The last dots are on the map, the last fight recorded in the field notebook, and the hide door is shut. And just like that, the final season of fieldwork towards my PhD is done.
I remember the first day surprisingly clearly. We weren’t starting so early back then, so when I clambered over the dune to get to the hide, I was met with a sight of 10-15 males already kicking it off and running around like crazy. How I was ever going to remember their marks, nonetheless keep track of them in the chaos?? Every photo-ID project I’d worked on before consisted of taking photos and then sorting them out in the comfort of home with a cuppa…not trying to ID on the fly amidst a testosterone charged melee. Somehow I managed to get through it and handed out a handful of IDs that first day.
Today, I yet again clambered over the dune and smiled. There in the back of the area lay B7 aka “Fred”. Fred is a fairly mid-ranked male, has decent marks, and does seem to have a bit of a penchant for getting into trouble. What made me smile was that he was one of those crazy males I saw on my first day—and there he was at the end of fieldwork, still harassing other males.
Doing fieldwork as part of a three year PhD is not in any way ‘easy’ but the tradeoff is priceless. Nowadays it is becoming increasingly more prevalent that due to funding limitations or time constraints, students are doing strictly data-based projects. Personally I don’t think I could have done that. Fieldwork has been that extra, amazing part of my studies. If the only thing I gained was an appreciation for the system I’m studying then I’d be doing okay, but honestly, this project has helped me gain so much more in terms of skills, project management and problem-solving. Yet, I am by no means done. I still have loads of information to get through, some long of days writing ahead but also the excitement of adding this year’s data to my analyses and going through the new seismic data.
This is only the last fieldwork post from me as I am actually leaving a week or so before the rest of the team. James and Amy are sticking it out to brave the December chill while I take a cheeky trip down to New Zealand to present at the Society for Marine Mammalogy’s Biennial Conference. It’s a tough job but somone’s gotta do it. (But seriously super big thanks to James for sticking it out to collect data for my project!!!).
Since at this point of the season the males seem to only have one thing on their mind, I leave them with the title of the blog: to Fred, Trouble, iRobot and all you other crazy boys—it has been a pleasure.