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USA - January 2014

Travel to the airportAs I've stated elsewhere on this website, my travel to the U.S. back in January 2014 was the catalyst for me ending up here in Fort Collins now. As part of my PhD I aimed to use some computer models to simulate what would happen to the ecosystem carbon and nitrogen budgets if we planted a certain type of bioenergy crop - Miscanthus. To do this I was already planning to use one model developed by one of my supervisors, Prof Pete Smith, and his team up in Aberdeen. But the research would be much more interesting if I was able to add a comparison between that model, ECOSSE, and another. After all, how well do we actually know what's happening to natural cycles when we meddle with them? Do some models obtain more accurate results than others?

Flying into DCTo help get a better idea of some answers to these questions the Century/DayCent, model was suggested and I had an opportunity to attend a training course to learn all about it. And lucky for me, it was in Fort Collins, Colorado. I've recently blogged about my love of travelling with work and this was a fantastic opportunity. What's more, another supervisor of my PhD, Dr Christian Davies, suggested working with some of the DayCent modelling team and to combine the trip with a visit to Shell in Houston where he was based. So, after all the usual obstacles (finding money, clearing my calendar, sorting risk assessments, facilitating collaborations etc.) I set off for a month-long trip towards Lady Liberty. As you can see by the photos it wasn't a terrible journey but 

Bag brokenI was flying with United Airlines from Manchester to Denver via Washington Dulles, meaning I had to get off the plane, go through immigration, collect my bags and transfer to the Washington-Denver leg. I knew from experience (some of my family lives in Virginia) that this would be a pain but since it saved me (the project) a few hundred quid I figured it was worth it. How wrong I was! The flight from the UK was delayed, the wait to get through immigration was over 90 minutes, the flight to Denver was delayed 3 hours and my bag was broken when it arrived in Denver. UK family and friends had to rearrange my shuttle and hotel reservation in Fort Collins for me. In future, fly direct to your destination in the U.S.!

So there was plenty of work to be done over the four weeks I was stateside, but it was also a great chance to get out and about to see some sights and socialise. As may be evident from some of the graphs in this blog, January 2014 was a very productive month - a total of 209 hours of work was done, out of 234.5 hours of being 'at work'. Despite that, Ialso found time to:

  • Catch up with an old friend who also attended the DayCent training course

Mike LobsterMike poolMike Beer

 

  • Get up to Estes Park and Arapahoe Basin for hiking and skiing

Estes Park

 

  • Meet many new friendly faces over great food and many a delicious beer

usa14montage

 

And all that was before my visit to Texas! And, that's why I thought Fort Collins was a great place to come back and explore some more. The highlight was probably a walk round Estes Park Lake, I'm really looking forward to going back this summer and seeing it without snow everywhere. I imagine it'll be just as beautiful. If there was an advert for travel and wanderlust, I think Colorado and Fort Collins definitely does a good job of ticking all the most important boxes! So...who wants to come visit?

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