Author: Jeff Stratford

Reengaging after academic burnout

My last post described my brain after an academic year (including last summer) that resulted in burnout. The unfortunate side(?) effect of that burn out has been the tabling of a book that I’m editing – with some 25 chapters and three times as many authors and coauthors.

So I just sent them an email explaining that I was burned out. Will they sympathize or ostracize?  Not sure but I need to move on this project. I think I can but let’s see how it goes.

On a completely unrelated note, my students found the first wood thrush nest of the season. Last field season of the project looking at wood thrush reproductive success as a function of context (landscape) and local effects, such as tree cover.

So this burn out

I am burned out (at least I hope so). It’s nothing that I thought it would be. It is not a psychotic break down leaving me a helpless blob. Not even close. It is not a bout of deep depression.

My burn out is an inability to focus on anything meaningful.

I wrote some 300-400 pages of notes last semester and this semester I had biostatistics. I should have written about 100 pages of lab material, questions related to some of the literature, and 200 pages of lecture material to my existing 100-some pages. I barely scratched those goals. So students got minimal me. A shell going through the motions. Didn’t produce any documents related to my study abroad duties (though I worked my butt off on behalf of students).

As for scholarship, I’m behind on two reviews and I haven’t touched anything related to the book (I’m the editor) in months. My research starts tomorrow on nest success of Wood Thrush.

So burn out is subtle, serious, frustrating, and I hope I’m over it.

Caiman in Costa Rica

A new semester and new opportunities

Last semester was my hardest (psychologically and physically) in the 10 years at my institution – all self-induced.  Came up with fourteen new labs for our sophomore-level Population and Evolutionary Biology course. I also did the entire semester of lecture when I normally do ~ 1/3 so I came up with about 150 pages of lecture notes and hopefully we can turn this into a textbook and matching lab manual.

One the downside, I did not exercise at all and did not submit a single manuscript. The other course I had last semester, Archosaurs, was terribly neglected (although we had fun).  I’m also study abroad director and I didn’t get to do some of the things I had wanted to.  I also wanted to participate more in our DNA barcoding project and our camera trapping project.

But that semester is behind me and today is a snow day. The walk is shoveled and the only thing on my non-work itinerary is to give our woodsy smelling dog a bath.  Today’s plans are a part of the semester’s plans: work on a book chapter in the book I am editing. There are seven chapters in and in review and I’m late to my own book. So it goes. There will be 25 chapters so we’re nearly all a bit late. This is the biggest project of my career so I’m excited about it.

I’m “only” teaching our biostatistics course so I have time to work out (4 trips to the Y since the 1st and that’s good for me!). I have time to work on the study abroad website (trying to build a how-to guide for faculty and students). Working on two smaller manuscripts – one on rodent habitat preferences and the other on how urbanization affects predation on model (clay) caterpillars.

I can also update this blog!






A picnic on the beach. But..

This is the time of the year of that I would call the sweet spot. Research is winding down: Wood Thrush are wrapped up or are finishing up clutches, the clay caterpillar project is nearly finished, and there’s nothing left but to write. Like a picnic on a beach.

But soon – very soon I’ll be in a mire but I see this one coming. It’s like a huge tidal wave that happens every semester. I’m teaching two courses, one for the first time solo and both very time consuming, I’ll be working on editing a book as well as working on several papers.

A picnic on a beach in the shadow of a large wave. I’d still say life is good.