Preparing for somewhere you’ve never been

These days I feel a little like Alice in Wonderland, only I intuitively know I’m about to drop down the rabbit hole. Now, taking that feeling, imagine someone saying, “Write a research proposal 40 pages long and plan the next four years of your life”. Hmmmm…..challenge accepted!

Step 1: Open Google Images, search “arctic”……not helpful, all I see is snow.

Lisa in cozy sleeping bag
Snow in summer? No problem, got the super cozy sleeping bag.

Step 2: Silent thanks that I work at a University and have access to a wonderful library with paid subscriptions to countless scientific journals. Time to start reading.

How do I write a research proposal and plan a three year experiment for a place I’ve never been?

Step 3: Use my imagination.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve envisioned myself camo clad and poised on the arctic tundra, confidently conducting a perfectly designed first field season. Like Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, I will spread my arms and call to my feathered friends, “Come, receive a leg band and a radio transmitter! Whisper your secrets into my ear.”.

Step 4: News flash, time to rethink data collection.

All kidding aside, things have been going really well. My supervisors have been nothing but encouraging and my excitement has been building.

**Once my first field season is over, I’ll come back to this spot and comment. Who knows, maybe I’m the next bird whisperer? Doubtful, but I’m staying positive.

Step 5: Read A LOT, then….write two sentences.

Watch youtube videos in between reading bouts. I recommend funny puppy videos but really, anything light will work. Are you stuck in a writing phase? This one will help you forget that overwhelming feeling of, “I’m PROBABLY going to have to rewrite this entire document”.

Lastly, this is the most important step.

Step 6: Befriend someone who has actually been to the arctic.

This is the person whom you can ask those questions you feel silly asking your supervisor, for example, “how many days is the socially acceptable time frame to go without bathing?” or “Can I bring my coffee maker?”.

Obviously, we all know that determining coffee availability is the most important thing in order to prepare you for somewhere you’ve never been.


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