explorer

Summer 2018 Round-up…

Finally, after an outrageously hectic time things have calmed down… ‘slightly’ so I guess it’s time to get back to tapping away on my laptop and letting people know what’s been cracka-lackin!..

May = Mission High Water

WE DID IT! Rachael and I completed our challenge (although not within the 24 hour deadline). We raised over £3000 for charity and became the first women to successfully complete the challenge. WOAH. Find out more about it here. Or watch our video here!

team support.jpg
scotland entry.jpg

June = Back to PhD work and jointly organising a Himalayan research workshop for Bristol Glaciology Centre

The workshop was the epitome of “Global Challenges” - firstly, organising it was itself a ‘global challenge’ with delegates travelling from all over the world - USA and pretty much every country the Himalayas and other mountain regions span! Meeting academics from these countries opened my eyes to what research and in particular what I as a researcher in the UK, can do. It was a good few days and I look forward to collaborating with the network of Himalayan academics in the future.

Workshop poster!

Workshop poster!

The workshop attendees all outside the Planetarium

The workshop attendees all outside the Planetarium

Chotta Shigri glacier, Himachal Pradesh, India

Chotta Shigri glacier, Himachal Pradesh, India

July - PhD work - Extractions, extractions, extractions…

Beans glorious beans growing

Beans glorious beans growing

Root nodules of leguminous plants

Root nodules of leguminous plants

Himalayan alpine plants on glacial forefield - how do they work?

Himalayan alpine plants on glacial forefield - how do they work?

I started growing crops again to continue with my agricultural research, plus did a lot of analysis in the lab!

I have become really interested in understanding the natural plant system on the proglacial landscape and using this knowledge to adapt my crop work back in the UK. The alpine plants pictured are from the Himalayas. I have started thinking about legumes and how their N-fixing capabilities are more similar to species that live in these nutrient limited environments. Exciting stuff!

August - Fieldwork prep

I am off back to India in a few weeks so its time to really get stuck in planning.

Unsurprisingly I don’t have many pics of the vast spreadsheets, travel plans and washing of plastic bottles for samples!!….



September - Back to India! - More about this soon!


WOWWWEEE!!!!

Chandra Taal Lake, Himachal Pradesh, India. Sept 2018


October - Walking around Malta and Gozo with Harry - Post in-coming

Cafe chic Harry

Cafe chic Harry

What a fantastic trip with my best friend!!!

I also tried out my film camera properly for the first time!

Malta farm

Malta farm

Seaside , Malta

Seaside , Malta

WOAH! That takes me up to winter, when the months get dark, time passes slowly and I spent it curled up in a pub by the fire drinking beer, eating cheese for snacks and mash potato and gravy based meals.

Speak to you all soon! - It won’t be so long I promise!!!

New Year, New Challenges!

Hello!

I hope you're having a lovely time over winter festivities - the end of the year has arrived so I thought I would jump on the blogpost band wagon. So here goes... a smorgasbord of my New Years resolutions, goals and past highlights. 

Top of Ben Nevis, 2017

Top of Ben Nevis, 2017

2017 Highlights

WDHOF Scholar! 

WDHOF Scholar! 

  • March: New York - Beneath the Sea and WDHOF meet up following being awarded a WDHOF Diver Medic training grant. What an inspirational week across the pond! I met so many amazing people. If you get the chance to visit - go for it!! 
     
  • June: Scotland - Ben Nevis via CMD arete. Probably the best day out I have ever ever had! The views were just stunning, plus I was with the greatest adventure partner of all time, my sister Beth.  
     
  • July/August: Patagonia, Chile - Despite rain that never stopped and some moments of pure, dark, cold misery I had a great time. I think some of us enjoy the whole personal grim hardship of the outdoors, my friends say I am mad. I was really lucky to make some vvvvvvv good friends here, digging trenches to divert flood water from tents to making naan breads and snapping many sporks (sorry). I'd do it all again. 
     
