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 PhD Candidate, Department of Biology, Queen’s University
My first encounter with fieldwork took place the summer after my third year of undergraduate studies at Queen’s, when I worked as a minion (aka field assistant) studying Tree Swallows at QUBS. 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 cool places as possible (much to the consternation of my academic supervisors, who are usually the ones paying for it). My current research focuses on migration – specifically, I study partial migration in Western Bluebirds. My PhD fieldwork took place in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, where some bluebirds migrate but others stay for the winter. As a veteran of many long, cold, wet Canadian winters myself, I am very curious about the motivation behind this behaviour. During my time in academia, I have also developed a keen interest in writing and communicating science, as well as a (perhaps unhealthy) obsession with the intricacies of punctuation, particularly the correct use of semi-colons. I am very excited to be a part of this blog, which will bring together two of my great loves – fieldwork and writing – and of course, allow me to spread the word about proper semi-colon etiquette.
Amanda Tracey PhD Candidate, Department of Biology, Queen’s University
My research looks at the importance and implications of plant body size for reproduction,abundance and recruitment in herbaceous species (wildflowers, grasses, etc.). While some of my research is lab or greenhouse based, the vast majority of my data is collected in the field on QUBS properties. As a plant biologist I realize 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 5 field seasons means endless disasters, hilarious moments and really unique finds (along with the photos to prove it)!
Sarah Wallace MSc in Biology, Queen’s University (2012)
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 (cue drool) and I hope to share some of my stories from this magnificent place on this blog. 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!