James is running the Sydney Marathon!

Folks: I will be running my first ever marathon on Sept 16th! Help me raise money for my Mum Hilary‘s *amazing* charity, the South Sinai Foundation  – supporting the Sinai Bedouin, some of the poorest and most marginalized people on earth.

This will help fund one of her many projects. The Bedu risk life and limb to help tourists and pilgrims injured on Mount Sinai, where (unbelievably) there is not a single person with formal rescue training or equipment. My target of £1500 will completely equip and train a Bedouin rescue team.

Mohamed Khedr, Coordinator of the Foundation in Sinai

Mohamed, pictured here, saved a man’s life a couple of months ago who had trekked off alone without a guide, fallen and broken his leg. The local hospital refused to lend him a stretcher, so he and his friends improvised with a plank of wood and their headcloths, bringing the man to safety on a camel. He would have died alone in the mountains.

You can learn more and donate at: https://www.justgiving.com/jdjgilbert; in the UK it’s as simple as texting “BEDU99 £X” to 70070 (where X is the amount you wish to donate).

I am currently training in the field – in the outback – which makes for some gorgeous scenery on the long runs.  I’ll miss that when I get back to Sydney, but I certainly won’t miss having to carry a radio and emergency GPS beacon while I’m running!  I will also have to do a week of my training in Daegu, Korea, where I’ll be for a conference in a few weeks’ time, which should prove interesting.  I’ll update occasionally with progress.

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Long time, no post

We’ve had a hectic time back in Sydney and for a month in the UK visiting relatives and planning the wedding.  We are back in Sydney now and have moved to the beach!  We now live in Bronte, and are busily packing and unpacking, but should have some photos of the new place soon. In the meantime here are some highlights….

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National parks, fieldwork, and other news..

We had a couple of fantastic trips to national parks, walking and camping around the coastline and discovering beaches and swimming holes in the forest, awesome.  Shortly afterwards I ran away to the field for another field season. Lucy came to join me after two weeks. We’ve been having a lovely time out here despite some dramatic and changeable weather. A friend measured the temperature as 58°C/136°F on the ground one day, and a few days on, we are now experiencing some of the highest rainfall in years – 70mm in 12 hours and expected to last 48 hours more.  The creeks are 6 feet up, the roads are all closed and we are marooned at the field station, down to our last few bars of chocolate and crate of beer – so things may get ugly. I’ll let you know how that goes…

Last field season, a film crew from UNSW made a short video of life at Fowlers Gap with sections on both of our projects, which is now up on YouTube – here it is:

(link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klZ6cNIQJ04)

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Latest doings and our little flat

Happy Christmas and new year!  At the very least we hope you had a better day of it than we did…  At Christmas we tried to explore the national parks and have a day on a deserted beach 1 hour south of Sydney, under the perfectly understandable reasoning that everyone else would be at home with family.  Oh no.  After a disgusting 2 hours in stationary traffic we were turned away at the park entrance by police, who informed us that the park was “dangerously full”. When we got back home the bird we had taken out of the freezer for our Christmas feast had not only defrosted but gone thoroughly off in the heat, and had to be thrown away!  Chiz.

It’s not been all bad.  We finished our second field season at the end of November, which was successful. I discovered a new species of thrips!  Akainothrips francisi is the first species of thrips to be recorded living and breeding inside the nest of another thrips, i.e. a social parasite.  Very exciting.  Just FYI I am taking bids from anyone who wants the next one named after them.  Other highlights included the Melbourne Cup, a legendary horse race for which the whole of Australia grinds to a halt and indulges in much revelry and derring-do.  The local watering hole, usually very chilled out, was suddenly thronging with people behatted and bedecked in finery, and creating races out of everything it is possible to race, crayfish, beer, spouses, each other, etc.  Great fun.

Back in Sydney we found a lovely little flat that overlooks the city skyline, with a balcony perfect for kicking back with a beer in the evening.  Awesome.  I got the funding I had applied for, so we will be here for at least two more years before coming back to the UK for a year.

Lucy has been out bird-ringing several times at a local National Park, disappearing at unspeakable times of the morning.  We both went out last weekend, and got up close and personal with some beautiful kingfishers.  Less beautiful but also exciting was seeing the biggest thrips in the world (as I am told).

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In the field again….

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We went to the field…

I came back from a successful field trip to Fowlers Gap (near Broken Hill), having found the small insects I wanted.  Lucy stayed out there and will come back in November.  We also had a brief foray into the Flinders NP.

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Catching flying foxes


Bat in the net!

Taking it out of the net

Who does this remind you of...?


Video of flying fox being released here

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