The Usual Hiccups

At the Google science communication meeting I attended earlier this month, there was a lot of talk about how many people don’t have a window into the real process of science – the fact that it’s ultimately a human process, which means mistakes are made, unexpected developments occur, and plans often have to be revised on the fly. Take today, which played out as do many field days down here….which is to say, not as planned. Last night, we had a plan in mind…then woke up this morning and had a good brainstorming session with the whole group, which revised our planned approach for the day. This is a good thing: it’s science in action!

As is what happened next. Upon arriving at our main field station – just down the hill in the picture posted yesterday – we found that a couple key pieces of field equipment had mysteriously disappeared from our storage locker.    Some moderate stress ensued, followed by a scratchy skype call and an on-the-fly new plan that resulted in one piece of missing gear located (3 hours drive away), one scheduled for “replacement” via a visit to the local welding shop, and another revision to the day’s field sampling protocol.

And as I’ve learned over the years, despite the uncertainty and mild panic that can ensue at the onset of these bumps in the road, all worked out just fine.  Samples were collected, a determined pack of army ants (largely) avoided, and now the evening phase begins, appropriately labeled by Cory as “porch biogeochemistry.”   Tonight’s version is typical (other than the superb view to the ocean, where a repeat of last night’s spectacular lightning show seems to be brewing):  Robert Plant and Allison Krauss crank on a pair of weathered speakers, soils are getting weighed and then dumped in tubes full of a salt solution, tales (some tall) are being told, and scattered cans of Pilsen beer add local flavor to the haphazard array of plastic tubes, bags of soil, and the occasional laptop.

All in all, another good day in the rain forest, with the bonus of seeing all four species of the Osa’s monkeys within just a couple of hours.  What  will happen tomorrow?  Well, we have a plan…and that’s probably not how things will go!


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