Soundscapes, Seoul and Submission


These past couple of weeks have been busy but enjoyable. I’ve made considerable progress with various scientific activities, managed to explore Okinawa a bit more, and left the country, despite nearly not being allowed back in!

The science
I’ve been continuing my work processing the OKinawa Environmental Observation Network (OKEON) weather station data, and have been looking in more detail at the geography of the sites: their topology, habitat heterogeneity (measured via Shannon Entropy), vegetation density and extent of urbanisation. I’m getting to know everyone in the Economo Unit better, and have established a new collaboration with Dr. Nick Friedman who is currently studying the soundscape of Okinawa using audio loggers. This involves recording data on which species (of birds, insects or whatever else we pick up on the recordings) are present, and when they vocalise. We then want to find out why they vocalise when they do. These vocalisations could be driven by weather, timing, or any combination of the other variables I’ve been looking at for the OKEON project. I even got the opportunity to head into the field with Nick and others to set up some of the audio recorders. This was my first time in the Okinawan forest, where I saw some pretty cool bugs and some huge spiders! It was nice to get away from my computer for a couple of mornings and see some of ‘wild’ Okinawa for a change.


My work with Nick is still in the early stages, but since I’m finally making progress with the OKEON analysis I should be able to get to work analysing the soundscape data pretty soon. I’m looking forward to working with some biological data rather than just weather and geography – although I appreciate that the weather/geography data can inform all our work from now on.

The Submissions
In my ‘spare’ time, I have been working more on my manuscript with colleagues at the universities of Leeds and Sheffield and submitted that a few days ago to a pretty decent ecology journal (fingers crossed!). So that’s one more thing out of my hands for a few months while I await their first decision.

I have also sent off my funding application to the Irish Research Council for a 4-year PhD starting in October next year. My supervisor and I are hopeful that this will get funded so I can get to work on my doctorate (exciting!) and start some cool new community and functional ecology projects. We should hear back sometime in March, but my supervisor is keen to work together either way, so hopefully we can find the funds from somewhere and make this a reality. I’m keeping details quiet for now as nothing is ever 100% certain with science, particularly where funding is concerned, but we’re hopeful that this all pans out.

Images of Seoul featuring Hotteok and a Kimchi Pancake.

The South Korean Trip
I even found time to head to the Republic of Korea last weekend, taking advantage of the national holiday we get here for Japan’s annual ‘culture day’. I went to Seoul with a few of my friends and we enjoyed four days of food, culture and bright lights in the big city – a pretty big contrast to Okinawa! Oh, and the food. The food. I’m still dreaming about the food. All the food was really flavoursome (read: spicy), cheap and interactive; there was a lot of sitting around hot grills and sharing food from huge pots. We had everything from pressed battered squid and mealworms to corn pancakes and Korean BBQ. But I think the winner was hotteok (appropriately named since the roof of my mouth is still sore), a battered donut-esque pastry that can be savoury or sweet depending on your choice of molten filling. Well, that and the cheap (but tasty) Korean alcohol, Soju.

Our trip to Seoul was a good reminder that outside our Okinawan bubble there is a huge world filled with experiences good and bad – we even ended up in the midst of the largest political protest Korea has seen in years, with tens of thousands of people all protesting their dissatisfaction with president Park Geun-Hye. We also saw some unusual things, including amusing English translations, couples dressing identically (couples clothes shops are pretty common), plenty of outfits for dogs, and we visited a Raccoon cafe (side note: Raccoons are my favourite animal). It is safe to say that my trip has reignited the travel bug, and I’m looking forward to travelling more in the coming months.


Science wins:

  1. OKEON site regression analysis – I finally figured out how to regress a specific variable (X) against itself under different conditions (Y) and have revealed some interesting preliminary results. I will be talking to some of the unit about these results and their implications pretty soon.
  2. PhD Funding Submission – It feels good to have submitted my funding application and have one less thing to worry about for the next few months until we hear back sometime in March. Fingers crossed!
  3. Manuscript submission – I also submitted the manuscript I’ve been working on for the past few months, and all my co-authors are happy that it’s looking considerably better than it once was. Another case of only time will tell.

Science losses:

  1. Suspicious correlations – I ran some preliminary correlations to test for multicollinearity of predictor variables to be used in regression models etc. and they all came back nonsignificant. I’m having a hard time believing that’s correct, but keep getting the same results.
  2. Slow Progress – I feel like overall I’ve made pretty slow progress considering I’ve been at OIST for 5 weeks (about 20% of my internship period). I just don’t feel like I’ve accomplished that much so far, but I’m hopefully things will pick up soon.

What’s next?
The International Congress of Zoology starts next week here at OIST, so I’m hoping to get a chance to go along to a few talks and check out some of the interesting work that’s happening around the world. The following week, I’ll be flying to Tokyo to attend the commemorative symposium for the 32nd international prize for Biology, which has the theme ‘Biology of Biodiversity.’ This is an area that aligns really well with my own primary research interests, so I’m really looking forward to attending that and learning more about current advances in the field.

Work-wise, I’ll be working on producing a heat-map of Okinawa based on the OKEON data, and will soon be turning my attention to Nick’s acoustic data. I’m also making a poster for the OKEON project to present at the OIST science festival 2016 where the OIST opens its doors to the public so they can check out the cutting edge research going on in here. Oh, and we’re going to an all-night beach party in a few weeks because it can’t all just be work…

Until next time,



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