Field Prep… down to the wire

My last post was all about prepping for our 2012 field season. I had every intention of following up with a “Part 2” of sorts, which would go into more details on what was happening behind the scenes at the Rapunzel Project. What happened behind the scenes ultimately kept me so busy that I couldn’t report on what was happening behind the scenes. I know it doesn’t seem like it would be that much work. Just grab a few hydrophones and a small boat and head to the lighthouse, right? Wrong.

Here’s a brief recap of some of the things that I’ve been up to lately:

  • Write (and receive!) small grants for research supplies
  • Produce poster to present at symposium for said grant
  • Finish up fellowship and scholarship applications that will be otherwise difficult to complete with in the field
  • Track intern arrival/departure times and finances
  • Communicate as much as possible (hopefully without growing obnoxious) to answer intern questions and prepare interns for a cold, wet, glorious summer
  • Write and send out Intern Primer, so everyone knows what to expect 😉
  • Send out sound catalog and example spreadsheet (after creating them, of course)
  • Book hotels for interns, plead with hotels and guest houses in Petersburg to waive the 4 night minimum.
  • Book my own travel to Alaska, including flight to Juneau for supplies (and visit with family and friends) and ferry ride (with Andy’s car) to Petersburg
  • Figure out what supplies are necessary for 3-month field season
  • Find out where to order somewhat obscure supplies, or how to get even very ordinary supplies sent to Alaska (it IS part of the US after all…)
  • Drive to Newport to calibrate hydrophones (Borrow car from generous grad student- Amelia I couldn’t have done it without you).
  • Discover one hydrophone is shot and arrange to have a new one built as quickly as possible! (Please oh please oh please arrive in time- Success! Thank you Joe at Cetacean Research Technology)
  • Collect existing AWF gear from colleagues in the Pacific Northwest and prep it all for transport to Alaska (How many bags do they let you fly with again?)
  • Miraculously collect all of the gear before leaving Oregon for the summer (no small miracle given the number of signatures required for delivery)
  • Come up with new plan for heat and electricity at lighthouse when old plan called for reconsideration
  • Order MORE gear, only for lighthouse this time (We will need electricity after all)
  • Travel to Juneau with copious numbers of bags and pelican cases… not to mention Vista’s dog kennel.  (How I wish Corvallis had an airport!  Again, thank you thank you thank you Amelia)
  • Grocery shop for a five person field team for three months of field work (The cart was overwhelming even by Costco standards)
  • Find way to store food for transport, then get it to the lighthouse without ruining it (I have single handedly moved the ~700 pounds of food through southeast Alaska, up stairs, into refrigerators, onto ferries, into other refrigerators, into boxes, into cars, out of boxes, onto boats, into totes, onto skiffs, through the slimy mucky intertidal, up precarious metal beams, up lighthouse stairs, and finally into cabinets and drawers… phew.  What we do for a few potatoes and a good cup of tea at the end of the day)
  • Budget fuel, purchase fuel, transport fuel (see above description of food transportation and substitute fuel)
  • Purchase fuel gear (fuel drums, fuel filters, fuel pumps, fuel cans- whale research is largely about fuel)
  • Organize and prep field equipment (radios, batteries, sound recorders, hydrophones, hydrophone chords- which are impossible to find- etc.)
  • And lastly…. spend every other waking moment thinking about sampling questions and sampling protocol.  Because what’s the point of moving all of the gear around, if there isn’t a study to be had?

So far I’ve spent one blissful night at the lighthouse.  I was alone on the island. The power isn’t on yet, neither is the water.  For a moment the rain stopped, and my body aching with carrying supplies was on the verge of falling asleep under the 11pm sun, when I heard a whale spout.  I couldn’t see it.  I listened to it exhaling. Then I remembered why we do what we do… or maybe just why I do what I do.  Where there is great love, there is great effort.

2 thoughts on “Field Prep… down to the wire

  1. Keep up the great work Michi 🙂 How amazing it must be to interact with such majestic animals. Good luck with all your summer research goals and safe travels to all the interns!! Your passion motivates me to continue in pursuit of my dreams. -Becky


    • Thanks sweet Becky! So far so good. Today the coulds are lifting over the mountains, and we’ll be out on the water (in the rain) listening for whales again this afternoon. Sending you love from Alaska!


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