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News Article | November 16, 2016
Site: www.nature.com

Life can get in the way of science, forcing PhD students to take time out from the pursuit of knowledge and the lab. It can be a tough call for students to make. Immersed in their work with no assurances of a great job, driven to scour the literature to stay current and primed to worry about competition and impressing their advisers, many PhD students think that academic success is everything. For them, nothing comes before their studies and research programme. Breaks are risky — there is no way to ensure a smooth return to studies, funding and the bench. University policies governing gap time vary across nations, regions and institutions, and maintaining funding and research continuity can pose hurdles. Attitudes towards time off also differ widely. Many faculty members and potential future employers look askance at a doctoral student's decision to step aside, even for a brief period. Your capacity to put your PhD programme on hold will depend largely on your field, your institution and your advisers. In general, you can take a break when you need it, as long as you are prepared for the consequences — particularly if you aim to pursue an academic career. The decision could affect your reputation, publishing record and ability to stay current with your research programme. But with careful planning, there are ways to soften the blow (see 'How to take a successful break'). Few statistics exist on how often, for how long or why PhD students take time off from their studies. In the United States, neither the National Science Foundation nor the Council of Graduate Schools tracks leaves of absence or can point to a central source for such data. Some individual institutions provide estimates of how many PhD students have taken breaks each year. Heather Amos, a spokesperson for the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, says that about 50 PhD students out of nearly 4,000 across all disciplines, or about 1.25%, took a leave of absence in 2015. Martin Grund, spokesperson for the Max Planck Institutes' graduate-student organization, PhDnet, says that his group doesn't track leaves of absence. But, he says, internal surveys show that 7% of doctoral students at the institutes in 2012 were parents, and so had probably taken parental leave at some point. Some funding agencies allow for certain interruptions of study, including care for children and elderly people, professional development and other life needs. Some universities permit students to retain access to campus services while on leave for a variety of reasons; others have no defined policy. Anecdotally, it seems that few PhD students so much as think about a pause in their programme. “I think most don't even consider it,” says Heather Buschman, who earned a PhD in molecular pathology from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine after taking six months off for a US National Cancer Institute communications internship in 2006. “They think, 'I could never do that'. People are on such a focused trajectory and see any wavering as a negative.” There is a great deal of external and internal pressure to race to the finish, agrees Gareth O'Neill, a PhD candidate in linguistics at Leiden University in the Netherlands. “Doing a PhD is a relatively focused and driven occupation — once started, you just want to finish it,” he says. As a board member of the PhD Candidates' Network of the Netherlands, O'Neill is involved with an initiative called the Professional PhD Program, which helps to place PhD students who seek work experience outside academia. O'Neill says that the programme rarely receives applications from students who feel they need to stay at the bench throughout their doctoral studies, but that those who do apply sometimes experience pressure from supervisors to finish their PhD sooner. That pressure, he adds, is misguided or inapplicable — particularly from mid- or late-career scholars, who don't know or who don't want to admit how hard it is for new PhD students to remain in academia now. “We hope to bring about a shift of mindset,” he says. Still, when the need for a hiatus arises, some don't hesitate to take it — and then sail through their leave and back. Earlier this year, Anna Miller earned a PhD in parks, recreation and tourism management from North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh. She says that she never questioned her decision to leave her research behind for half a year, when her Brazilian fiancé was offered a postdoctoral appointment in Portugal. The travails of a long-distance relationship had become burdensome, and she wanted to join him abroad. “Academically, I was getting a bit burnt out, but it was really the strain on my personal life that was the problem,” she says. “If I was going to stay in the programme, I needed to deal with the personal part of my life.” Her adviser was concerned that she might not come back, and Miller herself says that she left for Portugal knowing that might be true. But in Lisbon, she found herself drawn to nearby parks, and started studying how they were managed, just for fun. “It was a refreshing way to look at the same questions from a different perspective and reaffirm my desire to study this subject,” she says. “I came back with new energy for being a full-time student.” Re-entry turned out to be easy. To get approval for a leave of absence, Miller and her advisers had already agreed on a formal plan for her return, charting out how she would later complete course work, research and exams. They had also predetermined how Miller's funding, which was suspended while she was away, would be reinstated. Everything unfolded as planned — and Miller became treasurer and then co-president of her department's graduate-student