Thursday, November 12, 2009

Everything I do will be incomplete

The concept of incompleteness in my work is something that has come up a few times now in my weekly meetings with Herb. Basically, everything I do as an ecologist will be incomplete. I am never, ever, ever going to be able to measure or control everything that I would like to in order to get nice, clean results. The challenge is to figure out what data I can collect to answer a meaningful question. It doesn't have to be a big question. There will always be related questions that I would like to answer but won't be able to. I am limited by time but also by accessibility. There are things I really want to know about critters that I just can't because of their behavior and life history. There are even things I want to know about plants that I can't figure out, and they don't even move! No matter what project I've come up with so far, I've struggled with the limitations in the kind of data I am able to collect. In this way my work as an ecologist is and always will be incomplete.

This is a limitation that I need to accept and embrace. I feel like I only see holes when I look at my project ideas. How could reviewers possibly accept EFG if we don't understand ABCD? I've put so much pressure on myself to come up with a complete picture that I'm paralyzed. Is it even worth it for me to catch critters if I can't find out what they're doing? Instead of feeling discouraged by the limitations, I need to find a way to be liberated by the concept that adding one little twig or bud to the tree of knowledge is a contribution. No one expects me to do it all. I need to find something that I can do, and do it.

1 comment:

EcoGeoFemme said...

When you read papers in your subfield, try summarizing in 1-2 sentences what new information the study contributed. Maybe that will help you define an appropriate scope for your work.