, Canada (August 2016).

Sports! All the Sports!

During my master’s degree, I had started doing Muay Thai kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. When I moved to Maine, I didn’t know where to go for those activities, and really struggled finding a place I liked for those things. Maine is the kind of place where knowledge is word of mouth, so it took me a few years to find places I really liked. I did find a fantastic yoga place called Wicked Good Yoga. Going there regularly was particularly helpful during my comprehensive exams.

One day I picked up a flyer in a coffee shop to try out for the local roller derby team, the Rock Coast Rollers. Roller derby was AMAZING! I had a whole network of wonderful people to vent to everyday about my life, I had so much to learn. I had played hockey as a kid, and loved to ice skate, but wasn’t that into the stick-handling in hockey. Derby is all about skating, teamwork and strategy. It was a commitment that was well worth my time.

roller derby

Roller derby! I’m in the orange tiger leggings above.

roller derby 2

One of the only games in my career that I was captain and jammer (star on helmet) for a game. I won most valuable jammer for this bout!

We all had jobs while we were helping run our literal non-profit. I not only was a skater, but I got to be a trainer, a mediator, a captain and eventually the interleague liaison (i.e. the game organizer). We traveled up and down the east coast competing in events. My teammates were sailors, carpenters, teachers, homemakers, farmers, and just great Mainers. I spent three years on this team and then I had to say goodbye to my very supportive community because I desperately needed the time to finish up my Ph.D. program.

roller derby 3

Some of my teammates and I posing for one of our event posters. Photo by Jim Dugan.

roller derby 4

Our Breakwater Blackhearts team after a game back in 2015. 

In 2016, I finally went back to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu after four years. I love Jiu Jitsu because a person can be any age, any size and any physical form to participate, learn and grow from it. Every person has weaknesses and strengths in the sport no matter what shape, physical strength or intelligence level. It’s a game of physical chess, it’s very intellectual and it’s very technical. I am now on the third stripe of my blue belt and getting a lot of new training experience in D.C.

blue belt

My blue belt that I received after my test in August, 2016.

classmates and instructors

Many of my classmates and instructors after a seminar in Maine. I’m in the upper righthand corner of the group.

All the other stuff

I’ve covered a lot of my major hobbies, but I get a lot of joy out of adventures with my husband and friends. I’ve gotten more into swimming because my husband does long distance swimming and I discovered last winter, while nursing a knee injury, that I can swim a whole mile, no problem. Thom and I even made a Dance Your Ph.D. video about my research on scallop spawning. We did not win, but we had a lot of fun making the video! We’ve had a couple of other adventures like hiking mountains, traveling to Iceland and telling stories together on stage.

Thom and iceland

Thom and I taking a selfie with some Icelandic ponies in Iceland on our very delayed honeymoon, December 2017.


My first time to the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine. It’s the northern-most end of the Appalachian Trail. Thom has been up here many times. (September 2016).


Thom & Me storytelling together in New York City. Photo from The Story Collider. (June 2017)

I also love making art, although I haven’t made much time for this in recent years. However, I’ve made collages (cut paper, paint and markers) for a few of my talks:

collage of heart

Collage of a normal heart and a heart with transposition of the great arteries (TGA). I made for my TEDxPiscataquaRiver talk (May 2016)

collage for 3min thesis

Collage of scallops spawning for my Three Minute Thesis (3MT) video at UMaine. (April 2017)

Finally, I love postcards. I have a blog post in which I ask the universe to send me postcards. I wrote it in 2014 and I still continue to get postcards from all over the world. Every time I receive one, it makes my day, and I always write back to return the favor. Please send me a postcard if you have the time – I will send you one from wherever I am at the time, be it D.C., Maine or some other adventure I happen to be on!


All the postcards I used to keep on my office wall in graduate school. These kept me entertained for eight years.

Camilla Kennedy, Board Gaming Economist

1 Intro photo Camilla and Cheesonomics gameBoard games don’t have to be boring… hello my name is Camilla, an environmental economist and adjunct faculty at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Today I’ll be discussing one of my favorite pastimes, playing games! Like many of the Craftologists featured, I also love unwinding outdoors, away from the addictive screen of a smartphone, and in my free time, you may find me hiking the trails in Southcentral Alaska. However, the focus of this blog post is on an indoor hobby. Let’s face it indoor hobbies are also vital, especially for those of us who live in Nordic climates. It is important that we have fun indoors activities to get us through the long dark winters and for myself, my husband, and many of our friends playing board games is just the ticket.

