During my PhD travels to Florida, I met a graduate student from the University of Florida, Gainesville who had a great saying if something went wrong, or if something bad was about to happen: “That’s Bad News Bears!” I loved the quote, and was something I picked up and used for quite awhile. And considering how this week ended in the field with all the hiccups, all I could think of was “That’s Bad News Bears!”
Field research is not for everyone- I know this because I have met a plethora of biologists who try real hard to be field biologists, yet they can’t stand getting dirty; not taking a shower for multiple days (or in my case one time 10 days… that’s a different story); getting animal poop, pee, and possibly vomit all over them (as in the case when a 10 ft Morelet vomited all over me in Guatemala, yet I still went into town afterwards in my stinking field clothes to go get a coffee… again that’s a different story); not being able to eat “normal” food for weeks on end; and now-a-days, not having internet. Another big one as well is being away from boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, family, friends, the amenities of the Developed World for more than a couple of days or a couple of weeks. In my opinion, it’s a fear to go explore in the unknown and not being part of the world we know back home for a time period. I personally love the unknown- if I ever have a chance I would love to go to space or the unknown parts of the ocean. For me it’s an adrenaline rush to explore something new and have crazy adventures- it makes life full of fun memories and crazy stories, and it is a real test of character.
Of course, I can’t go TOO FAR into the unknown right now since I’m 7 months pregnant. I’m not that much of an irresponsible mother (or I would like to think). I’ve changed my field research so that if there is an emergency, I’m no more than 30 minutes away from the closest medical help. I still get to have my fun and my adventures with my field research (which is less physically intensive now), while still being a responsible mother-to-be. But even though my field research isn’t in the deep jungles of Belize or on one of the far-off, secluded Cayes, field research can still go wrong…
Our field site this past week was a bit north of Secret Beach, which is on the West Side of Ambergris Caye. IT’S ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS THERE!!!!! The west side of the island is the place to be to get away from the craziness and polluted streets of San Pedro. Our bird and marine surveys were going great, until “OUCH!” I stepped on a snail shell. I didn’t think anything of it, and kept walking, but after 30-40 minutes my heel was still REALLY sore. So I finally took a seat and looked at my heel- I had a good chunk of broken snail shell lodged into my heel. I wasn’t bleeding, and couldn’t really tell how deep it was but it was painful. So after cutting some skin and fitting tweezers into the slit (and taking some yoga breaths), I pulled out a good 1/4in of sharp shell out of my heel. Next thing I know my dog is running out of the bush after chasing a Ctenosaur or some birds and her face and legs are BADLY scrapped. Of course she doesn’t seem fazed at all- she’s as happy as can be, but she definitely got some Neosporin lovin’ later that night. But the craziest didn’t end there- that night we went croc catching with ACES, and headed towards the Sewage Ponds on Ambergris Caye where there is a good population of American Crocs. The crocs love it there- is it because they are semi left alone? Is it because there is some type of good food source there that we don’t know about??? Who knows- all I know was I stood back while others tried to catch smaller crocs as I was not putting my hands in raw sewage with a growing baby inside of me! Next thing I know my research assistant Helen comes up to me with a croc in her hands, yet her other hand is behind her back. She just looks at me and says “I’m going to be in trouble…” She was bit! Her hand wasn’t bleeding too bad- my concern was all the nasty bacteria that was possibly in the wound from the sewage! We cleaned her wound and taped her up (she’s doing fine now). Interesting thing is… she got bit in the same hand in the general area my croc bite is… and it happened almost 7 years exactly of my bite!
Well, things are supposed to come in 3, right? I thought that was the end of the “bad” karma. But nope… my new student Miriam comes into town from Canada and not more than 24 hours later, she starts having the typical symptoms of Giardia (the protozoan parasite that causes “Montezuma’s Revenge”). She most likely got in when she was canoeing in a lake in Canada where there are A LOT of beavers- a prime transmitter of Giardia. Lucky for her she is with a parasitologist, and one who had a SEVERE case of Giardia in the past that almost hospitalized me (along with the other 2 protozoan parasites I had). Yup, needless to say it’s been an interesting week of “Bad News Bears.”