Saturday, October 02, 2010

Science in Darwin

Last week, I went to Darwin to do some lab work with collaborators at the Menzies School of Health Research. Darwin itself is a very unique city, located at the very top of the remote Northern Territories. It's surrounded by beautiful beaches, but you can look but not swim due to crocodiles and poisonous box jellyfish. The heat is sweltering, and the residents are very relaxed and friendly. I was very impressed with Menzies- their facilities and equipment are top-notch, and the scientific staff is both talented and welcoming. The institute does a lot of work with Aboriginal populations, who have high rates of disease and a life-expectancy 17 years shorter than non-Aboriginal Australians (more info here). I went to a seminar on a rare type of cancer that's striking young Aboriginal women in one region of the NT- they did a study on HPV rates in women in the area, and the acknowledgments included a group of tribal elders that assisted in recruiting women to the study.
One reason why I enjoyed the trip so much is that I'm starting to feel like I have an actual career- working with people in my new field (bacterial pneumonia), talking about ideas, discussing projects, making plans for that conference in Brazil we all want to attend, etc...

On my last day in town, they set me up on an eco tour that went to the Adelaide River and Litchfield National Park. The highlight was the jumping crocodile boat ride, where they dangle hunks of raw meat off the side of the boat to attach crocodiles (and the occasional eagle). Here are a couple of pics I took:

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