Hello everyone, its the Middle of Field Season and if you’re anything like me, you might be feeling like you haven’t accomplished as much as you wanted from a field trip or season. I definitely feel that way a lot; but it’s important not to be too hard on ourselves for not getting that /one/ extra species sample or soil core. Fieldwork is a marathon more than it is a sprint–if you burn yourself out after a week or two in the field, it doesn’t help you or your thesis.
Here’s a couple of things that I do to help me remember what I’ve accomplished in the field, and to accomplish more things in the field to combat the fieldwork blues.
- I make a calendar of the whole field season, with alternative dates.
- What do I mean by this? I print out a calendar and write in desired dates to begin and end projects in one color ( I love blue). Then I check the forecast for my field site for the nearest trip date, and write a bad-weather version in another color. This way, I have two tracks which will keep me out in the field in a timely manner, but the alternate schedule helps me feel like I am on track without the work piling up towards the end of the season. This way, if I miss a day or two in the field because of weather, that work is not “lost”; I just accomplish it the next trip. For example, this past weekend I was supposed to collect all the plant species in Sonora. The rain kept me inside, so I have a little over half the species. This is okay because the next stage of my experiments (collecting litter for litter-bags and setting out litter fall traps) can be completed either the week of the 16th or the week of the 25th without delaying the rest of my project. Since I need to finish species collection, I can do that the 16th while retrieving litter, leaving the week of the 25th
- Plan out your breaks while in the field so you don’t exhaust yourself before finishing the day’s task.
- If you do field work in a remote area or in extreme heat indexes, its really important to give your body time to rest between physical tasks. Even if you aren’t getting swole from your fieldwork, all bodies need rest at some point. If you try to plow through a field day with no rest, you will absolutely get sick and burn out. Trust me, because I’ve completely gone out into the field with a kidney infection, and I ended up losing a whole week of work from getting so sick that I ended up bedridden. Instead, plan out at least two breaks in the day where you can re-hydrate and carb up. I take a 45 minute lunch during the hottest part of the day to cool my body off; this break is longer because my body wouldn’t accomplish much fieldwork during peak heat anyways, so I am ensuring that I have then energy to be more productive once the worst heat passes. I also plan a break either mid-morning (if i start early) or mid-afternoon for at least 15 to stay out of direct sunlight and carb up a little. While its tasty (and cheap) to pack fast carbs like cookies, I try to carb up with healthier options like apples, bananas, or plums; same sugar, but with fiber and nutrients to keep you from having a sugar crash.
- At the end of each day, write down all the samples you’ve collected and other tasks you’ve completed.
- Not only is this a good way to make inventory of your samples, but it’s a nice psychological reminder of all the work you have completed. As scientists, there is always more work to be done–however, it’s still important to celebrate the successes of the day! This will also help you keep your schedule calendar up to date, if you can directly inventory what has been done versus what still needs to be done.
These are the three big things that I do to keep myself from getting the field work blues. Your mileage may vary, but having these three central steps has always helped me recenter myself and my work.
Thank you for reading, and see you on the other side.