Amy Whitehead's Research

the ecological musings of a conservation biologist

Goodbye Melbourne, hello (insert adventure here)

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As I shut down my laptop for the last time and handed back my office keys a couple of months ago, it was hard to believe that two and a half years earlier, I had packed up my life in shaky Christchurch and moved to Melbourne to start a one year contract with the Quantitative & Applied Ecology group. Like most of the positions in my random career trajectory, I came to Melbourne by (happy) accident. I had applied for a position elsewhere in Australia and didn’t get it. But the guy who interviewed me mentioned this other guy in Melbourne who might have a position. We had a brief chat over the phone which essentially covered “Do you know how to use MaxEnt & Zonation?” & “When can you start?” to which I replied “Sure” & “Soon”.  A month later, I moved to Melbourne to start work with Brendan Wintle. The work has been interesting and varied, although largely concentrating on developing species distribution models to use in real-life conservation planning exercises aimed at informing Strategic Assessments in several regions of Australia. This has included lots of modelling, over a hundred meetings with stakeholders and lots and lots of squinting at maps and swearing at R code.  I also worked with some amazing colleagues, now amazing friends, and generally had a great time in Melbourne. Amazingly, in the two years or so since I started this blog, I have never written about the research I’ve been doing in Melbourne. The QAECO blog has a couple of posts about incorporating social values into conservation planning and some poetry that I wrote about a colleague but, at some point, I should probably remedy that.  But for now, here’s a story about my next adventure….
Not long after I bid my fond farewell to the folks of QAECO, I flew west to Perth to be reunited with my partner of seven years. It had been 4.5 years since we had lived in the same city, so it seemed like it was probably time we did something about that. Since then, I’ve been enjoying the Perth sunshine, finishing up a few work projects and playing travel agent. For we are off on a bike ride.
A big bike ride. Approximately 4,600 km of backcountry bikepacking along the Rocky Mountains from Jasper in Canada to Antelope Wells on the Mexican border. It’s going to be a great adventure and utterly terrifying all at the same time.
The Great Divide
What happens when we get back in November is totally up in the air. While a (tiny) part of me feels that I should be worried about not having a plan (particularly an academic plan) for when we get back. But it is actually quite liberating to just have the open road and endless possibilities ahead.

Needless to say, not much will be happening in this little corner of the web in the next few months but you’ll be able to follow our progress (and tales of bear encounters and other fun stories) at

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