Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Payton Hermanson - Week Four

On Fieldwork

Apart from processing various preserved samples (Counting, tallying and preparation for future counting and tallying), the other major component of my duties as an intern is fieldwork. In fieldwork, tasks include collecting samples for later analysis, counting and tallying on the spot, utilizing a (likely expensive) piece of equipment to generate some numbers for you, or preparing a site for the execution of any of the above.

There are several reasons why these processes, which would generally be considered quite mundane, become matters of significantly greater difficulty while accomplished under the banner of fieldwork. Firstly, being in the field implies being outside. This is a region in which the weather happens. On the Oregon coast, the weather is not often content to remain in a condition compatible with a lightly garbed human being, necessitating much layering. Aside from rude temperature, the wind also plays a large role, determining whether waves will be whipped to a frenzy (In this case the wind may even prevent fieldwork from being performed at all, in the case of boat) or notebooks swept away. Even if the thermometer remains in a decidedly balmy range and the wind does not even so much as stir,the fact remains that in the field of marine biology, fieldwork is often conducted near the ocean. The ocean is quite wet and quite powerful, and if approached on a day of ill tidal condition (Too high a high or low, too great the surge), it can be very dangerous, or downright impossible, to accomplish any work at all.

The other major complication arising during fieldwork is that most everything must be taken with you if one is to use it in the field. While this may not seem to be very pressing, keep in mind that in the lab there is often access to anything you may possibly need if some vital component happens to break, requiring repair or replacement, or an unexpected situation arises.In the field, you must bring the component, all of its support, backups, and anything else you can think of possibly needing, all the while knowing that you must carry all of this to the site and back. As sites are at times in rather remote locations, this can be bothersome.

Despite its particular challenges, fieldwork is still one of my favorite parts of interning this summer. The sites themselves are often magnificent, and the opportunity to be out on a boat or go hiking around on the Oregon coast almost daily is not to be missed.

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