  • September: Himalayas, India - Corr! This short and sweet trip = as amazing as it was difficult. The mountains are infectious and I can't wait to go back! 
     
  • November: Awarded £12000 Leverhulme Bursary for PhD! Yippee!! 
     
  • December: Bristol - Somehow I can now run for 30 minutes without stopping. Having spent the last two years swimming for fitness, after finally getting my 1km time down to below 15 mins I decided it was time to try something else. I popped my trainers on and started pounding the trails. The joy upon finally hitting 30 minutes was GLORIOUS. My bendy knees have been fine, but to avoid future injury... I probably need a new strap-em-down-zero-jiggle sports bra. 
Camp Steffen, Patagonia Chile

Camp Steffen, Patagonia Chile

Resolution

I can't quite believe where I am standing now. The new year, 2018, marks five years from when I was ill. I have always been fairly 'relentless', focused on work and my goals. Over the last year I have achieved things I once didn't think possible, but in the process have lost touch with many of the people who helped me get here. Finding balance between work, personal goals, friends and family is what I need to improve upon. This year I want to give my friends a great big bucket load of TLC, rather than just a virtual hug over text or the phone. You helped me get here, so now let's enjoy it! So my New Years resolution is to do just that - see my friends and family more. Surprise everyone!! You thought you'd escaped me... 

Ben Nevis CMD arete route 

Ben Nevis CMD arete route 

2018 Goals

Writing these out always makes me a feel a little sick. "Stop talking, just do it" and all that jazz. So here goes... 

PhD Science-ing.... in the GroDome

PhD Science-ing.... in the GroDome

1. Climb more mountains - I am kicking off the year with a trip to the Pyrenees with the Love Her Wild and 360 Expeditions lot. Who knows there may be a big summit trip later on in the year.... 

2. Mission High Water - Rach and I will be doing this bonkers scuba-mountain 24 hour challenge in May. I will get it done 'come hell or high water' and raise a load'a cash monies for Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. 

3. Run 10km - I'm going to see if I can do something that five years ago would have made me laugh and spark up another cig at the mere thought of running. Run a whole ten thousand metres non-stop... apparently some people even enjoy these runs. We'll see about that... 

4. Long Distance Trail - Somewhere, somehow I will get one done. Time to get the diary out and get planning. 

5. PhD - I AM STILL DOING SCIENCE. Now rolling into year two the available time for faffing about has dwindled. Heads down writing and lab work ahead. 

6. Drawing - I haven't had the time to draw much this last year - I have dug out my pencils ready for the new year! If I can complete one a month that would be perfecto. This is probably the hardest of all!! 

There you have it - 2018 will have a bit more friend lovin' combined with my usual relentless personal goals and some enforced monthly chill time. Looks like a good recipe. I can't wait to turn the calendar over and begin. If it is anything like the year just passed, I will be extremely fortunate. I wish you all best wishes, good health and a very, very Happy New Year.

Lots of Love, Sarah x

High Willhays, Dartmoor Dec 2017 

High Willhays, Dartmoor Dec 2017 

The family (minus Anna), Dartmoor, High Willhays Dec 2017

The family (minus Anna), Dartmoor, High Willhays Dec 2017

My three year mission to the top of Ben Nevis...

My Ben Nevis story started a long time ago. In 2013/14, my mental health had declined enough for me to voluntarily agree I should be admitted into hospital.

“You don’t fall up, you just fall down”

A significant factor in my mental health recovery has been falling in love with nature and the outdoors once again. Initially forced by family and friends to get outside, I now would much rather be exploring the countryside! Having grown up going on walking holidays as a family, my sister Beth and I decided to go on holiday to the Lake District last year. I’d gone back to work properly only 6 months before so this was my first holiday in a while. I was unfit with sore joints and minimal self-confidence. I didn’t really believe much was possible, but Beth assured me that I wouldn’t know unless I tried.

Me, April 2016. 

Me, April 2016. 

