Albatross photos credit Samantha Patrick. Ocean picture credit Tiago Fioreze.
So now I’m going to get the chance to travel to the UK, to South Africa, to the Netherlands, all thanks to this big project, and all this just happened by chance.
I was contacted because I have an expertise that was a fit for what was needed. Essentially they needed a movement ecology expert, and now I’m on board for this awesome project, something I’d never have expected if you’d asked me just three years ago.
What is infrasound?
Infrasound is a sound that we humans don’t hear because the sound wave is at a lower frequency than our ears can hear. But many animals can hear these lower frequency sounds, and these sound waves are pretty much everywhere on Earth. The ground produces infrasound, every geological movement produces infrasound. Some animals actually produce infrasound: whales communicate partly by using infrasound that they generate. When the sound gets so low, not in terms of volume but in terms of pitch, that we can’t hear it, that’s infrasound.
It’s still the physical structure of a sound, except that humans are not able to detect it.
How do you manage your time?
Poorly. Everybody would agree on that, I guess. I work mostly in terms of projects – let’s say I have competing projects, so I work in bursts of time dedicated to a specific project, and I’ll work long enough to advance the project as much as I can. You have to because you have deadlines.
Then I’ll switch to another project and I’ll go head on with this next project until I get done, so on and so on. It means I’ll get a lot done on a given project, but there are always other projects, waiting for my attention and time.
How do you balance long periods in the field with your personal life?
I don’t really have extensive fieldwork with my projects. Even the new raccoon project is going to consist of very intensive but short trips into the field. There’ll just be a dedicated field week every three months.
As for a good balance between my work in general and my personal life, that's a whole other issue. I try to keep it sane by dancing a lot and seeing friends!
Have you got a great wildlife joke or humor to share?
My native language is French, so I don’t have jokes that translate well, but I will mention that there’s this great Norwegian movie called Troll Hunter (it has an original title, but that’s the translation). I will say that it’s not quite clear to me how humorous a movie they intended to make, but it turns out funny, and I think every field biologist should watch it.
These are people looking for trolls in Norway. It’s a very dry humor type of thing.
As field biologists you get a different reading of the same movie.
What are you currently reading?
I’m trying to finish one book that’s been on my night table for a while, which is called “Sins of South Beach” by Alex Daoud. It’s the story of Alex Daoud himself, who is a former Miami Beach mayor. Are you really familiar with Florida? Did you grow up in Florida?
Yeah, I grew up an hour and a half north of Gainesville.
So you are probably familiar with the Miami Vice era, when Miami was all about drugs and crime and everything like that. Daoud was the Miami Beach mayor back then, at the worst time in the history of Miami Beach, and he was trying to make it a little better for the people who were living there. It’s an amazing story of corruption, sex, abuse of power, and such. I happened to know Alex Daoud personally because he was my former landlord in Miami Beach. If I didn’t know him, I would think this story was just plain fabrication, it just cannot happen, but yes it did happen, it happened about 35 years ago in South Beach.
The guy who wrote the book was your landlord!?
Yes. It is a bit crazy, he actually went to jail because of all the corruption that was part of Miami Beach politics at the time. After that, he just retired from politics and owned an apartment building. That’s how he became my landlord, or more accurately, I became his tenant.
On top of that, he happened to be a former amateur boxer, and he was actually the sparring partner of Muhammad Ali when Ali was training himself for the elites. The entire life of this character is interesting.
That’s a crazy personal arc.
Is there one piece of advice you would like to share with students who will read this interview?
One very specific piece of advice is to take your time and pick the right adviser. Take time to talk to them, to get to know him or her, because you are going to spend the next few years working for them. You want to make sure that it works both ways: that you are the good fit for them; and they are the good fit for you. Students tend to forget about that. For instance, when there is an interview, it works both ways. It’s not only supervisor or faculty recruiting a student, but it is also the student recruiting him or her in a way.
Be very careful in how you decide, even if it’s your dream PhD position. If it’s not with the right person, it can really become a nightmare, so make sure you get the right person.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
I think I’d like Katie Sieving to answer these questions.
Perfect, I’m interviewing her next week!
Oh, excellent. Excellent!
Note: We actually wound up releasing Dr. Sieving's interview first. Read it here!
Is there anything else you’d like to tell people?
Yes, come visit me down south!
I never got this joke the first time I heard it, but the distance from Miami to Gainesville seems a lot further than the distance from Gainesville to Miami, and it’s pretty true. So I would say come visit me!
Openness was my choice of word to define my work. It also holds true for visitors who want to come down here.
Plus, we’re a big door to the Everglades!