association. She also began to mentor other students and to organize career panels and other programmes. Three years on, Miller and her fiancé have since married, and she is now a resident lecturer at the School for Field Studies Center for Marine Resource Studies in the Turks and Caicos Islands. She teaches undergraduates who are studying abroad. “I can't think of any negatives of taking the time off,” she says. Others also report a positive experience. “Ideally, I'd say don't take time off, but if you do, don't judge yourself harshly,” says Jen O'Keefe, a geologist and science-education researcher at Morehead State University in Kentucky. She took a pause from her PhD studies in 2002, after a working relationship with an adviser fell apart. Ultimately, she devised a new plan that combined part-time work on her doctorate with a full-time teaching schedule. Looking back, she thinks that her research career benefited from the five-month break, which enabled her to refocus her work towards palaeoecology and curriculum and instruction, as well as a variety of other pursuits that she loves. “Everything from fly-ash geochemistry to honey studies to sinkholes,” she says. “No two PhD situations are the same. You have to do what's right for you.” Some think that their field of study smoothed the way. Benedikt Herwerth, who studies theoretical quantum physics at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, says that he had little trouble setting up two stints of paternity leave, for a total of seven months, after the birth of his daughter in February. He says that Germany's generous approach towards parental leave helped, but that his field of study might also have facilitated the interruption. “I'm not doing experiments,” he says. “It might be an advantage.” Even when there are no obstacles to taking time off, trouble might arise that complicates a student's return. Eleanor Harding, a doctoral candidate at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, has taken two breaks from her PhD research on how the brain processes music and language. The first was in 2011, when her mother died. Harding took several months off. “I lost my edge for quite a while,” she says. “But my adviser encouraged me to keep going.” Harding returned to work later that year and expected to earn her degree in 2013 — until an experiment fell through, which caused delays, and pregnancy complications rendered her unable to work. In May 2014, after her daughter was born, Harding returned to her research, but she found that she could not afford enough childcare to resume her studies full-time. In addition, while she had been out, other researchers had published work in her area, so she had to redirect her research to examine a narrower question that would respond to the other scientists' work. “Now, unfortunately, I'm in the middle of the pack instead of at the front,” she says. “I can't say I was the first.” A gap of just one year can put a PhD candidate behind when it comes to mastery of important technological advances, warns Kim First, president and chief executive of the recruiting firm Agency Worldwide in Encino, California. As a headhunter who searches for PhD graduates for jobs in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, she says that she encounters few candidates who have interrupted their doctoral programme. “The way technology is changing, taking a break can become difficult,” she says. “How do you stay cutting edge?” Other recruiters say that taking time away to have children or for other life events can hurt a researcher's scientific reputation, and that students should find ways to incorporate those obligations into their PhD programme without putting their research on pause. Some think that the stigma might be worse for women. Justin Schwartz, head of the materials science and engineering department at NCSU, has helped students to organize leaves of absence. When it comes to parental leave, he says, women are more likely than men to take the time off — but those who do are often terrified (sadly, with some reason, he notes) that faculty members will think that they lack the drive to be the best and will extrapolate that women aren't suited to doing science. But whether female or male, most students experience one clear consequence after taking the break: they lose momentum. Harding says that although there was a benefit to delaying her dissertation — a competing paper helped her to solve a problem in her data — she now has few job leads near her husband's medical residency in the Netherlands, and attributes that to having lost potential publications and chances to attend more conferences. “Your worth is based on quantitative measures like an impact factor,” she says. “They want people with publications. Life doesn't always cooperate.” Harding is now networking locally — getting involved, for instance, with a organization in the region that funds research into Parkinson's disease. O'Keefe wishes that the harsh judgement weren't there, but says that it seems specific to academia. “People feel badly and a lot of scientists out there judge them harshly,” she says. “There's a lot of, 'If you had to take time off, you're not really good enough to finish'.” She says that many early-career scientists she knows who interrupted their PhD programmes eschewed academic research in the end, and instead, accepted positions in industry or teaching. Now in her early 40s and a mother, she says that she wouldn't have done anything differently, and looks forward to expanding her research. “I was on the fast track and I was moving too fast,” she says. “A lot of good comes from taking a break and reassessing your priorities. A year off is sometimes the best thing you can do. The big message is, it's OK and you're not alone and you can go on to be what you want to be.”


