Sunday, July 13, 2008

The inner bunny-hugger

So I haven't posted for a while because I've been entirely caught up in the oh-so-joyous world of applying for animal ethics permits. For the non-zoologists out there, basically everything I do involving animals (even observing them) requires me to fill in a 13-page long form (including 3 mini-essays) which is given to a committee of very scary and qualified people who decide whether or not it is necessary for me to do the study. Last time I did this it was a huge drama because they wouldn't give me clearance until I completed a whole ton of corrections. That's all fine, except that the secretary didn't bother telling anyone, so I ended up starting fieldwork late becasue I had to do 2 piles of corrections and then wait for the next committee meeting where they made me go in and talk to the committee - something that has never happened before as far as I know!

Let me just point out that I have huge respect for the whole ethics thing. Firstly, you can't study at the university without clearance - it's part of a contract type thing I signed when I started this degree. Secondly, it's one of very few things that I get to apply for directly, not through my supervisor, and as much as I hate responsibility, I like that they hold ME accountable for my actions. Thirdly, you can't publish without ethics clearance and fourth: it makes you decide on an end-point, so basically when the animals aren't looking too fantastic, you can go back to your end-points and use them to decide whether or not you should remove an animal from an experiment. I also like to think that if there is ever a more humane way of treating my animals, the committee would know and would help me to implement the changes necessary. I've also, on occasion, had to show people around the animal facilities to show where they're being housed, and demonstrate all my techniques to a vet to make sure that I'm not hurting anything.

So anyway, there is a cut-off date for applications - in this case it was friday. If you miss the cut-off then you can't apply until the next month, so everything is set back - a major issue if you depend on the breeding season for everything like me, and if there is a rainy season starting soon that will stop my work completely from time to time while I wait for the rocks to dry off a bit so I can go back out into the field. So on Wednesday I realised that I had 2 days to do my application - one day of you count the fact that it would have to be read over by my supervisor (which takes at least half a day of tracking him down) and the by the guy in our department who has to sign off the application before I could submit. I went straight into panic mode, and didn't even go to the zoo for the rest of the week. I'm pround to say that my application went in on Friday and everything should be ok!

On top of all of that my supervisor yelled at me for not finishing something that I'm currently taking a break on, and went on to tell me all about how hard it'll be for me to get a posting after I finish this degree, which sent me into a depressed spiral. I told him the next day that I don't want to go into academia, which I think scared him slightly, but I'm hoping that he'll start to understand where I'm coming from now. Either way he's out the country for a month soon and I'll have to go back to fending for myself. Oh well...

This morning at the zoo felt decidedly weird, I missed being there every day, but I also realsied that I really don't have time for it, and I should start to pull back and refocus on my work. The frogs are looking fine, despite my not being there, although 2 of them are missing, which means that they probably escaped and then dried out and died in some corner of the room. I got to sit in on a rock-monitor post-mortem though, which was really interesting!