We successfully got to the top of the Old Man of Coniston (803m). The views were spectacular! We decided on the way down that we would do some more mountains one day. I also internally decided that if I was going to do more mountains, I should get a lot fitter. I didn’t quite fancy huffing and puffing all the way up again.

Fast forward to May 2017. Beth and I are driving up to the West Highlands, I am the happiest I have ever been and am 6 stone lighter. We decided that should we be lucky enough with the weather we would try to climb Ben Nevis.

Affectionately known as ‘The Ben’, it stands at 1345m above sea level in the Grampian Mountains, West Highlands, Scotland. It’s fame for being the highest mountain in the U.K attracts 125,000 people to the summit and a further 100,000 people partial ascents each year. With the vast majority heading up on the mountain track that works out at 4327 people / week, 618 people / day. Beth and I decided that we wouldn’t trundle up the Ben with the masses and would instead go via Càrn Mòr Dearg (CMD) (1221m) over the CMD Arête and then up to the Ben.

Off we go up Carn Mor Dearg with the beautiful sights of the Ben cliff face!

Off we go up Carn Mor Dearg with the beautiful sights of the Ben cliff face!

On the Thursday of our holiday up in Scotland, we were blessed with clear skies and sunshine. We followed the route on walkhighlands.co.uk. The blurb describes it as “a truly spectacular route incorporating two Munros. It will live long in the memory and does true justice to the mountain.” We started with what felt like a never ending slog up the CMD slope and then had a glorious walk and scramble round the ridge and across the arête. The route really allows you to take in the enormity of the northern cliff faces of the Ben. The views the entire day were absolutely spectacular – we could even see to the Isle of Skye!

Beth looking over to the arete and up the Ben! Stunning!

Beth looking over to the arete and up the Ben! Stunning!

At the top of Ben Nevis, 1345m.

At the top of Ben Nevis, 1345m.

Beth and I at the summit

Beth and I at the summit

This route would have been unimaginable to complete a year ago. The route is over 20km and after getting to the top of the Ben it is a long way back. Despite this, it was one of the greatest days walking I have had in my entire life. I was elated at the summit of Ben Nevis – but I was emotional upon arriving back to the car. This mountain had been at the back of my mind on every walk, swim and (almost) every meal for a year. I did it with the greatest walking buddy in the world, my sister Beth.

As for falling down, I now have strategies to protect both my knees and thoughts from slipping. To save my knees I use two poles when walking downhill. To look after my mind I draw and go into the outdoors. 

So there we go. To many more mountains. Cheers!

Sarah

P.S. I am also very sorry to all those on the Ben mountain track on May 25th 2017 for I sang multiple Disney songs at the top of my voice on descent round Lochan Meall an t’Suidhe. I was overjoyed to be walking on soft boggy grass compared to knee compacting gravel. I am sure you could tell…

International Women's Day 2017

Watering soybeans in the GroDome - Thanks Jon for the pic!

Watering soybeans in the GroDome - Thanks Jon for the pic!

I just realised I hadn’t posted in a while! I have been busy moving house and setting up my new “HQ” in the very spacious Bristol Barbie Dream House (as named by Harriet and I). My research is going well, we have harvested our last experiment and I have begun planting some soybean trials! 

Last week on 8th March 2017 it was International Women’s Day. I have personally experienced sexism not only within the different industries I have worked in, but also in everyday life.

I understand that my own experience is incomparable to the discrimination some women face around the world. Through advocating women’s rights in science, outdoor adventure and scuba diving in the UK, I hope to put forward my ideas and beliefs to others. I don’t believe women are better than men, but that we should all be seen as equal – it should just be the “best person” for the job, regardless of gender.

“The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes”
— Oxford Dictionary
Sicilian catwalk! August 2015

Sicilian catwalk! August 2015

I have heard many murmurs about how it is unfair that women have so many positive groups helping them achieve their dreams. However, I don’t think we would need them if these activities were not gender biased. They are essential. They do not just enable today’s pioneering women, but they also assist others in taking part and inspire the younger generation.

