Fieldwork often takes you away from home – whether it is 1 hour away for a day trip or across the country. As with your actual family, there are the good, the bad, and the ugly memories with members of your field team. Regardless of the circumstances, your field team becomes your family in the field.
They keep you company
Fieldwork can get pretty lonely, especially if you are in a remote location. At first this sounds quite appealing: you can just listen to the birds chirping and the waves crashing against the rocks without any interruption. However, it is always nice to share the experiences with someone. Even what might seem like the worst moment in the field at the time can always be laughed about later on with your field team.
Sometimes you look up to them
As Sarah tells it: Although I only spent about 3 weeks in the field with Ed*, he became like a grandfather to me. He had so much experience with fieldwork and so much wisdom. At the beginning, it took all of my strength to not just stare in awe listening to the many stories he shared. Not only did he teach me all of the skills I needed to know for the fieldwork ahead, he also shared simple life hacks. For example, he taught me the proper way to wash dishes – cutlery first (the item that goes directly in your mouth), then glasses (also touches the outside of your mouth), and finally the plates. He was able to push me to my limits but did not let me fall past them. He literally caught me at the bottom of a hill that I was sliding down! Although our lives are different at home, we were able to connect in the field and share our love of conservation and biology.
But sometimes you can’t get away from them
I think of the relationship with members of field teams like a relationship
with a sibling – you enjoy each other’s company but spending every waking moment together can result in getting on each other’s nerves. You know each other’s schedule even down to the details you don’t necessarily want to know about! However, you don’t really have a choice. You have to have at least two people in the field for safety purposes. On the plus side, two sets of eyes are always better than one and they are often at your side to save you when you start to go a little crazy worrying about where that bird may be hiding, or maybe where you last put your water bottle.
Despite knowing every detail, they still support you
As Amanda tells it: One of the best things about having a field family is that you get really close really fast. You learn interesting facts about each other and because you spend so much time together day after day, you also learn about each other’s personal lives (past and present) and their goals for the future. Whether it was support or advice on a new relationship, talking about where we wanted to be in ten years, or chatting about family problems, my field family has remained one of my biggest support systems throughout graduate school. In fact, to date, I still keep in close contact with almost all of my field family and we continue to support one another as our stories continue to develop.
Thank you to our followers for keeping us company as we continue to share dispatches from the field from around the world!
*name changed for the purpose of this story