Last P.R.,CSIRO | Henderson A.C.,Center for Marine Resource Studies | Naylor G.J.P.,College of Charleston
Zootaxa | Year: 2016

The recently resurrected genus Acroteriobatus is represented in the western Indian Ocean by eight species, including a new guitarfish Acroteriobatus omanensis sp. nov. This small species (reaching ∼60 cm TL) was discovered off Oman in an investigation of the chondrichthyan fauna of the Arabian in 2002 and 2003. Its distinctiveness from other members of the genus Acroteriobatus is strongly supported by molecular data. Acroteriobatus omanensis sp. nov. differs from all other members of the genus by its very narrowly pointed snout and having a dense pattern of small, symmetrically arranged ocelli each consisting of a white spot surrounded by a darker rim. Acroteriobatus annulatus and A. ocellatus have a more-or-less ocellated dorsal colour pattern but the markings are larger and differ in form (ocelli consisting of a small dark central spot surrounded by a dark-edged pale ring in A. annulatus; larger, irregularly shaped ocelli with pale centres sur-rounded by a dark brown rim in A. ocellatus). © Copyright 2016 Magnolia Press.


PubMed | College of Charleston, Center for Marine Resource Studies and CSIRO
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Zootaxa | Year: 2016

The recently resurrected genus Acroteriobatus is represented in the western Indian Ocean by eight species, including a new guitarfish Acroteriobatus omanensis sp. nov. This small species (reaching ~60 cm TL) was discovered off Oman in an investigation of the chondrichthyan fauna of the Arabian in 2002 and 2003. Its distinctiveness from other members of the genus Acroteriobatus is strongly supported by molecular data. Acroteriobatus omanensis sp. nov. differs from all other members of the genus by its very narrowly pointed snout and having a dense pattern of small, symmetrically arranged ocelli each consisting of a white spot surrounded by a darker rim. Acroteriobatus annulatus and A. ocellatus have a more-or-less ocellated dorsal colour pattern but the markings are larger and differ in form (ocelli consisting of a small dark central spot surrounded by a dark-edged pale ring in A. annulatus; larger, irregularly shaped ocelli with pale centres surrounded by a dark brown rim in A. ocellatus).


Omori K.L.,Virginia Institute of Marine Science | Hoenig J.M.,Virginia Institute of Marine Science | Luehring M.A.,Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission | Baier-Lockhart K.,Center for Marine Resource Studies
Fisheries Research | Year: 2016

Fisheries can be managed based on surplus production models when only catch and effort data are available. However, reported catch and effort may not equal the true values. We studied the effects of jointly underestimated catch and effort on surplus production model parameter estimates (e.g., MSY, Bmsy and Fmsy) as well as estimates of key ratios (e.g., F/Fmsy). We used ASPIC to examine various scenarios of underreporting for three example fisheries, North Atlantic swordfish, northern pike in Minnesota and queen conch in the Turks and Caicos Islands. With constant underestimation of catch and effort throughout time, MSY, Bmsy and Bnext are all underestimated by the same percentage, while Flast and the ratios, F/Fmsy and B/Bmsy, are not affected. As a result, harvest regulations can be set based on fishing mortality and the ratios. That is, when one thinks the harvest is MSY with F = Fmsy, one is achieving MSY and Fmsy even though the catch is actually larger than it is thought to be. However, increasing or decreasing trends in underreporting of catch and effort over time lead to errors in the parameter and ratio estimates whose direction is case-specific and whose magnitude can be high or low. Each fishery model responded differently to the simulated scenarios, which may be a result of different exploitation histories or the quality of the fit of the production model to the data. The wide range of outcomes observed may be due to the fact that underestimation of catch and effort can lead to a gain or reduction in data contrast. Simulations of a variety of possible scenarios similar to the methods in this study should be conducted if catch and effort are believed to be underestimated to determine how the surplus production model responds. © 2016 Elsevier B.V.


