I don’t know what other field biologists think, but I find fieldwork quite stressful. Fun and exciting, but stressful. In many cases, you have limited time to get all your research done and you have to be a god of packing because you usually can’t buy equipment in the field. However, no matter how hard Hermes is rooting for you, things will inevitably go wrong.
Today I woke up expecting to spend a day working with the dreaded spectrophotometer. I dread working with this machine because something always seems to go wrong. Today was no exception. I plugged everything in, turned on the lamp and … nothing. What is supposed to happen is that light should be directed through the fiber optic cable onto my sample. If this is not happening, I cannot record the colour of my sample.
I quickly start panicking. Pretty much my entire research plan whilst down here requires the use of the spectrophotometer. I don’t have any spare parts because they are too expensive and I am just a poor PhD student, and I am far away from anywhere where I could get a replacement part shipped to.
So what to do? Usually when I encounter problems on fieldwork it is because the animals aren’t behaving as I expect, or perhaps even the equipment is malfunctioning but I have the tools available to fix it. In all these cases, I get frustrated but I think it through, find a solution and keep going with the research. Today, I just panicked for a while.
Eventually, I gave myself a mental slap and told myself to get it together. I won’t bore you with the details, but I realised that someone new is coming to the island next week and I could ask them to bring down a replacement part. I also thought through my research plans and only had to make a few alterations to keep the research on track.
So even though this morning I thought my entire field trip was going to be an even bigger failure than the Ford Pinto, the day has actually finished quite well, with another stomatopod video and data collected from 21 stomatopods. I really do need to learn to stress less and remember to enjoy working in such a lovely location with awesome animals!