When I first started dating my husband, Joe, he invited me to join him and his roommates to play board games. I had limited exposure to board game culture at the time (outside of playing Monopoly and Guess Who) and ignorantly pondered, “Play board games? Isn’t that something for kids?” After only an hour or so, of playing games with him and his humorous and nonjudgmental roommates I was a convert. This is a conversational piece on what I enjoy about playing board games and general advice for those who wish to dabble in this excellent hobby. Content is aimed at those like my former pre-board gaming self that are not deeply embedded in this world. For those of you who are hardcore gamers you are just as welcome…and I know you can appreciate that we incorporated an epic nerdy photo shoot with our board game collection. -Woohoo Spring Break 2018!- I will end with a list of my top five favorite games.

What I like about board games:

Active Critical Thinking – Much of my day job involves economic research, those of you engaged in research understand that a key piece of research is figuring out how systems work. To be a great researcher it is critical to be the type of person who enjoys a good puzzle. You may find yourself trying to gauge if there is a cause and effect relationship in the system you are assessing. With a well-designed board game that has non-redundant outcomes, this can often be attributed to a healthy mixture of both skill and luck. Sometimes strategy can only get you so far and a roll of the dice is game changing. I thoroughly enjoy how games activate our critical thinking abilities. You find yourself weighing your different options through implementing inventive strategies all while you are having fun with friends. Granted, I have played a few games that painfully lack these qualities, for example, playing a 100% luck based game, ahem Candyland, with individuals who will cry if they do not win. An economist to the bone, I appreciate games with commodities, trading, and a dynamic mini-economy. If you are a statistics nerd, a board game may let you geek out in an applied manner without necessarily losing everyone’s attention. Games make you think! Understandably, some elements of games can be frustrating, for example, if your group misunderstands the rules and this makes the strategy you were using obsolete, but at the same time it is this element of dynamism that really gets those synapses firing.

6 extra photo if needed

Social in Nature – A fantastic thing about games is that they are composed of the experiences that we share together with others. Rather than silently watching a movie in a theater or trying to talk to each other in a restaurant over loud music, while playing board games you actively interact with each other in a quality manner. Board gaming is a social hobby. You learn a great deal about how your friends think and their personalities through playing a board game. Is someone competitive and must always win at any cost?…maybe kick them out of your board game group (jk). There are certain games where someone who is normally kind and considerate suddenly feels free to let out their inner Machiavelli. Perhaps, while playing Cards Against Humanity, you find out that the person you always thought was so prim and proper has a secret talent for raunchy humor. New friends are just as welcome as old ones and regardless of how long we have known each other we always seem to share laughs and a great time. A board game night together with your friends is often the best medicine when dealing with personal hardship or anxiety. Unlike meeting up at a bar, it is an activity where “sober” friends who do not drink alcohol can join in and not be put in the awful situation where they are being excluded socially for making the healthy choice that is right for them. Board games are an interactive and frugal way to spend quality time together. I enjoy both competitive and cooperative games. I do feel it is important to occasionally play cooperative games, where all players have to work together to meet a common goal. An example is, Pandemic: The Cure, where you are scientists from the CDC working together to eradicate several diseases to save the planet.

3 Board game name record Camilla and her sister Delight (Delight took all the awesome photos)One thing we do with our board game collection is keep track of the date and the names of winners on the back of the board, this makes a fun record of the game’s own story. We started with board games, but after one friend always seemed to win card games, we started to keep track of both. It is fun to write a new name on a game as well as look back on all the times we have played in the past. Seeing the names of friends and family members who were visiting or have since moved out of Alaska and remembering the fun we had together always triggers a smile.

Advice for getting started:  You have to remain open to try new things, but it is key you find the genre of games you like. I like strategy and party games over serious role playing games. You may prefer different genres and that’s totally ok. The reality is that the world is your oyster and we live in a great time to be a board gamer. With the growth of Indie game production and resources like Kickstarter there are really plethora great games out there.  As a young professional you may be strapped for time. I can relate. So find a game you can play in 10-20 minutes instead of six hours! Game suggestions in this category is Exploding Kittens and BANG: The Dice Game. Also, since we play a lot of our games when we host a house party it is important that we have options for large groups of people or multiple small groups. For big groups a great recommendation is Codenames or Munchkin. For small groups Sushi Go!/Sushi Go Party! or Flux, which has a lot of great themed versions. While I mentioned that I consider board games to be a frugal hobby, a night in with chips and salsa is a heck a lot more affordable than a night out on the town. However, very quickly, like any hobby, board games can get expensive. So borrow games and look through reviews before committing to new ones. Games are meant to be played and an unplayed game is just as sad as clothing hanging in a closet with the tags still attached. If you have a group of friends that also enjoy board games, this is ideal, as you all can share games to shake it up without having to buy new games. For my husband and I, Christmas is pretty much the only time of the year we get new games. We have a deal where each year we by the other a new board game. This takes some stress out of the holidays, but since we have an entire year we do a lot of research and find games that we will play and enjoy. One of the most important things is to find others who also enjoy this past time. You may be surprised to find out how many friends you have who also like board games. There are certain games that are better for folks just starting out, especially party games like the heist themed game Ca$h ‘n Guns, that have simple rules but enough action that it captures newbie’s interests without being overwhelming. As we discussed, games are meant to be shared.

