Remote based work has taken on a whole new level and flavour for me since June 2021. After much deliberation, I decided to complicate my life somewhat and visit my family in Portugal. In preparation for this journey, I bought myself a new laptop for remote based work and set out to continue with my PhD as if I were back in South Africa.
If I go back to the early stages of my PhD at the beginning of 2020, I had learnt that I would have the opportunity to work with members of National Geographic’s Okavango Wilderness Project and The Wild Bird Trust in the Angolan Highlands. Unfortunately, the global pandemic placed our fieldwork in Angola on hold. Planning international field trips for extended periods of time has become challenging in the current climate. This created an issue for me; I had limited data to work with and I was no closer to getting to my study site. I discovered Google Earth Engine (GEE) and was able to teach myself how to code during 2020.
GEE is a platform that allows me to collect open-access geospatial data from my study site, only needing my laptop and a stable internet connection. With this added advantage of remote data collection, and with guidance from my supervisors, we had agreed that my PhD would be completed by publication using GEE. I have since used GEE to map extensive peatland deposits, provide drought assessments since 1981, and will assess vegetation response to fire since 2000 in my study site.
Working remotely in Portugal has been a great experience thus far. I am surrounded by family members, which has meant that I have not felt alone in the entire time I have been here. Communication with my supervisors has continued as normal on online platforms and my work continues to progress.
Some difficulties have come in, I do miss my parents and brother. As always, family members that have not seen you in some time want to spoil you. Much to my delight, I have visited some beautiful places all over Portugal, but this does distract from my PhD work. This requires me to become more disciplined and set out stricter schedules.
Coming to Portugal has given me a sense of freedom. As much as it pains me to say, in South Africa I usually did not have the opportunity to come and go with absolute ease. I often find myself walking the streets late into the night, simply because I can. But I do miss SA, I miss watching live rugby, eating red meat, Robinsons spices and the bush.
During February 2021, the SAYAS blogging team were encouraged to create our “Day in the Life” video, sharing a day in our PhD lives in South Africa during lockdown Level 3. It was a great way to showcase what a typical workday is like for us all at home. For this month, we were encouraged to make version 2 of our “Day in the Life” video. This version showcases a typical day for me here in Portugal. The video showcases quaint street views, a short guide on how to deal with the results section of a publication and a live tasting of some delicious pastry.