Day 80/366: Plus 40 Fabulous – what am I most proud of?

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Thanks to Cathy for this month’s theme: what are you most proud of?

Most people probably won’t know that I’m actually Dr Kate.  My proudest achievement is that I carried out five years of research during my 20s and early 30s and was awarded a PhD in Landscape Ecology in 2002.

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Great robes, absolutely terrible outfit underneath!!

One of my (many) reasons for doing the PhD was to prove to myself (and others) that fat women aren’t stupid and lazy, a message that I had received all of my life.  I knew I wasn’t stupid and lazy, but I wanted to demonstrate to the world that I was more than how I looked and that judging people by appearance is generally a ridiculous thing to do.

I always loved studying geography.  It was my favourite subject at school and I went off to university in 1990 and did a physical geography degree.  I loved my time at university, but I was having too much fun to really put the time in to studying, and I scraped by with a 2:1.  I wanted to go on and do more, but it wasn’t to be; so between 1994 and 1996 I worked and spent some time volunteering for a conservation charity to enhance my skills.

In August 1996 I was offered a funded PhD jointly between Liverpool University and Chester College (now Chester University).  The funding was provided to study in the semi-desert Almeria Province in southern Spain looking at the landscapes of badlands and their vegetation.  I was to be provided with remotely sensed data of the area by the Natural Environment Research Council who had undertaken flights over the site in early 1996.

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Remotely sensed data of one of my field sites overlaid on a digital elevation model.  Looks similar to Google Earth, but I had to process all the data myself, it took MONTHS

Within a week of moving to Chester, I found myself in a small field study centre called Urra in the middle of nowhere in the wilds of southern Spain at a conference!  It was all very, very intimidating, all these academics, mostly middle aged white men and there I was a small, chubby 24 year old daring to think I could join their ranks.

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Urra Field Study Centre, SE Spain

I spent five field seasons out at Urra where I “ground truthed” the remotely sensed data that had not yet turned up.  This meant that I went out to the sites I was studying and recorded plant and soil data in 5m square quadrats.  What I was aiming to do with this information was to use it to help train the software I was using to recognise different plant communities by analysing the data.

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Perched like a gnome on top of a badland
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Looking hot in my fieldwork gear and essential hat

I spent a lot of time standing in terraced fields counting plants!  I didn’t mind though as the scenery was absolutely mind-blowingly incredible.  The rock and soil of the area is so easily washed away by torrential rain that that huge gulleys form in the sides of the hills, and sometimes enormous pipes form under the soil where material has been washed away under the surface.  It was an utterly fascinating landscape to study in.

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Huge gulleys cut through what used to be agricultural terraces, where most of the soil has been washed away
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Typical badland formations looking north to the Sierra de los Filabres in the background

The first year went well, I gathered my field data, I analysed soil in the lab and I learnt to use a Unix computer (scary).  However, the promised data didn’t arrive.  It also didn’t arrive in 1998 by which time I was running into my third year and my funding was about to end.  I was seriously depressed by this and decided that as the promised data was now two and a half years late, I would never finish my PhD, so I decided to look for a job.

I applied for and got a job.  Of course life being what it is, in-between being offered the job and starting it, the data arrived in Feb 1999.  My PhD supervisor, a very kind and supportive man called Alex suggested that I at least write up what I had already done to get an MPhil degree so that I and the university got some benefit from the work carried out.  I decided to take six months off the PhD to concentrate on my new job, and then go back to writing up.  But meanwhile, I managed to get hold of the remote sensing software for my home computer and I started to analyse the data and tie it in with my fieldwork.

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Classification of the remotely sensed vegetation data. Class 1 is bare soil, class 6 is dense vegetation

The results were so interesting that I really wanted to research it properly which is how I ended up both working full time and finishing off my research and writing up my PhD.  I had so much support from Alex, I couldn’t have done it without him.

2000 – 2002 was possibly the most stressful period in my entire life as during the two years it took me to finish the work on my PhD and write it up we also bought a house, got married and I was severely bullied by my manager.  So all in all I am most proud of having had the fortitude and resilience to work through this absolutely fraught period of time and come out of it with my sanity (mostly) intact.

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Obligatory wedding photo.

One highlight in this rather terrible period was our honeymoon which was a trip to SE Spain to help me finish off my fieldwork.  We got the ferry  from Plymouth to Santander in northern Spain and then drove our Ford Ka down through central Spain to Almeria.  We had a wonderful time even if we did spend one week of the three out in the terraces counting plants (well I did this and Dave went to sleep in the sunshine!)

I graduated in November 2002 in Chester Cathedral.  There were buglers and a choir and it was an amazing experience which I will never forget.