Top Board Game Picks: Part of this experience has involved assessing our current board game collection. We currently own about 40 games. I would say there are about 15-20 games we play regularly, so boiling down this list to 5 was hard. I thought about if we could only pick 5 games which ones and why? You might recognize some cult classics on this list. Games are not listed in any particular order, each game is listed along with a short blurb as to why we (myself and my husband Joe) love it.

5 Camilla top 5 board game picks

Camilla’s Top 5-

North to Alaska – A family game that all ages will enjoy. This game is a bit like LIFE, but Alaska Highway themed. There is the possibility of nobody winning the game if all players run out money while traveling through Canada.

Settlers of Catan – A gateway game that has gotten many into the board gaming community. This game has a great mix of strategy and luck. Beware of the robber!

Ticket to Ride – Build train routes across while competing against rival railroad companies. There are several versions including US, Europe, India, and more. Also, a wonderful way to brush up on your geography skills.

Sheriff of Nottingham – The sheriff tries to ensure players do not smuggle in contraband goods. Try your best to fool the sheriff into not searching your bag. Be sure to get into character with your best Harry Potteresque British accent.

King of Tokyo – You play the role of a monster battling other monsters to become the King of Tokyo. Shout out to my favorite monster Gigazaur!



Daniel Dashevsky, PhD Student, University of Queensland

Just in case you missed the title up there, my name is Daniel Dashevsky. I’m partway through my PhD on snake venoms at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, about halfway up the east coast of Australia. All in all it’s pretty far from having grown up in Fairbanks, Alaska.

When I started putting this post together I realized how much of what I might highlight as work/life balance is actually pretty closely related to my PhD. I like to think this is a good sign in that it suggests that my project is close to my passions. It’s also partially due to the fact that sitting around reading or cooking aren’t activities that lend themselves to pictures. Despite that, cooking is definitely the activity that scratches my craft-ish creative itch on a daily basis, so here’s some bread to represent that part of my life.

My other main hobby—playing Ultimate—also doesn’t leave much of a photographic record: not very many people bother to take photos of Ultimate games and I’m almost always making a weird face when someone does get me on film. But even if I don’t include a lot of Ultimate photos, I want to emphasize its importance. Exercise is obviously good for mental and physical health and something about chasing down a frisbee brings me great joy, but Ultimate is way more than that to me. Nearly everywhere I’ve gone since leaving Alaska over seven years ago, Ultimate has been a source of community and friendship. I lived with teammates for much of my undergrad degree at Reed College  and have recently moved in with Ultimate players again here in Brisbane. On top of all that, the self-refereed Spirit of the Game that is central to Ultimate reaffirms a lot of my core values related to honesty, integrity, and self control in a similar way that living under an Honor Principle at Reed did. Playing Ultimate on the regular helps me be a better researcher and human.
I obviously also love snakes, which is one of the main reasons why I wanted to move to Australia in the first place. When the weather’s right, I’ll often take a drive out to one of the nearby national parks just after dark to see if I can spot any critters crossing the roads. It’s a relaxing experience cruising along empty roads listening to podcasts or music until you see something, the adrenaline hits, you slam on the brakes, and engage in a mad scramble to safely park, turn off the car, get out, and find the snake before it disappears. Some of my recent finds include these two carpet pythons (Morelia spilota, sizes XS and L) and a golden crowned snake (Cacophis squamulosus).
I’ll even travel specifically to look for reptiles. I spent Christmas camping at a reservoir in rural Queensland. During the day I read in my hammock and swam when the heat was unbearable, but at night I cruised the roads. This January I visited Thailand with a couple labmates. We enjoyed huge amounts of incredible Thai food and spent much of our time hiking, driving, or boating through mangroves looking for snakes.
I’ve also been known to dabble in paleontology, which in many respects is more craft than science. To be sure, academic paleontologists who study the details of fossils are engaged in a rigorous science, but all the steps that get those fossils to the point that they can be studied are crafts. To begin with one must roam the landscape looking for fossils or for promising locations. Then comes the digging and the wrapping. If you’ve found the very tip of a complete Triceratops skull sticking out of the side of a steep hill, uncovering its entire length (well over two meters) means moving a lot of rock. Then you cover the fossil in a protective coating of plaster and burlap. Digging underneath the fossil and plastering the top of that overhang is a tenuous and messy process. Once the fossils are back at a museum, they have to be prepared for study. The preparation process is a long and painstaking one: all the rock surround the fossil has to be removed without damaging the bone, broken pieces must be jigsawed back together, gaps are filled with putty, and the bone is stabilized for long term storage. The crocodile osteoderm (bony armor in the skin) pictured below was a relatively simple and easy project, but I still had to use dental tools to remove sandstone from every one of the holes on its pitted surface.