Personally, International Women’s Day is a celebration of the positive changes that have occurred so far. However, it also acts as a reminder that we must continue to promote women’s rights to achieve equality.

My parents brought me up to believe that I could do anything (thanks Mum and Dad). This belief wasn’t born out of nowhere. I was shown inspirational women, all feminists in their own way, from an early age. These role models have helped shape who I have become today. I decided to compile a list of the top five women who have inspired me the most whilst growing up.

Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter

1.     Beatrix Potter (28th July 1866 - 22nd December 1943) 

Beatrix Potter wrote ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ in 1902. Her children’s books and the animal creatures they contain were my favourite whilst growing up. Jemima Puddleduck was a firm favourite! However, she was also a scientific illustrator. Prior to the children’s books she had developed her own theory on how fungi spores reproduced. She wrote a paper ‘On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae’. Sadly, at the time women could not attend Linnean Society meetings to present their work. It received little attention and her paper has since been lost. Thankfully, many of her beautiful illustrations and diagrams of funghi have been preserved. On my last trip up to the Lake District last year my sister and I were fortunate to explore a whole gallery of them – they were incredible! She sadly died on 22nd December 1943, however she left her fifteen farms and 4000 acres of Lake District countryside to the National Trust. This gift has help preserve and protect this beautiful area to this day. When you next go on a walk up there – remember that your wanderings are possible because of this amazing person!

Watercolour - lepiota friesii, Beatrix Potter

Watercolour - lepiota friesii, Beatrix Potter

Dame Ellen MacArthur - yachtswoman

Dame Ellen MacArthur - yachtswoman

2.     Dame Ellen MacArthur (8th July 1976)

A successful solo long-distance yachtswoman. When I was 14 I watched her break the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe on 7th February 2005. Her dedication and resilience were unlike anything I had seen before! Today she focuses her efforts on the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, a charity enabling young people aged between 8 and 24 to go sailing to help them regain their confidence following cancer, leukaemia and other serious illnesses. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is also working towards a circular economy through a series of initiatives inspired by her sailing.

3.     Rosalind Franklin (25th July, 1920 – 16th April, 1958)

Was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer. I first came across her story when I was 17 years old, during my sixth A level biology course. Her work massively contributed to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), RNA (ribonucleic acid), viruses, coal and graphite. During her time in the 1950s at King’s College, London working on DNA, she clashed with researcher Maurice Wilkins – who had assumed she was his assistant, not his equal. Their relationship got worse until Wilkins shared Franklin’s research with James Watson and Francis Crick, their competitors at Cambridge University. Watson, Crick and Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962. Rosalind Franklin continued work on viruses after the furore, however she died in 1958, aged 37. She has since been recognised for her work by academia. I found the struggle she went through compelling – I also found DNA fascinating!

Dr Sylvia Earle 

Dr Sylvia Earle 

4.     Dr Sylvia Earle (30th August, 1935)

I think I have watched the documentary ‘Mission Blue’ at least ten times now! Dr Sylvia Earle is an American marine biologist, diver, explorer, author and lecturer. She was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In 1998 she became a National Geographic explorer-in-residence and was named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet. The scuba diving and submersible exploration that Sylvia has been a part of is truly inspirational. However, her personality and attitude over the oceans demise was really what struck me. Mission Blue, is now aiming to set up more ‘hope spots’ around the world – protecting more of the ocean than we do today.

The Tingey Tribe - Choose love

The Tingey Tribe - Choose love

5.     Sally Tingey (23rd February, 1962)

My Mum has taught me a lot about what it means to be a strong person. As a teacher and lecturer she has had a positive impact on so many people’s lives. She has helped me through multiple difficult times and together with the rest of my family it always is fine in the end. My Mum is an avid supporter of all my science work – she even proof-reads essays and bits of writing for me (total grammar boff). Together with my Dad they have helped show me what amazing things can be done with a bit of hard work. Thanks Mum, and Happy Mothers Day in just over a week!

Now for the next adventure – I am off to New York next week!
Watch this space!