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The completed thesis; I still can’t believe I wrote 100,000 words about something!

And whilst a thorough knowledge of the vegetation and geomorphology of a small part of SE Spain doesn’t actually sound particularly useful for someone who lives in the Lake District, I am able to apply an awful lot of what I learnt about how landscapes function and change to my job now.  I’m so lucky to work doing something I’m interested in which is intellectually stimulating and related to my thesis.

Check out the other lovely bloggers writing about what makes them proud 🙂

Cathy: http://www.southernyacht.blogspot.co.uk/
Christy: http://www.sprintingwithscissors.blogspot.co.uk/
Daisy: http://daisysays.co.uk
Kate: https://wearingmywardrobein2016.wordpress.com
Kath: https://fatheffalump.wordpress.com
Leah: http://www.justmeleah.co.uk
Lee: http://www.pinkybellesshed.co.uk/
Lisa: http://www.kitandkoboodle75.blogspot.co.uk/
Mookie: http://www.mookieslife.com/
Nikki :http://www.nattynikki.com/
Perelandra: http://www.pamperandcurves.com/
Sarah: http://www.plussizeproud.co.uk
Steph: http://www.misskittenheel.com

Vicky: http://therandomnessoftwee.blogspot.co.uk
Yvonne: http://woosangwashere.blogspot.com

PS The Abstract for my thesis is copied below in case anyone is interested….

ABSTRACT

The Sorbas basin lies within the Betic Cordillera of south-east Spain. It is a recently uplifted sedimentary basin with readjustment of drainage systems still occurring, and hence intense erosion is found in places. This erosion, coupled with a semi-arid climate and a history of human impact has lead to a variably patchy vegetation cover throughout the catchment. This thesis examines controls on vegetation cover patchiness in a pair of adjacent catchments using a landscape ecology approach. These catchments display contrasting patterns of landcover and represent two stages in an erosion-stabilisation cycle driven by base level change on the Rio Aguas into which they both drain.

Cover and species type data were collected in the field along with soil samples. The vegetation analysis programs DECORANA and TWINSPAN were used to explore the cover and species data collected in the field. Results of the analyses were correlated with environmental variables to identify controls on distribution. Airborne Thematic Mapper (ATM) data were acquired from a NERC ARSF flight in 1996 along with aerial photographs of the study area. The ATM data were used to produce a clustered landcover image based upon the clustering of an NDVI image followed by interpretation of the six end groups using the cover data collected in the field. The aerial photography was used to produce a digital elevation model, and from this the environmental variables aspect, slope gradient and wetness were derived. The digital elevation model was also used in conjunction with the aerial photographs to produce an orthorectified image of the study area.

Geology was found to be the most significant control on cover type distribution, closely followed by geomorphology and soil chemistry. Species type distribution is also strongly controlled by geology with geomorphological history being almost as significant, and soil chemistry controlling the distribution at a fine scale. Slope gradient and aspect were not particularly associated with either cover or species distribution. The clustered landcover image, in which the six classes of cover ranged from very sparse to very densely vegetated, was analysed in conjunction with aspect, slope gradient and wetness to identify which of variable had the closest relationship with cover distribution. It was found that aspect had greatest association with cover, and wetness the least. However, all three show a statistically significantly relationship to cover class. The clustered landcover image was then used in conjunction with FRAGSTATS, a landscape metrics program, and a class buffering technique was used in order to quantify the landcover patterns in the two catchments. The quantification of pattern enabled an assessment of the relative controls of each of the environmental variables on the cover pattern in both catchments. Geology was found to be the most important control on the cover distribution, with geomorphological history and aspect important at a finer scale. Slope gradient, wetness and soil chemistry were not found to be very significant controlling factors.


 

 

 

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Day 74/366: charity shopping is fun

So, my resolution not to buy clothes this year was not buying clothes anywhere apart from in charity shops. This means I have now become an avid charity shopper, popping into the shops in Kendal most weeks and whenever I visit a different town, I look out for the charity shops. This website http://www.charityretail.org.uk/find-a-charity-shop/ is a wonderful tool for finding charity shops and I discovered three new ones in Penrith that I hadn’t come across before as they are in a back street.

These are two of my first three buys this year a Laura Ashley shrug and a purple sweater from M+S.  The third is a 100% cashmere jumper which is not at all smart but very warm so is great for slobbing out at home.  All of these three came from the Salvation Army shop in Kendal.

 Kendal has an Oxfam, British Heart Foundation, Scope, Salvation Army, Barnardos, a tiny Age Concern, RSPCA shop and a tiny Age Concern.  I have had the most success in Oxfam, Scope and Salvation Army and have yet to ever buy clothing in Barnardos as the choice there is truly awful (although they do have a good range of books and DVDs).

