Sunday, July 5, 2009

Weekly freakout

Yesterday I freaked out. Again. For like the bazillionth time. About
my project. I almost started crying in the field because I was afraid
my sites were too close together and that all the data I've already
collected is actually useless. Jon wasn't in the field with me and I
couldn't talk about my concerns in a meaningful with my field
assistants, so I told the guys I needed to think a bit and I sat down
and thought for a few minutes and pulled myself together, for the most

Also, I had to come to terms yesterday with the fact that I've
probably lost one of my notebooks forever. It's my notebook with all
of the site characteristics, and I haven't seen it now since just
before Jon arrived*. I had to tell my guys that I can't find it so we
need to re-collect some of the data. This blows, but is not a complete
disaster. I've known for several days now that this was probably true
but haven't wanted to tell them. I feel like a fool. I'm already
insecure about working here because I'm totally dependent on them to
identify things quickly and my project would be basically impossible
without them, so I feel like an idiot for losing the first data we

Thankfully, Jon is my unrelenting cheerleader. When I got back
yesterday he reassured me for the thousandth time that my efforts are
not worthless. We've talked at length about my project and what data
I'll have at the end of the summer. He told me to stop second-guessing
myself every day. He reminded me that no one expects my first field
season to be perfect and flawless (except for me). He said I probably
will get back to Big City and think, "If only I'd also done X!" but
that I can't possibly expect myself to think of everything. Jon has
suggested that I not even think about how to analyze my data until I
leave, because such thoughts tend to send me into a helpless,
unproductive panic. We made a timeline for how I'll collect the rest
of my data, with priorities. I should have 7-10 extra days beyond what
I need to collect my high-priority data that I can use to work on
testing some of the new methods and do the stuff that Leo thinks I
should be doing. There's also a possibility that I'll be able to spend
some time in the field with my Ukenzagapian advisor (Dr. K) or maybe
even Sam if he makes it here before I leave this summer. Jon reminded
me also that even if I can't publish anything from this summer, I'll
be much, much better prepared for next time. This isn't my last field
season, just my first.

* The last time I know I had it was the night before I left Nyota to
go meet Jon. I didn't leave it with my field assistants. I thought I
left it here at Nyota, but perhaps I thought "I'll bring this along so
I can enter data!" but then lost it somewhere before actually entering
any data. I've searched all of the places here that it could be. I
think it's gone.


EcoGeoFemme said...

I second everything that Jon said. If you already knew how to do it all perfectly, you wouldn't need to get a phd.

Sucks that you can't find the notebook, but it will probably turn up just after you recollect the data. Then you might have some interesting comparison to make! :)

Transient Theorist said...

Hang in there and trust yourself! Jon's advice about not worrying about all of the data analysis right now is good advice. When you get back state side, there are lots of people who can lend a hand and certainly suggestions on how to analyze even quite messy data. It's something ecologists get a lot of practice with, because of the realities and limitations of empirical data collection.