Our “why”

2020 was a difficult year for everyone. It was challenging. It was tragic. At some points it didn’t even seem real. The beginning of a multi-year pandemic, locust swarms in Africa, and fires devastating Australia are just a subset of the terrible turns that 2020 took.


Implications for field biologists ranged from minor to significant. With many universities and institutions closed, some projects were put on hold or cancelled. Work was only permitted if considered “essential” – which, more often than not, didn’t include fieldwork. Even when fieldwork could be completed safely without traveling too far from home, it could only continue with additional safety precautions in place. It’s a virtual certainty that all fieldwork was affected in some way in 2020.


For us at Dispatches from the Field, 2020 was a tough year. When we started this blog six years ago, our lives looked very different. With changing geographies, changing life situations, new jobs, and new challenges, keeping up with Dispatches from the Field hasn’t been easy and the motivation hasn’t always been there. And 2020 just reinforced that. With the state of the world, we weren’t always on top of our game. We aren’t afraid to admit that. This past year was not easy.


So, the three of us (Amanda, Catherine, and Sarah) all sat down (virtually, of course) to figure some things out. Could the blog continue? Were we motivated enough to keep it going? Did we have the time? After much discussion, the answer was clear: yes. Yes, to all of the above. While the focus of the discussion was a lot of logistical stuff about dividing up the work and how we can attract more guest posters, what we really needed to consider was why we started the blog in the first place.


Dispatches was created to share stories about fieldwork, stories capturing the core of the experience and the moments that never make it into scientific papers. We wanted to teach people about important places and species by sharing engaging stories about our experiences with them. Our ultimate goal was to inspire people to care. When people care about something, it elicits action. It provokes calls to change. It results in movements to protect our beautiful planet. We need people to care more now than ever about the world, about our precious natural resources, about conservation and protection, about each other and about the incredible diversity of life on earth.


Anthropologist Margaret Mead famously remarked, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” In creating Dispatches from the Field, it was never our intention to change the world. But we hoped, by telling our stories, to inspire others to care. And if even a small handful of people start to care about a place, or a plant, or a rare animal because they connected with one of the stories we told, then that could be the beginning of a real push for change.


With that thought in mind, we are all really excited to keep this blog going. It won’t be easy; it never has been and it never will be. There will always be other stuff going on in our lives: new commitments, new changes, and new challenges. But at the back of our minds, we will remember why we are doing this, why we started it, and why we can’t let it go.


If you have a story you want to share please reach out to use at fieldworkblog[at]gmail.com.

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