Why did we create Dispatches?
“Landscapes have the power to teach, if you query them carefully. And remote landscapes teach the rarest, quietest lessons.” –David Quammen
Field biologists are incredibly lucky because they often get to see and experience things that many others don’t. Doing field biology is one of the best ways to get to know a place intimately, and see it from a different point of view – whether that place is an old field at QUBS, a city park, or an island that most people never get to visit.
Like many other scientists, we have a strong desire to bridge the gap between the elusive scientist and the public. While education about the science we do is critical, it is also important to share our experiences, and this blog provides the perfect medium to do just that. So much of what happens in the field has no place in scientific papers, and never makes it into the public realm – yet these stories are the core of the experience. We want this blog to serve as an outlet for those stories, and also a way for us to share the rare, quiet lessons we’ve learned from the many landscapes we’ve been privileged to get to know.
Who are we?
Catherine Dale Coordinator, Newfoundland Breeding Bird Atlas, Birds Canada
My first encounter with fieldwork took place the summer after my third year of undergrad, when I worked as a minion (aka field assistant) studying Tree Swallows at the Queen’s University Biological Station. Although it was anything but love at first sight, by the end of the summer, I was hooked. Since then, I’ve made it my mission to do fieldwork in as many amazing and hard-to-reach places as possible. For my MSc research, I spent several months on Nova Scotia’s magical and mysterious Sable Island, and my PhD research involved spending many hours wandering the grounds of some of the best wineries of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. In my current position as Coordinator of the Newfoundland Breeding Bird Atlas, I’ve had the opportunity to explore a few of Newfoundland’s most remote places – and also some of the more accessible ones. I am passionate about science communication and writing, and have a (perhaps unhealthy) obsession with the correct use of semi-colons. I love sharing my field stories on Dispatches from the Field, which brings together two of my great loves – fieldwork and writing – and of course, allows me to spread the word about proper semi-colon etiquette.
Amanda Tracey Conservation Biologist, Nature Conservancy of Canada
I started my career as a plant biologist studying plant community ecology at Queen’s University. I spent 8 field seasons looking at different patterns in abundance for meadows, shrublands and woodlands, enjoying every moment I spent outside doing research. I now work as a Conservation Biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada planning, stewarding and teaching the public about conservation lands and species at risk. While I have learned a lot from fieldwork over the years, one key thing I noticed was that bright-eyed and bushy-tailed creatures get a way better response than plants! One of my goals is to show the public how exciting plants really are and give you a taste of the diversity in the Southern Ontario region. Plus 10 field seasons across Ontario means endless disasters, hilarious moments and really unique finds (along with the photos to prove it)!
Sarah Wallace Ph. D. student at Institut national de la recherche scientifique, Quebec city
I completed my masters in biology at Queen’s in 2012 studying the population genetics of the Cassin’s auklet, a burrow-nesting seabird that breeds along the Pacific coast of North America. Being a seabird biologist has many benefits (despite being pooped on constantly!). For one, I collected samples from the beautiful Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. Now for my PhD, I get to do fieldwork in both “polluted” and “pristine” places. Some of the best stories are not even related to your research at all but happen along the way. I am passionate about conservation and I believe the best way to achieve conservation initiatives is through community involvement. I am excited to write for this blog to let you in to some of our secrets about why we fell in love with these places and biology as a whole!