From field to finish: life after PhD

Decibels function on a logarithmic scale instead of a linear one, which means instead of increasing in a straight line fashion, when decibels increase acoustic power increases exponentially (see the figure for a tangible interpretation of this).

Knuth Paper-Stack Notation: Write down the number on pages. Stack them. If the stack is too tall to fit in the room, write down the number of pages it would take to write down the number. THAT number won't fit in the room? Repeat. When a stack fits, write the number of iterations on a card. Pin it to the stack.

Image borrowed from

Now, ignoring for a moment everything you know about how we perceive loudness (obligatory caveat for the acousticians in the room), I’ve discovered something else in the academic world that seems to function logarithmically: research.


I should be clear: I can’t take complete credit for the productivity outlined in this graphic. It’s largely a function of the academic system I came through. My PhD advisors, wisely I say in retrospect, required me to have at least 3 of my dissertation chapters in review before I was allowed to defend – and nothing will inspire publication submission like the desire to finish a PhD! Additionally, however, what shifted is that early in my graduate career I was doggedly trying to solve problems alone. But as I waded deeper into the community of research, I made friends, developed colleagues, and the process of making science got … well, easier. It has become almost cliche, but the truth behind collaborative work is that it increases both quality and yield (it also gives you friends to sip a celebratory beer with when the hydrophones go into the water, and again three years later when the paper comes out). Couple that with one amazing writing professor (OSU folks really should take Dr. Vicki Tolar-Burton’s class!) and boom- Year 5 happens.


Sipping beer with (almost Dr.) Samara Haver and Dr. Leanna Matthews on route to Glacier Bay for our very first hydrophone array deployment in 2015- oh yeah, now these ladies are my co-authors.

So, forgive me the self-centered nature of this post.  I’ve been absent from the world of science communication for a while, so here’s a quick recap of what has happened since May in once concise graphic (with only a little forward extrapolation).


I’ll pop in again soon with a more detailed description of what we found in these manuscripts (check out a blog post written for Nature Ecology and Evolution if you just can’t wait) and a whole mess of information about life at Cornell and our Florida Everglades Project; but for now, know that life after PhD marches on.

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