Robinson D.P.,University of Edinburgh | Jaidah M.Y.,Qatar Ministry of Environment | Jabado R.W.,United Arab Emirates University | Lee-Brooks K.,University of York | And 7 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

Whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, are known to aggregate to feed in a small number of locations in tropical and subtropical waters. Here we document a newly discovered major aggregation site for whale sharks within the Al Shaheen oil field, 90 km off the coast of Qatar in the Arabian Gulf. Whale sharks were observed between April and September, with peak numbers observed between May and August. Density estimates of up to 100 sharks within an area of 1 km2 were recorded. Sharks ranged between four and eight metres' estimated total length (mean 6.92±1.53 m). Most animals observed were actively feeding on surface zooplankton, consisting primarily of mackerel tuna, Euthynnus affinis, eggs. © 2013 Robinson et al.


Jabado R.W.,United Arab Emirates University | Al Ghais S.M.,United Arab Emirates University | Hamza W.,United Arab Emirates University | Henderson A.C.,Center for Marine Resource Studies
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems | Year: 2015

Anecdotal evidence suggests that sharks are being targeted in the United Arab Emirates artisanal fishery. However, little information is available on this fishery and baseline information is essential for understanding its impact on shark populations in the Arabian/Persian Gulf, and for managing sharks in this region. The aim of this study was to investigate the artisanal shark fishery and gain an insight into the social, motivational and economic drivers behind it. Fishery characteristics were examined and the effect of fishing on local shark stocks assessed by interviewing Emirati fishermen across the country (n = 126). Sharks were found to be increasingly targeted owing to their high value in the global fin trade industry. The majority of fishermen (80%) confirmed that changes in species composition, abundance and sizes of sharks have been continuing for more than two decades, mainly because of overfishing, raising concerns about the sustainability of this fishery. Results suggest that sharks are likely to be overexploited and that management measures will need to take into account the precautionary principle. There is an urgent need to formulate long-term and effective conservation and management plans to prevent further declines in a number of species. Additional efforts should be directed to quantify the ecological implications of the observed changes and determine if these are aggravated by the life-history traits of the fished species. Such implications should be considered when assessing the sustainability of local fisheries. The data gathered can now serve as a reference to managers, fisheries scientists and other stakeholders to prioritize future research as well as lay foundations for the development and implementation of national management plans for the protection and conservation of sharks. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


Jabado R.W.,United Arab Emirates University | Jabado R.W.,Gulf | Al Ghais S.M.,United Arab Emirates University | Hamza W.,United Arab Emirates University | And 2 more authors.
Marine Biodiversity | Year: 2014

Although fish fauna in the Arabian/Persian Gulf have been studied for decades, shark diversity has only been recently investigated in the region. Here, we present a first comprehensive account of shark diversity from the United Arab Emirates based on fishery-dependent data collected at market and landing sites over a two-year period of field sampling. Landings across the country were dominated by carcharhinids, and six species were found to be most abundant, including the spot-tail shark, Carcharhinus sorrah, and the milk shark, Rhizoprionodon acutus, contributing 31.8 % and 29.9 %, respectively, of the total number of sharks. While observed landings varied among regions and across seasons, results showed that shark landings were dominated by small-sized species, which may be a reflection of overexploitation. We are now expanding the existing checklist of shark species in the Persian Gulf from 27 to 31, having utilized both morphological identification and genetic barcoding in validating the existence of the grey bamboo shark, Chiloscyllium griseum; the tawny nurse shark, Nebrius ferrugineus; the silky shark, Carcharhinus falciformis; and the sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus, in these waters. This inventory provides an urgently needed assessment of current regional diversity patterns that can now be used as a baseline for future investigations evaluating the effect of fisheries on shark populations. Results emphasize the need for research on life history traits of the various species in order to determine their regional conservation status, but also reveal that a precautionary approach to conservation will be necessary to mitigate anthropogenic impacts. © 2014 Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg


