A slippery slope with slimy salamanders
Over the past three months, I have been living in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina conducting research on terrestrial salamanders. It has been an incredible experience to work in this system, and I have no doubt that I work and live in one of the most beautiful places in our country. But being my first field season on this project, I had my fair share of issues. Learning how to use my flow through system to measure evaporative water loss was insanely tricky. The relationship between temperature and vapor pressure is a tricky to manipulate, sometimes with experiment-ending consequences. Miscommunications and unexpected surprises from the salamander digestive system (that's poo) also produced significant hurdles.
As of right now, it appears I will actually finish my project - at least before the first day of school. I will be honest, I have never worked this hard in my life. I sleep during the day, and at night, I hike up mountains to catch salamanders and conduct my experiments. The learning curve has been steep, as well as the mountains. I'm pretty sure I have permanent nerve damage in my big toes; I haven't felt them in a few weeks. I also had a fun trip to the emergency room at 4 in the morning to remove a moth that lodged itself next to my eardrum.
In the end, I love my project, and I am thrilled to see my first data plots and analyze my data. But I have poured almost everything I have into this project. I can't wait to return to campus and....start working again (haha).
For those of you that are close or already have finished your graduate degree, I am just beginning to understand what it takes: everything.
Thanks for letting me vent; this blog is great for that.
Time for more experiments!