5th March 2015
Generally speaking, my academic work comes more easily when I’m in the field. Something about being in it- being in the forest, in a group of chimpanzees, in the work itself- keeps my mind in the right frame for organizing thoughts into words and methods. But sometimes the sound of a tree snapping under the weight of an elephant cuts through chilled night air like a gunshot, and I freeze, thoughts fleeing from my uneasy mind.
I have a deep and profound respect for elephants. As a scientist of sociality, they are incredibly fascinating: multi-tiered social systems, extended matriarchal families, complex communication, visiting the bones of dead relatives… They have this mysterious intelligence about them, not to mention their delightful charisma. Truly a mega fauna.
But Anjojo hangs in the air like this menacing force- this monster that we never see but always sense. Waiting for you around any corner, behind any tree, in any valley. It holds this tension that knots my stomach.
The tree was so loud and so close that I thought it must have fallen just beside the house. But when I stepped outside and lit the lawn up to the forest line with my headlamp, there was nothing. No signs of disturbance.
I can still hear them now- I could hear them from the porch too. Cracking, smashing. They sound like aliens: low, guttural rumblings that roll toward me then- POP! My hair is raised and these goosebumps are not from the cold- my hot cup of chamomile won’t soothe them.
There are lights on all the front and back porches, and by the kitchen and outhouse doors. The light on 4b illuminates the side yard past the fence to the road- and yet, in all of this light space, my ears filled up with elephant sounds, I see nothing. Not so much as a branch or a leaf quivers. Its like they hover just beyond that pitch black shadow wall, pulling trees to the ground to taunt me.
…Perhaps I’ve labored too hard over the same three paragraphs of this proposal for the last two- okay, four- hours. Maybe I should stop weighing the costs and benefits of using one term instead of another. Or whether I have the room to squeeze in that extra line of text to better justify my choice of a GLMM instead of a GAMM approach- and should I write out each and every control and random effect every time for every test or leave it to the summary in this table?
At least I have Anjojo to pull me of my own head, back to the real world and remind me that its time for bed.
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This blog is a forum share my personal experiences as a field researcher and traveler.