Diving into the deep end of field research. by Amor Luciano
June 28, 2018
As an Environmental Studies major most of what I had learned about the environment and the ecosystem has been in the classroom. But this past summer I had an opportunity to assist Dr. Jackson on her research in the Acadia National Park in Maine and for two weeks I had gotten a taste of what a career would be like in this field. The week leading up to my arrival in Maine for the Acadia Bug Project was filled with such stomach-tangling knots and nervousness that border-lined anxiety. For the first time in my academic career I will be doing actual research and field work pertaining to my possible future career. Although I was incredibly excited, I was nervous that I could be overestimating my abilities and would be more of a hindrance.
My first week was everyone else’s third and the rest of the crew developed a rhythm and routine for each day. Gathering data at each of the sites, sterilizing the equipment upon their return back to the field house, sorting through all of the collected data, was a routine that was already established and I was being thrown in. The same nerves and excitement that I had leading up to my arrival made it difficult to sleep but at 7:45 am I was up and ready to start my first day. The first morning was a bit hectic with a lot of me just standing around attempting to be helpful in gathering and loading supplies into Dr. Jackson’s car while not being helpful at the same time……. kind of a rough start. But once we were at our field site the day became much smoother. Collecting the terrestrial bugs was……different. Using beat sheets and sweep nets we gathered the insects and became a human vacuum aspirating them into a collection vial. Aspirating the bugs felt like I was breaking all the “rules” my mom scolded me for as a child when it came to dirt and bugs. Not only was I sucking them up (and yes there was a time or two that I’m pretty sure I swallowed a bug) but I was touching them with my bare hands and then eating afterwards!
As the week progressed, it became easier to immerse myself into the routine of each field day. Some of the days were long, with us doing field work in the morning and after a quick lunch break working with citizen scientists in the afternoon and other days were a little bit shorter but much more intensive making the day appear long. However, working with the citizen scientists was such a different and unique experience. The level of enthusiasm that they would bring to the site would re-energize me for the afternoon and it was great to see regular people getting excited to be a part of scientific research. Some were a bit more enthusiastic than others completely willing to get down and dirty to catch some aquatic insects but all were fun to have. My first week was insane, exhausting, and a bit of a blur; my second week became much more routine but just as exhausting. Between the long days of field work under the hot sun, an afternoon of bug sorting, and nights filled with either reading or movies, my time just flew by. This was definitely an experience that not only will I never forget but has solidified my decision to work as an Ecologist and in the environment.