Spreading the Word

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Six years ago I had come to St John’s to give a department seminar at Memorial University about Fairchild’s South Florida Conservation Program.  Today, the number of graduate students doing conservation research is thriving at the university.  For the second time I had a chance to teach a course to a cross-disciplinary group of students. Today I discussed three of our rare species and asked students to develop conservation recommendations under a constrained budget.  They had a lively debate.  I was pleased to see that the students recommended ex situ conservation as a valuable conservation strategy.  Within the past two decades the acceptance of and respect for ex situ conservation (seed banking and botanical garden collections) has grown. This means that the work botanical gardens have been doing for years is gaining more prominence and importance in our changing world. 

During my last visit, I also met with the director of Memorial University Botanic Garden to discuss international opportunities in conservation.  Today the garden board, staff and director are busy with master planning.  In this small community this garden is well-loved.  

The new Dr. Squires surronded by
her examining committee.

I’m happy to report that the student passed her dissertation defense with flying colors. She did a fine job on her presentation and handled questions with ease and confidence. Her committee was duly impressed. Unlike my own doctoral defense, this one had a more structured protocol.  There was a set order for questions to be asked.  As the outside examiner, I asked questions first to the candidate while the audience of her friends and family watched. Then the other two examining committee members followed with their questions. The major professor and graduate school representative also asked questions, but the audience could only observe. Also different from our system was the practice of withholding examining committee comments on the dissertation until the hour of the defense.  That means that today the candidate is busily making some corrections to her dissertation before turning in her binding-ready copy to the graduate college tomorrow. That’s PRESSURE!  But I’m sure she’ll do just fine. And I’m looking forward to seeing more of those chapters published! 

Now I’m heading back to Miami to warmer temperatures and sunshine. At the airport I relinquished to Louise the wonderful down jacket that Trevor graciously had loaned me during my stay in St. John’s.  Thank you Trevor! 

I hope you are all toasty warm whether in front of a fire or out in the sunshine.