Ok, so after I wrote my last blog, I took a deep breath and pulled myself up out of my little pity puddle party. The thing about collecting data for a dissertation is that there’s so much pressure- you only have a certain budget and a certain time frame to collect all of your data. Under those constraints, the weight of one bad day can feel disproportionately stressful. And since it’s the beginning of the season, I don’t have a cache of really good days that have already happened to remind myself that it will all be ok. Not every day is a bad day. It’s easy to let negativity spiral out of control. Like every other graduate student in the world, I struggle with that.
My strategy is to logic the hell out of things until I find the upsides to the downtime. And I’ve got a couple nailed down:
Most of the parties we’ve followed since I arrived have had started one or two babies. I spend two hours at a time with each baby, and when I run out I can either wait for a new one to show up or go searching for some new mommas. When I go searching, I get to work on my tracking skills and explore trails that I’ve never checked out before. I’m getting to know the forest better and better, which is always satisfying. Sure it’s exhausting, but in a good way. On the days when I wait it out for a while, I can spend a little time and concentration photographing the chimps that are already in the party. On days that I’m flush with babies to follow, I’m way too busy taking data-videos and jotting notes to pay attention to my framing and the light. So it’s been a nice change to focus on imagery and portrait aesthetics for a minute.
And at the end of each “less than optimal” data day, at least fruits of my frustration are photographs. Visual representations of the chimps I enjoy so much and the science that drives me.
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This blog is a forum share my personal experiences as a field researcher and traveler.