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Per Una brown cord coat

This coat is fab. It’s a little small for me, but as I’m wanting to wear it in the spring, I won’t necessarily need to do it up and it fits well everywhere else.  I altered the button position and also took the top button off and sewed up the button hole as it just wouldn’t fit across my bust. Also took up the sleeves, but I have to do this on every single coat I ever buy.

So far, Penrith has afforded the most spoils at the lowest prices, the charity shops in Kendal do seem to be more expensive – they are happy to charge £10 for a dress which I do think is a bit over the top to be honest.  I went to a number of charity shops in Islington when I was in London a couple of weeks ago and was horrified at the prices, and even more horrified that the largest item of clothing was a size 16 (and that there was only one of them).  Obviously charity shopping is not for the poor or fat in the capital.

Some of my Penrith charity shop finds

 

I paid too much for these too dresses (£10  for the Monsoon dress and £8 for the Tu dress), although I do like them both

This cardigan isn’t necessarily my style, but it’s lambswool and has the most amazing decorative cuffs!

One of the things I have made sure I do is actually wear the clothes I purchase from the charity shops as I have in the past been known to buy items and then not wear them, so I have really been trying hard to get them all worn.

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Brand New AXParis Curve dress – I love this the most of everything I’ve bought so far

One of the things I love the most about charity shop shopping is the thrill of the chase, will I find something amazing that someone else has discarded that I can take and make my own, and love and give a new lease of life to.  I really have had some successes this year, and I’m hugely enjoying the challenge as it’s making shopping exciting for me, and it also means that I’m not buying new, I’m helping to reuse clothes that are still very wearable, and that I’m donating to charity at the same time.  There is nothing not to like about this!

So my top tips for charity shopping are:

  • Try on things that aren’t in your size.  My finds above include a size 14 dress and a size 20 dress, both of which fit really well
  • Look for good quality fabrics – I’ve had real luck finding woolly jumpers and cardigans.  I rarely buy acrylic/polyester jumpers though unless they look brand new as they are generally bobbly
  • Be prepared to take things up or take them in.  I will need to take in the Monsoon dress as it’s a bit too big on me, but should be able to do this with no problem
  • There are almost always fantastic coats available
  • Dresses are hit and miss, you really have to look carefully to find anything nice and often there isn’t anything appealing
  • Go into your local charity shops every week or so as new things come in all the time
  • I’ve had no luck finding shoes, but I do hear of people who have scored pretty much brand new pairs for not much money
  • Take stuff to donate to charity shops if you’re not wearing it

 

 

Day 65/366: wardrobe (3) weekly

Have had rather a lot going on recently what with a snotty cold, an excruciatingly bad back and the arrival of a new doggy (see first pic!) which has mean that I’ve been feeling (and looking) terrible and really haven’t felt like taking pictures as much as usual.  However, I have still been attempting to remix my wardrobe and so far, have succeeded in wearing something different every day.

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So, be prepared for an image heavy post – have added details of clothes in each photo

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Primark swing dress 2014
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Monsoon skirt 2011, M+S top via Salvation Army charity shop this year
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Per Una cord coat via Oxfam, January
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Nomads Clothing pinafore 2014
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George skirt probably 2007, Clockhouse jumper 2014
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Monsoon dress 2014, White Stuff cardie 2014
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Monsoon dress 2011 or 2012
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George denim skirt 2009-ish Fat Face top 2013
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Peacocks dress 2013, George cardie 2012
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Wrap London skirt 2010, Laura Ashley zip top 2014
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White Stuff cardie 2015, George dress via Mind charity shop this year
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Dorothy Perkins top via Ebay, Fat Face skirt probably 2009
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Pink Clove dress 2013, Beth Ditto for Evans cardie 2009.  This was worn for a birthday party and is totally one of my most favourite outfits ever!
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George denim skirt (again), wool M+S jumper via charity shop 2015
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Dorothy Perkins swing top/dress. This doesn’t fit well so will be going to the charity shop I think

Day 61/366: Help!

61 days since I bought any new clothes and I’m feeling the strain. I really, really want to go out on a spree and try on loads of dresses especially as the Spring collections are coming into the shops. Simply Be keep sending me 25% off tokens and it’s so hard to just stick these in the bin.

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I’m  on my way to London for a meeting today and a training course tomorrow and normally I would use this as an opportunity to go and have a browse in shops that I can’t usually access out in the wilds of the North West. But instead I’m  going to have to ignore the temptation of the shops.

It doesn’t help that I’m feeling quite low about myself and also suffering from a bad back and nerve pain in my legs, so I feel like I need a treat to make me feel better.

HELP! Would appreciate some suggestions about how to deal with this state of mind!