I also recently completed a kit of equipment for extracting venom from snakes. Clear plastic tubes are often used to handle snakes safely, but this design includes flared ends so they can form a joint allowing you to expose the head of the snake without having your hands directly on it. It is possible to safely handle snakes, but virtually everyone who routinely puts their hands near the pointy end will end up being bitten through carelessness or freak accident at some point. During our trip to Thailand I got the chance to demonstrate this hands-off technique at a research station using a large-eyed pitviper (Trimeresurus macrops) they temporarily had in captivity.

When I get it in my head to do something crafty, it’s usually pretty utilitarian. I like to make and maintain objects and tools that fit my particular needs and preferences better than something from a store can. Examples include a bicycle light mounted on a baseball cap that lights up the forest at night like nobody’s business,


a bushcraft knife, a watch strap, and my minimal sandals. Not only do I enjoy the process of thinking about how I do a task and how it might be improved, but I’ve found that the act of taking an idea and making it real is immensely helpful to my mental hygiene. This is as true of making sandals as it is for cooking or writing, but when you make a tool that you employ regularly you get that little hit of satisfaction every time you use it.

Occasionally I do come up with projects for aesthetic reasons and the nice thing about that is that you can just look at whatever you’ve made and get that hit. Since I’m a biologist, all of the projects here revolve around cool bits of animals. For instance there’s the skulls on my windowsill, most of which I’ve skinned and defleshed myself. I’ve also created a necklace from a tooth and phalanx (toe bone) as well as a collage of shed skin from a variety of venomous snakes. I only just recently tanned the skins of a water dragon and a carpet python and have yet to decide what to make from them. I’m open to suggestions.


Alexa Hinzman, PhD student, Earth and Climate, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Adult coloring books meant for de-stressing, stress me out. My name is Alexa Hinzman, I am the artistically challenged twin of the owner of this blog. I have never been one for creative hobbies or had the talent to develop one, but I will tell you of a passion of mine and the balance between work and play in my life and how I developed it.alexa

This December (2017) I moved to Amsterdam as I accepted a position to start my PhD in hydrology. Between moving to a new country, and starting my program, my hobby has fallen to the wayside. However, in better days, I would read everything I could get my hands on. Right now, my Kindle has about 5000 books on it, with more than 17000 ebooks still on my computer. I am in two book clubs. I have joined 3 read-a-longs. I love books, I love the smell, the weight, the way they look. I have 5 sets of Harry Potter books, hardcover, softcover, audio, ebook and in Japanese. I can easily read a standard novel in a single day. My love of reading has always been with me since I first started to read. It is so easy to pick up a book and let it take you wherever it leads, especially if you do not want to be working or the alternative is a science paper that includes too many new definitions.

You don’t automatically start out as a killer graduate student. You are the small fish thrown into a big pond and all you can think is, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’. I had to battle with myself to not play when I had to work, and if I was to take a break, that it didn’t turn into a 1 or 2 or 3 hour interruption. Your projects look juvenile next to older graduate students, you do not really know how do your own research. But over time, it gets easier, and your projects start to look better. And you don’t spend the entire night before finishing a project that was supposed to have taken 2 months to create.

I have come to learn several bitter truths, just because you love to read words, does not mean you love to write them, and fiction writing is wholly different from science writing. How do you learn to write in science terms? Well first of all, no more contractions. If in doubt, define. All abbreviations require explanation, and never, never, never say: maybe, could or should.

