Thursday, September 24, 2015

Back in the lab!

“Hello Hadley Emma Emma Couraud; It’s Time to Check In!”

When I received this email September 17th, I was confused.
             1.Why does Delta think I have two middle-names…that are the same?
2           2. Is it really time for me to leave Kenya? It can’t be.

But, it was and as much as I didn’t want to leave field work, Talek camp was very securely trained. Instead of teaching, I was merely observing, as Jared, Ciara, Benson and Wilson ran the research and camp. It was time to return to the lab and jump back into the work that I was needed for there.

The States welcomed me, complete with apples, ice, and doors (it’s amazing how much you miss doorknobs at hand level, rather than the dealing with zippers at ground level). After a weekend with my family (and claustrophobia in buildings and restless sleeping between walls), I was back in the lab; my first day back presented a perfect micro-array of the work I return to here.

My trusty two-wheeling bike brought me to work (a dramatic change from the Land Cruiser we spend 6-8 hours a day in the field). Pulling out my keys outside the lab, I unlocked the doors, and walked in to see:
Supplies from the 'wetting' registry!
And, on my desk:

Hard-drive of digital data and slide boxes with blood smears.
So the organizing, filing, and packing into Kenya-bound packages begins again!

Throughout the day, I worked on historical dates of when the project began monitoring certain ecological measurements, research clearances for new Research Assistants, average monthly expenses in each camp, MSU’s safety courses for every member of our lab, and began my most next most immediate project – confirming and correcting data in our lion-hyena interaction database.
Looking through Kay's original notes for lion-hyena data.
From observing the hyenas and transcribing notes each day, my mind is coming back to the point of view I have here in the lab – long-term patterns and the full cycle of research and project managing. As a Research Assistant, you observe the hyenas, transcribe notes, and collect samples. Once you’ve collected the poop and put it in liquid nitrogen, drawn blood and made blood smears on slides, or typed your notes and sent them back to Michigan, your part is over. Now managing the lab, my job helps keep all that data moving and fitting into the larger picture. Getting the samples back to Michigan, filing notes, extracting behaviors, and creating entire sets of data, dating back to 1988.

After about four or five hours of work here at this point, I begin to think, “it has to be time to see the hyenas now, right?”. Obviously that is no longer the case, a reality I am still adjusting to. While I miss that part of the job, it is very satisfying to be part of the longer cycle again.

No comments:

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science