A Day in the life…

I am now entering the 4th and final year of my PhD at Rothamsted Research and the University of Reading. My research, which is funded by the BBSRC and Lawes Agricultural Trust, aims to develop a model that will predict areas of a farmer’s field that are vulnerable to weed, in particular black-grass, invasion, and establishment. This work will contribute to the knowledge, and innovation, needed for more efficient use of herbicides.

Find out more in this short video:

Project titles

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My PhD project, as with most PhDs has a long and cumbersome¬†title but here goes…

Modelling the spatial variation in Alopecurus myosuroides for precision weed management

In order to understand what this means I find it is often easiest to break this down as it is only then that I can easily explain what I do.

Lets start at the beginning, shall we?

Modelling

No, I don’t strut around having my picture taken all day. I am talking about mathematical modelling. The sort where I take biological processes and describe them in a mathematical way and then using a programming language tell a computer how it can recreate those processes.

In order to do this I need data. Lots and lots of data. This means that whilst my main aim is the modelling I don’t just sit at my computer writing code. Instead I spend the bulk of my time out in the field or in a glasshouse conducting experiments to give me all of that data that I can feed into the model so that it provides realistic results and can simulate realistic scenarios.

the spatial variation

Many biological populations are not uniform and my study species is no exception. It forms patches of varying size and shape within fields and so I am studying the spatial variation in population density. I am also looking at how that variation relates to environmental properties which also vary in space.

in Alopecurus myosuroides

Alopecurus myosuroides is my particular study species. It’s common name in the UK is black-grass but it goes under many pseudonyms depending on where in the world you are. It is a particularly problematic weed of winter cereals in the UK and often has a patchy distribution within fields

for precision weed management

This is why I am doing the other stuff. It is the goal. If my project works and I find out some useful information it will be used for precision weed management. Simply put, this means changing your management practices according to where you are in the field.


So that is a breakdown of my title. I often find with research project titles, or journal article titles, that whilst they are rarely very catchy they do explain a great deal as to what will be covered in the following text. This is great when deciding whether you want to invest your valuable time in reading the thing but not so great if you want to draw people in who weren’t interested in the first place.

Recently I was asked to come up with a fun and catchy title to summarise my project to help advertise I talk I will be giving soon in a local pub. That’s when, after a lot of deliberating, I cam up with “Where the wild weeds are”. I feel like this is a much catchier title, and it is a lot more fun. Yet it still encompasses the essence of what I do. Why can’t all scientific titles be like this?

Next time: My talk in the local pub. How I convey my research to non-scientists

Helen