Monday, June 29, 2009

The Omnipresent Committee Member

It's kind of weird, but in some ways I feel like Sam is more my
advisor than Herb is. Sam has projects all over the place, and every
single one of my projects is directly connected to at least one of
his. This is in contrast to my advisor, with whom I discuss my ideas
but with whom I have no direct projects. Sam in involved in all of my
research in Ukenzagapia, the database project, the project with Marcie
(the undergrad) at BNHM, and even my interdisciplinary project.

Sam's name is everywhere at Nyota. Not only does everyone know him,
every day I seem to meet another person who works with him. Both of
the Ukenzagapians who work with Rena (my American housemate) also work
for Sam. He has trained so many people in the field and is an amazing
naturalist. He seems to be single-handedly responsible for 75% of the
research going on here. It's pretty amazing to see what a profoundly
positive effect one person can have, not only by advancing science but
by improving livelihoods.

But I'm both inspired and intimidated by Sam at the same time.

Every single idea I'm putting into action this summer comes directly
from Sam. Testing crazy new methods? Sam's idea. Sure-bet data
collection concept? Sam's papers. I'm working with field assistants
that he trained during his Ph.D., and he's had to call twice now to
help mediate salary negotiations. He knows this area incredibly well
and there's no way I could ever have as much insight into the natural
history of Nyota short of moving here for several years. I rely
heavily on Sam's knowledge and opinions of what's important and how to
approach things. I feel ill-prepared in comparison to him. How could I
possibly do anything half as good as what he did?

Thankfully, Sam seems to have faith in me to do something useful here.
I should have more confidence in myself to do the same.


gigirose said...

i wanted to thank you for sharing all of your thoughts and experiences of your fieldwork. it is definitely helping me to keep my own experiences in perspective this summer as I undertake some fieldwork in a new foreign locale.

Karina said...

I'm glad you enjoy reading, gigirose! Thanks for the kind words.