There is nothing more I would like to do with my time then read, it’s an easy hobby that has been made easier with the invention of the ebook. No more do I have to lug around a large book, now I can use the same item that I use for writing emails on the go. Not only do I have one book, I can now carry my favorites, all while using my iPad for “work” It’s the perfect cover.

The thing about grad work is, it’s your own. If you work or not, that’s your choice. There is no stamped time when you come in and out. More often than not, what work you have done is a variation of something that is still not working because the stupid script which you have combed with a magnifying glass isn’t working. It’s frustrating, it’s annoying, and it leaves you with a headache.

alexa presentation

Balancing play and work has always been difficult for me. But equilibrium is what needed to happen, and so it did. I loved my time as a Master’s student. I learn more in 2 years than in my entire undergraduate, and it was not in classes. I learned to work. I learned to write, I learned to do my work even when I was not motivated, even when I wanted nothing more than to curl up and pick a book to read. Every page, ever paragraph in my thesis was a struggle, but I got through. These are skill not easily acquired, but they are worth their weight in gold.

I have also grown as an adult, during my Master’s I moved out of my parent home and into an apartment. Suddenly I could eat cake 4 times a day, I could watch whatever I wanted and do whatever I please. This increase in freedom was a shock to the system that convinced me that it was truly time to adult. My hobby and work had to make way for cooking, cleaning the apartment and shopping for groceries.

As my priorities change, so did the importance of my time, I had to start time management and schedule time for sleep, work and play. I had gone to the gym regularly while in undergraduate, and had stopped during my masters. The gym was picked up again in my final year of my Master’s. I have found mental health is tied to physical health. Taking an hour I thought I could not spare and instead sweating at the gym allowed me to more focused and productive in less time. I stopped bringing my iPad to work. I downloaded an app (SelfControl) that would block websites that I would consider to be a time suck (Looking at you Facebook) for blocks of time.

Creating a schedule helps I have found, just as long as you stick to it. Cooking at home and clean eating also helped me with focusing and making me feel great during the day. Preparing food has given me a new appreciation for spices and the many ways you can cook chicken. My boyfriend was also there to cheer me on and drag me to the gym on the more difficult days.

alexa and vito

Work and play is a simplification of life, there is work and there is play, but there is also sleep, family, friends, gym, date nights, dinners, chores, driving, emails, travelling, studying and much more. Every one of those things requires your attention, every person’s emphasis is different depending on what makes her or him happy.

Find what makes you happy, create a schedule, be kind to one another, spend less time on Facebook, forget about past transgressions and you are set for life.


From Megan: Attached is a link for Alexa’s science fair project she did on permafrost when we were around 10. I have included it because she looks so gosh darn adorable and she is currently studying permafrost so it feels destined.

alexa about to hit megan

Amelia Hesketh, PhD Candidate and amateur taxidermist, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia.

Crafting has been passed down through my family from generation to generation, making it only natural that I, too, use it as a creative outlet in my otherwise science-saturated life. While I identify as a knitter first and foremost in my crafting life, the craft that raises the most eyebrows and garners the interest from my peers is taxidermy. Just as my heritage lies in crafts, it also lies in hunting. My Mennonite family still subsistence hunts, but their home décor attests to their delight in having skins stuffed and mounted for proud display. When I was young, my mother always verbalized a desire to stuff animals herself, even going so far as to add a 1960’s book devoted to educating young avid male taxidermists to our library. Family friends donated avian window strike victims to our freezer for the impending taxidermy project, but no project ever came. After a family friend stuffed a grey squirrel for my mother as a Christmas present, it became clear to me that someone in my family was obligated to reciprocate. A few weeks later, a rabbit appeared in the ditch across from my house – killed by a car – and I claimed it for my inaugural project.


skinTaxidermy is a two-step process of deconstruction, then reconstruction. After pulling the viscera from the body, flaying the muscles from the bones with a scalpel, and painstakingly cleaning and Borax-ing the thin skin of the carcass, the delicate work of construction began. Using the 1960s book for instruction, I created a new skeleton of wire and salvaged bones inside the skin. To re-create a life like rabbit, I re-fitted the empty skull with eyes from a stuffed animal and filled the body with excelsior before stitching it back together (partial credit for these feats go also to my committed mother and father). I realized during the process that I was not constrained by biology in my re-creation of a rabbit, and mounted wings from a bird in the freezer to its back. Apparently there’s a whole genre, rogue taxidermy, dedicated to subverting the natural form of mounted animals.

