I recently got the chance to join the annual lab retreat of the Stouffer Lab from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. Ass. Prof Daniel Stouffer is one of my PhD co-advisors and he invited me and my primary supervisor, Ass. Prof. Margie Mayfield to meet up with his lab group.
We stacked a week's worth of food and all of our luggage into a trailer and piled in a van. We drove to a research station of U. Canterbury in Cass, New Zealand, just on the eastern edge of the Southern Alps. The week was mostly rainy and cold but we did have a few good weather days. I made it to the saddle of the nearby Sugar Loaf Mountain. I also got the chance to visit Arthur's Pass National Park.
Throughout the week, each person (supervisors included) presented 3 talks: (1) a new project/collaboration idea, (2) a paper that has influenced you as a scientist, and (3) something else. Everyone presented awesome ideas and interesting papers but my favorites were the 'something else' talks. They ranged from talking about parasites to how to make sure your toast always lands butter side up to a proof that we are living in a simulation (think Matrix). I also contributed a parasite talk (although completely not coordinated) and gave a very brief introduction to flea ID and some crazy prairie dog stories from my time working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The weekend before the retreat I arrived early and did a couple of the 2 most touristy things in Christchurch: the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and the International Antarctic Centre. It was great to see wildlife at Willowbank but I was most excited for the tuatura (which I have wanted to see since I was 10 - next step is to find one in the wild). The Antarctic Centre was amazing... actually really want to spend a few months conducting research there... but plants are few and far between... so I am unsure I will ever make it there (if anyone has contacts looking for a plant community ecologist for Antarctica... let me know!). I also joked with a friend back in WY that the temperature in the storm simulation was very similar or warmer than some of the days we had in Laramie.
I also got to explore Christchurch proper the Saturday after the retreat. It was cold and rainy and windy (reminding me very much of Wyoming) but was interesting to explore the town and see the destruction of the 2011 earthquake. And, of course, I eventually found myself at the Christchurch Botanical Gardens!