After spending a whole week out in the field, the first thought – and for a while, the only thought – that comes to mind is, “wow, I’m exhausted.” Spending eight plus hours every day hiking through the forests of Western MA and searching for corrals nesting deep in the foliage can take a lot out of you. Each site we visited presented a unique set of obstacles: whether it be a steep uphill climb leaving us damp from sweating, swamps that persistently tried to eat the boots right off our feet, black berry bushes greedily tugging on our pant legs, or the wealth of mosquitoes that just won’t leave us alone, challenges awaited at every turn.
Don’t get me wrong though, this is all part of what makes the research so rewarding! When you battle through the thick brush, following elusive orange flags, branches slapping us in the face the whole while, and finally reach a site that a bear had visited before you, an incredible feeling of triumph accompanies you as you gather the waiting hair samples.
Photo credit: Danny Xiao
That being said, this reward isn’t always there. At times, these treks result in nothing valuable to our study; perhaps no hair – or the wrong hair – is found. But from it all, we learn a valuable lesson not only about persistence but about joy as well. We learn to find beauty not only in the forest-scape and wildlife around us, but in the journey itself. To learn to see joy in each step on a long hike, every itchy mosquito bite, and the ever present stink of our fish-oil lures helps lead us to a remarkable understanding of ourselves and our environment; an understanding that would not have otherwise been taught. So aside from the wealth of technical research experience waiting for us out in the field, there too waits an experience of self discovery that undoubtedly helps drive each of us out there toward further goals.
-Cesar Centeno, student fellow
Cesar started field work for the first time during the week of 6/2/2019. This describes his experience.