The recipient, Liz, was delighted with the end product, almost to the point of tears, and I knew I would one day take up the scalpel once more for a new project. My return to taxidermy came when my mother, walking the dog, discovered a dead mink on the road. She packed it home in a bag to the freezer, and once I got up the determination to start a new project, I successfully transformed the mink into a Christmas tree topper, to the joy and confusion of my extended family.

ferret thing

Taxidermy is the ultimate craft for a biologist – dissection and art rolled into a single activity. Looking back, I am surprised I didn’t realize I was destined career in biology sooner, given my strange passion for this craft form. I began university as a chemist, switching to biology only in my final year. Now, I’m headed for a doctorate, though I study animals without backbones (oysters) that are unfortunately untaxidermizeable.

In my research, I focus on characterizing how climate change will affect our locally farmed species of oyster (Magallana gigas) in British Columbia. Here in BC, rising temperatures and increasing ocean acidity are expected to affect many marine species, though scientists don’t often know exactly how these changes will affect individual species. My current experiment uses the Strait of Georgia in southern British Columbia as a natural laboratory to determine how different gradients of oceanographic conditions such as temperature, salinity, and pH affect the growth, health, and persistence of oysters. From this field-based study, I hope to move into laboratory experiments to understand the mechanisms of any effects I observe. For example, perhaps low pH (high acidity) causes more oysters to die. This effect might be because low pH stresses oysters to the point of death or it might be because low pH makes oysters more susceptible to being killed by opportunistic diseases or predators. In the next three years, I hope to disentangle some of these causes and effects.

Next on the taxidermy agenda – a mobile of dead birds. I suggested to one expecting lab-mate that she could hang this above her child’s crib, but was told this was a rather morbid idea. I’m convinced a more willing recipient is out there.


Maggie Chan, PhD, University of Alaska Fairbanks, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences

Throughout graduate school, progress seemed to happen at a glacial pace. Take my first chapter as an example. It took over a year of preparation to collect data (e.g., finalizing the sampling protocol, deciding where to sample, background research), 3 months (over the span of two years) of field work, 3 months to enter, process, and analyze the data, 4 months to write the manuscript, and 2 months going through revisions with the journal. Then. It’s published.

But for over two years, it was an Unfinished Thing, constantly on my mind. When I was playing with my nephews, I was thinking about it. When I was skiing with my dog, I was thinking about it. Everyone told me it was simply part of being in graduate school. The worst part was when I finally felt like Thing 1 was under control, there emerged 2 and 3.

The persistent feeling of never-ending projects in graduate school led me to spend my free time on activities I could finish in a reasonable time frame. I wanted to eat / feel / see the result of the time I was putting into my activities.


Graduate school years 1 – 2


Full disclosure, I’ve only made two things. But I truly loved making them. I was doing field work in a small community for a few weeks and I was told that there was a weekly get-together for women who wanted to bead together. After inquiring that it was indeed open to anyone and that they take newbies, off I went. Now, let me just say that these women were amazing beaders and they were very generous with their help. They started me off with a flower pattern. Later, I wanted to be more creative, so I decided that for my friend’s defense, I would bead her study organism.

Maggie Pic 1My first and last beaded sockeye salmon. I should have picked something easier. Photo courtesy of Natura Richardson.


Graduate school years 3 – 4


My dog has helped me immensely through graduate school. I don’t have anything to add that other folks on this blog haven’t already said about their dogs. They are amazing. The best part and worst part is that dogs force you to take a break from your work. You might not take yourself for a walk, but you will certainly take your dog for one.

Maggie_Pic 2-2A typical dog walk on a sunny day.


I don’t know what is better than seeing your vegetables grow throughout the summer and then getting to share the fruits of your labor with your loved ones.

Maggie_Pic 3-1 Our first year of gardening, we grew 50 pounds of potatoes.


Graduate school years 5 – 6


I was gifted a DSLR camera a few years ago and I never learned how to use it properly, so finally I asked a photographer friend to teach me. Many lessons and repeat explanations later, I now mostly use it to take pictures of Lucy and the captivating scenery in Alaska.

Maggie_Pic 4 Lucy in the winter.

Maggie_Pic 5-1The ferry coming to the Auke Bay ferry terminal in on a calm, sunny day.



My New Year’s resolution in 2016 was to run a half marathon. It didn’t happen. I took the liberty to roll that New Year’s resolution over to 2017. I’m proud to say that I ran my first half marathon on July 29th, 2017 (with three other graduate students!). The half marathon was fun, but even more fun was the several months of training before that. Thank you to our human and dog running partners and the wild spaces we have the privilege to run in. Next up, improving my swimming so I can complete a triathlon in 2019!

