Hello, world

This is the first post for our new lab blog. Our goal is to share our different perspectives and experiences as we conduct research.

I came to Etosha National Park, Namibia, for a research visit in the summer of 2017. The plan was to carry on some long-term research sampling, finish writing a grant proposal that spilled over into my research time (argh), get two Ph.D. students up and running in the field and lab, and as ever, collect that enticing, nay, transformative, “preliminary data” to snag me some grant funding. I’ll say we succeeded with the first two, and as for the latter two, that remains to be seen!

Here is my Ph.D. student, Yen-Hua, in my lab at UAlbany, marveling at the mountains of supplies for our trip to Namibia. I think it took him two days to open all the plastic cases holding these motion sensing cameras.

Yen-Hua with cameras

Yen-Hua unpacking cameras

Were we going to fit all of that in our luggage? I hoped so. Did we? Nope. I knew better, but still made the mistake of trusting a bunch of our cameras to international express shipping, where they’ve been wasting away for the last month, stuck in customs in Namibia. I just got an invoice to release them this week, requesting that I pay what amounts to 72% of the value of the shipment. I sent back a fiery email suggesting they recalculate their charges or they could turn around and ship them back to the US. Somehow I’m still waiting for a response…

Between proposal writing and the work-life “balance” (ha ha), my research productivity took a real hit this trip. My husband and I were blinded by our love of Namibia and some romantic notion of the idyllic time we’d spend here with our two kids, so the whole family came for five weeks. We anticipated watching wildlife with our clean, well-behaved, inquisitive children, faces aglow in the African sunset, begging for more facts about the animals we observed together. Immediately after we bought the tickets we had our doubts, but stubbornly stuck to the plan. Here I am at JFK with my girls, at the start of a long and sleepless journey, loaded with research supplies, kid supplies, and a few things for myself.

Luggage for family and work

There were some lovely moments, but also many times we both thought this trip was a huge mistake. I’ll just say I don’t think we’ll try to bring the whole family again for at least another 3-5 years. Here I am sitting on a dirt road poaching my neighbor’s wifi to upload the final files for my grant proposal and trying, unsuccessfully, to keep my daughter from chewing rocks. Because, of course, the one day you really need the internet in office is the day it’s not functioning.

Working on a dirt road for Internet access to submit a grant proposal

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