Wednesday, November 21, 2007

so many fieldwork questions...

Today I ran my list of questions past Leo. After talking for a while, he offered an interesting idea. He suggested I go to Neotropical Field Site with Herb this summer to test out methods and design, then go to African Field Site next December and start my proposed research. Herb is unlikely to come to African Field Site, and Leo declares himself useless for the seed dispersal aspect of my project, so this would be a good way for me to get Herb's help in the field.

-Herb would be able to help me with experimental design and issues in his area of expertise
-I could collect useful data and do a small research project this summer, which I am less likely to get from African Field Site because it will be the wrong season for my organisms.
-Lots of similar research has already been done at Neotropical Field Site which means there is literature to build on and experienced people around.
-I would get to work with Neotropical critters

-Methods and design tried in the Neotropics might not work at African Field Site.
-I'll have less time to work out logistical problems, and less of an idea what those logistical problems might be.
-My 'focal organism' at African Field Site does what I want it to do in January according to the literature. If I arrive for the first time in December and find out that it is going to be impossible to work with, I'll have to find a new one and hope it is on the same schedule.

I've got to run this past Herb next week. He's really concerned about getting everyone to Neotropical Field Site even without me in the picture, but I think if I can get my own funding then he'd be amenable. Leo and I talked more about what I should apply for and what I should ask for from each source. If I apply for enough grants I'm bound to get some of them.

Leo asked what I was going to do with the review paper I wrote, and I told him I initially thought it might be publishable (when I came up with the topic, that is, before I wrote it), but I wasn't sure now. He said it would be perfect for Taxonomically Specific Journal (this is a made up name in case you couldn't tell) and would be a good way for me to make myself known in that community of researchers. I hadn't considered this at all so I'm glad he suggested it.

I think I've gotten better at talking about my research interests and not worrying that I don't have every aspect of my research project figured out yet. I suppose what I've learned to do is say, "I don't know" with enough confidence to acknowledge the question as relevant and something I will be able to find out the answer to even though I don't know now. Does that make sense? What it boils down to is me thinking to myself, "Yes, you can do this. Don't let anyone's well-meaning, inquiring questions intimidate or discourage you." I know it has taken me years to get to this point of academic confidence, especially among 'superiors,' but I'm really proud of myself.

I've got a lot of work to do over break, but Jon and I are planning to visit some museums this weekend. Neither of us is seeing family this Thanksgiving because it's a lot harder to get away from Big City without a car and we got a great offer to dog sit. Our friend from SFC invited us to have The Big Meal with her family so we're looking forward to that tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Wayfarer Scientista said...

erm, where is the said African Field site? 'Cause you have to take a large dose of time in to deal with the unexpectables that will inevitably crop up there. It's amazing what that can do to your fieldwork (although you are studying a plant and they don't move, I was studying a primate so maybe it's not a huge problem).

Karina said...

Hi wayfarer scientista,
Thanks for your comment! I'm definitely concerned that unexpected events, circumstances, and conditions are more likely to interfere with my field work if I don't go there this summer to scout the site with an eye for my project. I still have to talk to Herb to see what he thinks. I'll be working on volant critters in addition to plants so that adds another dimension.