Thursday, 6 June 2013

Expedition planning ahoy!

It is that time of year when our undergraduates either go home or graduate...sometimes both. It is also the time of year when my team and I look to our various field projects to work-out where best to focus our time and energies in the coming months. We have to decide if we need to go back to our tropical cave system and dodge possible hurricanes; or maybe seek the attention of pigeon-sized mosquitoes in the badlands of South Dakota...either way, we have to start planning our field season soon.


This year we hope to divide and conquer, with both caves and badlands being on the menu. The two projects offer very different outputs, but they all feed into the same taphonomic ('burial laws') research pot. A major concern for me, is whether my surgery on my shoulder will slow me down or necessitate a more observational role...I think I can still abseil or drag myself through wafer-tin gaps (see Mike Buckley below!!!)....one-armed?


The other major factor that impacts our field programme is the dreaded funding side of things....yes, money plays a major role in any expedition. Gaining support for speculative fieldwork from funding agencies is very, very tough....as it is hard to quantify outputs, especially if fieldwork mostly entails wondering through badlands or squeezing through caverns looking for dead beasties. Maybe we can calculate the possible number of bug-bites and produce some statistics on where we are most likely to be bitten (in both geographical and anatomical terms)...but methinks this idea would not float with too many funding body....unless it was for some bizarre drug-trial requiring guinea pigs for bug repellent?


It seems ironic that exploration is even harder for scientists in the 21st Century than it was for some of our predecessors in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Hopefully, a combination of badland sun-burn and caving vitamin D deficiency will help balance-out our summers fortunes?


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