Thursday, July 9, 2009


I suppose, with the brief exception of sharing my office space, I have avoided the whole topic of school up to this point. We have been here in New Zealand for 5 1/2 months now and I'm approaching my first deadline; the submission of my proposal. And I've also presented my work at my first conference, the Antarctica New Zealand conference held this year in Auckland. So I figured I should take a moment and share with you all what I'm actually doing here (besides taking in stray cats, shopping at markets, and being cold).

I am studying at Gateway Antarctica, the Antarctic research centre associated with the University of Canterbury ( We fall under the Faculty of Science and are located in the geography building, but Gateway is a seperate entity that has links to pretty much all the faculties at the university. If someone is studying anything to do with "the ice" (that's what New Zealanders call Antarctica) they come through Gateway. The people at the office are absolutely wonderful and I'm pretty sure we have the most worldly faculty (not one of them is from New Zealand ironically). My superviser at the uni is Bryan Storey, the director of Gateway and a geologist, he pretty much guides the paperwork aspect of the project and keeps an eye on me (from Ireland). Gary Steel, my other supervisor, actually works out at Lincoln University (on the outskirts of Christchurch - they have a very strong agricultural focus) but is an adjunct faculty at U of C and is an environmental psychologist (and from Prince George). Others at the office include an Austrian couple (Wolfgang and Ursula), an american (Michelle), a welshman (Irfon) and an east german (Daniella). Lunchtime is always great with conversations ranging from Micheal Jackson's funeral and the newest movies to East German space technology and the intricacies of rugby. But once again, I'm changing topic.

My main underlying question is "How does 'sense of place' develope in remote and extreme environments?" Sense of place is an intriguing topic to me, as it explores the connections, meanings and values we place on the space we inhabit. There has been lots of work done on how sense of place developes in and around where people live (eg. home, neighbourhood, city, etc.), but there has been little to no work done on how we project meaning onto places (or spaces) we have not been. Antarctica intrigues me as well due to its common associtation with tabula rasa (which means 'blank slate'), with relatively recent human physical presence, it plays host to a newly developing culture based mostly on science.

The poster is the one I presented recently at the Auckland conference. It won the 1st prize for student posters. A thrilling result for my first foray into the research community here.

But now, I'm off to the pub.

1 comment:

  1. Finally, I get to catch up on your blog and all the cool, or damp and cold according to Jan, stuff that happens in a NZ Winter. I shall project meaning on NZ soon as I've never been there and its remote.

    I say it has penguin prairies where the herds roam free.