In the last couple of months, I have been working on cleaning the data that I was able to retrieve from past authors. Cleaning data has been time-consuming, but it is an important step because the old datasets need to be consistent for it to be compared against my current data. I have also had the opportunity to present my research at the Three Minutes Thesis competition. This challenges postgraduates to condense our research and speak to a general audience about our research under 3 minutes. The opportunity to speak earlier in the year at the CRT conference in Warkworth helped with my nerves, but I also learnt that presenting to a general audience with a strict time limit has unique challenges. I was also asked to present at the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust board meeting. Similarly, to CRT, they were interested in my quest in searching for data and found it relevant for their own funded research.
From my research in data discovery, I have learnt that it is easy for data to be lost due to multiple reasons. Studies have shown that the older the paper, the chances of obtaining data decreases exponentially. Therefore, it is important to consider not only uploading the raw data in an online data-sharing platform but also attaching the meta-data to the information. Meta-data is essentially a very detailed description of the data that was collected and all the factors involved. This is so, for example, someone who was not involved in collecting can understand and utilise the data, even decades after it was collected. I have been luckier than most as I have managed to track down past researchers, and they are incredibly responsive and helpful. Also, from my own experience, data being saved in proprietary software is a major accessibility issue.
I’ve also been writing my descriptive chapters researching more into the history of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary and the complex relationships the site has undergone in the last 200 years. This has further supported my chapter about keeping data safe and accessible, as I came across maps, pictures, and water table data from the late 1800s to earlier 1900s of the Avon-Heathcote. It was stuffed in a thesis written in the 70s which had been referenced several times since in later publications. I have not seen a copy digitally available online and have the physical version of it on my desk. The photos themselves are already falling out of the book and these are likely the last surviving copies of them.
I am very excited to be nearing the end of my thesis, and look forward to wherever my work takes me in the future.