Jabado R.W.,United Arab Emirates University | Al Ghais S.M.,United Arab Emirates University | Hamza W.,United Arab Emirates University | Henderson A.C.,Center for Marine Resource Studies | And 3 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2015

The rapid growth in the demand for shark products, particularly fins, has led to the worldwide overexploitation of many elasmobranch species. Although there are growing concerns about this largely unregulated and unmonitored trade, little information still exists about its dynamics, the species involved and the impact of this pressure on stocks in various regions. Our study provides the first attempt at characterizing the trade in shark products from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the fourth largest exporter in the world of raw dried shark fins to Hong Kong. A review of trade records and informal interviews with local traders confirmed that the UAE is being used as hub in the broader North Indian Ocean region for the trade in shark products with the Emirati fishery minimally contributing to this trade. Results based on morphological identification of sharks (n= 12,069) and DNA barcoding of tissue samples (n= 655) indicated that the trade was made up of at least 37 species. The most abundant families represented at the Dubai study site were the Sphyrnidae (9.3%), Lamnidae (9%) and Alopiidae (5.9%). While information was mostly limited to shark products originating from the UAE and Oman, results indicated that 45.3% of species traded were considered to be at high risk of global extinction based on the IUCN Red List Global Assessments. Since many of the species found during this survey are likely part of stocks shared with other countries, regional cooperation and management will be crucial to ensure their long term survival. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


Henderson A.C.,Center for Marine Resource Studies | Nash M.,Center for Marine Resource Studies
Marine Biodiversity Records | Year: 2013

Sea turtle nesting had thought to be extirpated from South Caicos decades ago, but in December 2012 hatchling hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata were discovered emerging from the sand on a small beach in Shark Bay. Nest emergence was asynchronous and was spread out over at least two weeks. The nest was subsequently excavated and was found to contain the remains of 142 eggs, 128 of which appeared to have hatched successfully. It is unclear if Shark Bay is a regular nesting site, or if this nesting event was a transient occurrence. © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2013.


Claydon J.A.B.,Center for Marine Resource Studies | Calosso M.C.,Center for Marine Resource Studies | Traiger S.B.,Center for Marine Resource Studies
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2012

The invasion of the Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans into the western Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico is the fastest ever documented for a marine fish. Few studies have addressed the establishment of lionfish populations within a location, and habitats other than reefs have been largely overlooked. The present study reconstructed the invasion around South Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), from multiple sources of data. Densities and size frequencies of lionfish were compared in deep reefs (10 to 30 m) and shallow habitats (seagrass, mangrove, sheltered reef, and exposed reef <5 m deep) over a 4 yr period (2007 to 2010). By the end of 2010, lionfish had been observed in all 5 habitats. There was a lag of almost 7 mo between the first sightings in shallow habitats (December 2007) and in deep reefs. After 2 to 3 yr, the density of lionfish in deep reefs surpassed those in shallow habitats. In November 2010, mean density was over 10× higher on deep reefs (9.51 lionfish seen observer -1 h -1 ± 5.37 SD) than in seagrass (0.87 ± 0.41; p < 0.05), which was significantly higher than in other shallow habitats (sheltered reef: 0.52 ± 0.47; exposed reef: 0.12 ± 0.13; and mangrove: 0.06 ± 0.10; p < 0.05). Lionfish on deep reefs (TL = 22.7 ± 7.5 cm) had significantly larger total lengths (TL; mean ± SD) than those in seagrass (TL = 15.0 ± 4.3 cm; p < 0.05) or sheltered reefs (TL = 14.6 ± 6.8 cm; p < 0.05). Assuming one population with ontogenetic movement between habitats, density and age estimates suggest that lionfish may have moved to deep reefs from other habitats. The results suggest that lionfish may settle preferentially, but not exclusively, in shallow habitats before moving to deep reefs. © Inter-Research 2012.

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