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After my sojourn in Seattle, I headed north almost to the border of Canada for a wildlife conference. Right from the start it was a fabulous conference, and the most interesting I have been to by far (in fact, I barely missed any of the talks because they were all so great!). There were about 300 people there, and we had talks about rabies in squirrels, ebola in gorillas, the best way to rescue wildlife caught in oil spills (there is quite an art to this, I didn’t even realise!), toxic algal blooms and their effect on marine life, the social structure of orca pods in Puget Sound, beluga whales, toxicity from lead shot in birds, infectious diseases in Australian finfish, bison breeding programs, toxicity in Kakapo (that will teach them to destroy cars and buildings!), effects of a shipwreck on a coral reef, winter elk feeding grounds... and of course platypuses! My talk went pretty well (got a lot of questions and only counted three people that were asleep...) and I was excited as I came second in the student presentation competition!

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One great thing about doing research is the opportunity to go and spend some time doing your research at an overseas institution, and to go to conferences and present your work. The conferences are often in interesting places, and if you are lucky you will be able to apply for some sort of funding from the university (or from the organisation funding your research). I’m spending a year in the US on a Fulbright Scholarship, and last week I attended a wildlife conference in Washington State, which meant, hurrah, that I got to spend some time in Seattle, too.
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In time-honoured fashion, I bring you the final instalment of my list of top-10 time wasters. Now when you start your postgraduate program, you’ll have a head start over all of those other poor students who are also starting out and have no clue about how to really procrastinate properly. No, no, don’t thank me...

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On this blog, you are going to hear a lot of wonderful things about being a graduate student. I know I’ve already told you about the personal computer and the sandwich toaster, but there are many other fabulous perks that I and my fellow bloggers are sure to enlighten you on. So, in order to stymie any possible accusations of bias in the Graduate Life blog, I am going to inform you about some of the side effects that I have experienced in my efforts to get educated.

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Rest assured, dear reader, that my creativity, already somewhat stretched, limits me to two platypus-related blogs. Here is the final instalment...
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Somewhere in Eastern Australia, I stand on a darkened riverbank, huddled against the frigid wind. It is 2am, and I’m holding a small animal in my hands. It is covered with furry, loose skin, makes a growl like an angry cat, and tries to chew my hand with its soft, duck-like bill. The cold and the early hour are causing my mind to wander, and as I hold the squirming platypus, I reflect on the millions of years of evolution that have led to the strange creature I see before me.

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dangerous_when_wet.gif When you think of a platypus, what words come to mind? I’m thinking ‘cute’, I’m thinking ‘cuddly’, I’m thinking ‘perfect pet for my toddler/niece/nephew if only they would change those darn protected species laws’. If you thought any of those things, well, think again. It's perhaps a little-known fact that the males of the species are venomous. It's been poorly-studied to date, but lucky you- over the next few months prepare to become intimately acquainted with the venom of this eccentric egg-layer, because it is the basis of my research.

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