The whole of 2008 has gone by without a single blog! I wonder if anyone has noticed! Anyway one of my previous comments (June 2007) was on the question of whether foreigners in academia can get access to grants. Well, I'm glad to report that last year I was successful in applying for a JSPS grant to look at the way Scotland has managed its forestry resources and to compare that with Japan, which as you know is full of unused forest. That allowed me and a colleague from the university’s forestry department to carry out a survey in Scotland in September to see how well-integrated policy and industrial cluster organisation can beef up the competitiveness of a renewable natural resource industry. So don't let anyone tell you it's impossible to get research funding if you are not Japanese!
Other highlights include spotting my first Ruddy Kingfisher in the forests of Togakushi. Each year, a pair normally tries to nest in late May, but not just birdwatchers but cameramen with lenses about the size of the average Japanese car descend on the site and often cause so much disturbance the birds move on. In 2007, they moved onto the neighbouring prefecture (Niigata) but last year they just moved on to another slightly more remote part of the same forest, and it was possible to see them raise two babies. As you can see from the photo they haven't evolved any camouflage! As they are also very noisy when courting, they are one of the easiest birds to find. If in doubt go for the group of 30 Japanese with extremely large lenses gathered in a semicircle!
In April this year we are introducing a new course offering a ‘Green’ Masters of Technology. It is rather exciting - I get to teach two new courses of 15 lectures each, one on environmental sustainability and the other on business opportunities in sustainability. They are part of the Environment Ministry effort to green education, since business schools themselves have not exactly leapt at the challenge (too busy teaching about hedge funds)! So everyone have a Green and Happy New Year!