Maggie_Pic 6Before (top) and after (bottom) picture of our half marathon accomplishment. Top picture from left to right is Doug, Elizabeth, myself, and Valentina. Photo courtesy of Valentina Melica.

Maggie_Pic 7 On a run in Juneau, Alaska. You can see Herbert glacier in the background. From left to right is Lucy (the dog), myself, Valentina, and Elizabeth.

I defended my PhD dissertation three weeks ago. Most of the pictures in my presentation were ones I’d taken and I even got a few compliments (on the pictures)! Thank you photography hobby.

Maggie_Pic 8 Lucy on a typical winter dog walk. Hope this encourages you to embrace your activities with passion and delight. Lucy certainly does.

Kyoko Ohashi, Research Associate, Dalhousie University

My name is Kyoko Ohashi and I am a research associate at the Department of Oceanography at Dalhousie University in Halifax.  I started to work at Dalhousie in early 2004, soon after I received my Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and except for two years when I worked for Fisheries and Oceans Canada in St. John’s, I have been here since.

My work involves setting up and running numerical models of ocean circulation; the way I often explain this is to say, ”The models I use are similar to what weather forecasters use, but are for the ocean instead of the atmosphere.”  The models produce simulations of the ocean’s physical state (including the currents, salinity, and temperature) which, in addition to being of interest by itself, can provide valuable information for those who study the biological or geochemical state of the ocean.  There are people who look down on modelling work as “not real research” because it does not involve field or laboratory work, but in fact model simulations and observations can complement and guide each other to advance our knowledge of the ocean.  For example, simulations can provide estimates of the ocean state for times and places for which we do not have observations, or indicate locations where observations should be made in order to have the most utility.  Observations, on the other hand, are crucial for checking the accuracy of the simulations, and can also be used as model input in order to improve the simulations’ accuracy.  All of this is to say that my work is a lot of fun – but it does mean sitting at a desk all day (and perhaps into the evening).

As a child I always wanted to take ballet lessons, and during my first stint at Dalhousie, I took an introductory ballet class for adults at a local dance school and enjoyed it immensely.  After I moved back to Halifax from St. John’s, from time to time I would think about taking another dance class, but as Megan has written in her post for this blog, it is easy for our non-work interests to fall by the wayside.  When I finally enrolled in my first flamenco class in early 2014, it had already been a few years since I saw my first flamenco performance and took a trial class.  Both were part of an annual flamenco festival organized by Maria Osende, a ballerina-turned-flamenco dancer and teacher.  I have been taking weekly classes taught by Maria since then, and although I sometimes have to miss classes because of work, the classes provide a nice counterbalance to my workday of sitting in my office and staring at my computer monitor.

To me, one of the fascinating aspects of flamenco is the diversity of influences it contains.  Flamenco started among the Romani (“gypsies”), and its music reflects the Romani people’s roots in what is today northern India and eastern Pakistan.  Over time, flamenco has incorporated different styles of music and dance – for example, this summer we were learning a palo (dance style) called the guajira, which is a style of music that was imported to Spain from Cuba, and has its roots in the music of both Spain and west Africa.

Studying one art form often means coming into contact with related art forms or crafts, and this is certainly the case for flamenco.  In Halifax we are fortunate to have incredibly skilled flamenco musicians, which means we can dance to live music at student performances.  We can also see craftsmanship in what we wear or use – the embroidery and fringes on mantóns (shawls), the way skirts are constructed so that they move beautifully and are easy to kick up, or the way nails are placed on the soles of shoes in a way that produces good, crisp sounds without scratching the floor.

Our school is often invited to perform at community events.  In May of this year, we were part of a fundraiser organized by Halifax Shimmy Mob, a group that raises money for domestic violence charities through dance events.  This fundraiser was for Alice Housing, which provides housing and support for people in the Halifax area who are in, or exposed to, abusive relationships.  Domestic violence is something I have experienced living with myself, so being able to contribute to this fundraiser was very gratifying for me.



Left: a regular flamenco skirt. Right: a bata de cola, with a train of about 75 cm length.


Left: a mantocillo, a small shawl that is worn as part of a flamenco outfit. Right: a mantón, a full-size shawl that can be used as part of a choreography.  The mantón measures about 120 cm x 120 cm (not including the fringes), which is smaller than the recommended size but being 5’1” I am getting away with it so far.


