Diving into the deep end of field research. by Amor Luciano
June 28, 2018
*Amor is doing summer research in Acadia National Park with Dr. Jackson as part of the Acadia Bug Project (www.acadiabugproject.com). You can follow the team on social media @JacksonEcoLab on facebook, twitter and instagram*
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 to finally get my hands dirty in some field work but I was nervous that I was overestimating my abilities and would be more of a setback and slow the progress down.
My first week here was everyone else’s third week and the rest of the crew developed a rhythm and routine for gathering data at each of the sites, sterilizing the equipment on their return back to the field house, and sorting through all of the collected data, and I was being thrown in. The same nerves and excitement made it so 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 for the day it became much smoother. Collecting the terrestrial bugs was different. Using beat sheets and sweep nets we were able to gather the insects and become 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 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 reenergize me for the afternoon and it was also 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 here 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 work in the environment. It has also revealed how important crowd sourcing for research, aka citizen scientists, can be and how anyone who has an interest (myself included) can help in others research.