Published: July 18th 2012June 18th 2012
Amazingly, I have completed 3 surveys of each of my study streams, which means I have already completed more than 3 weeks of data collection. While my first week in camp was largely rained out and I spent more forced days in camp and in town getting supplies than I would have liked, the past two weeks have been a whirlwind of field work.
This is my second year at this field camp, and I quite enjoy the camaraderie of the group of scientists that are here. The exact composition seems to change constantly, but for the majority of my time so far, there have been about 10-12 of us in camp. Myself and my new field assistant Josh are the only Americans, the rest being largely British. There are two of us post-docs here at the moment, with about 5 PhD students and the remainder master’s students or field assistants like Josh. It feels like a good mix, and I’m slowly realizing that I’m often the most senior person in camp, academically speaking. Whenever that realization hits me, I try to remember all the elder scientists that I have looked up to over the years, and I try to pay forward all of the great advice, encouragement, and education I gleaned from them that helped me get to where I am today.
Regarding the field work itself, the first couple of weeks were a bit of a tough reminder of how challenging some of the study streams are to access. Most are quite pleasant and easy hikes, but a couple of them are exceedingly steep—and these are not proper trails, but rather paths through the forest that have been cut for researcher access to these areas. Thus, the ground often crumbles away beneath your feet so that you’re sort of slipping and sliding most of the way down—and back up. It’s worse, of course, when it has been raining, and a couple of them seem to always have just had some rain. On the bright side, I think I’m getting fitter each day!
I love being on each of these streams, and it’s nice to have such a variety of streams to survey and sample. Almost every day I’m reminded of why I chose to study frogs in the first place—these streams are some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I absolutely love getting to know each one intimately over several weeks, watching it change as the water level rises and falls, memorizing different boulders and pools. So far it feels like the abundance and diversity this year has been much higher than last year, and I’ve gotten a handful of tadpoles that I can’t yet identify—exciting! I like that my field assistants take pride in stumping me when they bring me something that I can’t immediately ID. We seem to be a good crew, and I’m excited about the data I’m getting. I’ve been taking good samples and am looking forward to going through them with some tadpole experts when I get back to the US.
I’ve got about 2 weeks longer here before moving on to my second field site (Danum Valley, about 6 hours drive from here)—hopefully the data collection will continue apace and I’ll have more than half of my data by the time I depart. I’m leaving my trusty field assistant Josh here while I’m at Danum for 3 weeks, and then I’ll be back here to wrap things up with him for a week or so before returning to the US. Fingers crossed for continued luck!