Videos by Jaslyn Gilbert
A HUGE Lesson in Preparation
Having been mostly a lab researcher, it is both terrifying and exciting to say my first experience with fieldwork was in the Amazon Rainforest in Peru! We were based at the Los Piedras Biodiversity station-organized by Tamandua Expeditions. The station, while having many awesome accommodations like beds, actual showers and toilets, and an awesome CHEF, it can only offer electricity doing certain hours of the day, and currently does not have any set up for internet. Not much of this really mattered being in THE JUNGLE and all. Who needs electricity when you have a trusty headlamp? Besides, we wouldn't have seen the stars so well if the station was lit up with lights.
"...you have to be CRAZY prepared."
Before you even get to Peru, you have to plan for every little thing that you could possibly need. Everything from tape, to parafilm, to a pencil is something you have to plan for and carry on your back to the station. The journey there isn't so easy. You can't just bring anything and everything. You have to be selective and plan carefully "Exactly how many sample tubes will I need?", "What will I store the sample in between here and there?", "Will I keep the sample?", "For how long?"
Not having internet wasn't so bad. I imagined how much Facebook missed me, and didn't bother carrying my phone with me at all. We did have a satellite phone and would send a couple texts every three days, so we weren't completely cut off. However! Think about how often during research you lean to Google! I brought some beef bullion cubes to prepare some camp style "nutrient broth", and went to prepare it in the kitchen. Sounds easy! Sounds simple-no problem, just add a few cups of hot water.... Turns out in Peru, like everyone else, they use the metric system, and all they're measuring cups measured not cups, but liters. HA! So how many of you all have the number of cups/liter memorized? And you can't just google it! So, overall, what I'm getting at, somewhat anecdotally, is you have to be CRAZY prepared.
Doing Fieldwork in the Jungle
I also learned that fieldwork can really suck. Don't get me wrong. The jungle is AMAZING and I would go back in a heartbeat, but as I'm sure everyone who's done fieldwork understands, fieldwork can suck. There's always something. There are days when you're exhausted from being up late the night before and getting up early the morning of, and you're half insane from all the mosquito bites-literally. half. insane. Most everyone else is half-insane too and have that wide-eyed crazy look in their eyes. And those that aren't insane? Well mercy on their soul because the rest of us zombies might be tempted to murder them and eat their stash of Oreos.
Anyways, there are days that are extra hot and the mosquitoes are called to you by your sweat and you're already sooo itchy, and you're bent over digging a soil sample with a plastic spoon. BUT-your tough time is always interrupted at some point. You'll be walking back, dragging your feet and tripping over all the roots and plants on the trail and you'll hear a rustling up above. You'll look up and while the sweat is running down your back, you'll see a whole family of squirrel monkeys go by followed by a goofy capuchin. Then, it all becomes worth it. Your bad day is given up to marvel and wonder. Your feeling of heat is given away by a cool swim in the river, or even just pride that you survived your own tough day, or better yet, getting good data! So even when it sucks, it's never that way for long and the wonder and amazement you feel overcomes any tiredness.
"You'll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut."