When the Gods of Field Research give you lemons, you make some lemonade and then you throw the rest of the lemons at the heathens! As any field researcher knows, nothing ever goes to plan during field research. Your field assistants don’t show up, your equipment doesn’t work, your boat engine dies on you in the middle of the river, you end up getting some tropical disease that puts you out of a couple of days of research, you can’t all of a sudden get your samples out of the country… the list goes on and on. I have been VERY lucky the last couple of years with permits and obtaining samples, and this year has been the first major obstacle I have faced for my dissertation. But after stomping on the Field Research Gods alter, I made my lemonade, and added a dash of vodka.
After days of trying to get a hold of a processor who said he would help me obtain samples, and having one of my undergrads call a list of people in Southern Florida, I found myself in Miami with nothing to do for my research. I had two other undergrads flying into Miami, expecting the next day to get there hands on some gators. After exhausting my resources, I made the executive decision, “Well, if we can’t waste our time down here- vamosnos a South Beach!!!”
So we found our first day of field research exploring the exotic wildlife of South Beach. In terms of an ecosystem, South Beach was blooming with biodiversity. We observed a diverse community of ethnicities, languages, and clothing style (or lack there of). As night fell, a whole different crowd seemed to emerge. Restaurant after restaurant there was music, or dancers, just enticing you to come in. It was like a Venus Fly Trap- there was some attraction luring you in, and if you fell in you may never see the light of day again. Knowing we had an early morning, we headed back to our “camp” that night.
On our way to Gainesville the next morning, we stopped at a friend’s place and played with some of his gators and got to experience being in the pen with albino gators, and some feisty 10 footer gators. It was awesome, and I’m glad my undergrads got to experience holding gators, as well as being no more than 5 feet from some feisty gators. Instead of going to a zoo and just watching these animals laying around, they got to experience the power, speed and massiveness of these creatures live! I get tingly every time I experience it as I love it!
So even though my research was thrown a curve ball the first couple of days, I made the best of it. I tried everything I could to make my Southern Florida contacts, but there comes a point where you can only do so much, and the stress isn’t worth it. So now that I finished my hard lemonade, its time to get down and dirty in Gainesville with the gators.