Nails on the soles of my flamenco shoes. They are placed close together, so they produce a good sound, are not wobbly, and don’t scratch the floor. I was lucky to be able to buy this pair, which another student at my school was selling and happen to fit my feet quite well.

Aurora Roth, MS of Geophysics, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Hello! My name is Aurora and I recently completed a masters degree in Geophysics focusing on glaciers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I grew up in Fairbanks and after bouncing around from Minnesota (for college), to Maine, to Montana, I found myself back in Alaska as a graduate student. I’m excited to be sharing a story with you today because I believe it’s incredibly important for scientists to be whole people and for scientists to be seen as human. There are the obvious individual benefits, better mental and physical health, more creative thinking, and ultimately better science, but it’s also important for the public’s view of scientists. A recent study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showed that Americans view scientists as competent but not trustworthy (Fiske and Dupree, 2014), and people listen when they find someone trustworthy. Being viewed as more trustworthy by the public can be as simple as telling more personal stories about science or your experience as a scientist, or even instagramming your work in the lab or the field.

So here’s my more personal story about being a scientist and a strategy I found for myself for better mental health:

Despite dedicating more than three years to studying glaciers and being an active mountain lady, I’ve only just started to become comfortable calling myself a “glaciologist”. There is a specific image that comes with any title ending in “-ologist”, and on a day to day basis, I didn’t feel like I met the requirements of the image of “glaciologist”. A glaciologist should wear crampons more often than shoes, have a body as chiseled as rocks found in glacier moraines, always have a sunglasses or goggle tan, and fly their own plane to their field site. In contrast, I spend much of my time sitting at a desk, slumped in my seat, picking through code, and staring at the results of computer simulations.

Sometimes these results are interesting and engaging, and sometimes it’s a complete slog just to do anything. During graduate school, I spent more and more time in front of the computer and less time outside (on my own time or in the field), my mental health degraded and how I felt in my body became more negative.

aurora mountain

I found myself having panic attacks, something I had never experienced before. There were multiple times I found myself curled up on the floor of my room, not knowing how to make myself stop breathing so fast, stop crying. I felt like my mind was broken and pulling me into a dark hole. These panic attacks happened most often when I was neglecting the other parts of myself. I felt stuck and trapped when I had fully taken on the identity of “grad student”, leaving no space for other pursuits that made me feel confident, valued, or allowed me to connect with others.

I started talking with a counselor, something I highly encourage anyone struggling in grad school (or in life in general!) to do. In our sessions, my counselor encouraged me to work on self-compassion in many different forms. This also coincided with a friend introducing an art sharing project to me. She created a blog for a handful of friends to share art they were intending on making every day for the month of January. The blog and sharing helped keep us accountable so that we would actually make time every day to practice art making.

Painting and sketching with watercolor has always been a relaxing outlet for me. I’m not the best watercolorist, but I love playing with the physics of water. There is a constant game of relinquishing control and being surprised by what the water and paint will do. I also love having the time to get to know a landscape or object better through sketching. It’s a time where I am completely focused, relaxed, and in the flow. Not surprisingly, my favorite subjects to paint are glaciers, ice, and mountain landscapes. I deeply value experiencing glaciers through the lens of a scientist AND as an artist.

While I had taken time to get to know glaciers by painting them, I had never applied this to myself. For the January art blog, I decided to sketch or paint a self portrait everyday. At the time I felt guilty carving out time to do a quick self portrait every day. “I should be working instead of doing this,” I thought. But, with the positive peer pressure of the blog, I still made time everyday. Increasingly, I became more comfortable with this time and more intrigued by how this process was changing the way I was thinking about my body and myself. I got to know folds of skin that I couldn’t stand to look at before. I began to appreciate my differently proportioned body. I remembered how much I simply enjoyed painting.

aurora studies

The blog was also a way to connect with friends and see what beautiful art they were making. Reading poetry from a friend in Minneapolis, smiling as I looked over sketches by a friend in California, feeling resonance with art made by a friend in Southeast Alaska.

There are still ups and downs in grad school, and I still struggle with body image and leading a balanced life. But, I’m slowly getting better at prioritizing my whole self over the “grad school self” and remembering to find joy in other places. Actually, right at this very moment, I’m packing and preparing for a kayaking trip with a dear friend. This past month there were times when I thought it would just be easier to cancel this trip and try to do it another time because I’m feeling crunched with research and writing. I’m holding myself to this time off to be full person, to gain some perspective, to laugh a lot, to dance, to get rained on, and to not think about research for a little while.


Happy trails everyone! And thanks Megan for providing this space to share and to find inspiration!