Everyone from the IRES crew is back home in the U.S. starting their respective school years, bound to do great things! That doesn’t mean we can’t reminisce about the field season, particularly about the snacks we grew to love. We are so proud of this talented group of young scientists and cannot wait to see what the future holds for them! Enjoy this last 2018 season post from our own sugar-fueled Robin Thady, a senior at William & Mary.
Time seems to pass differently during the field season. It’s perfectly normal to wake up at 4:30 and go to bed at 8; a ten-minute observation can take upwards of fifteen to complete; days blur together, making the weeks we’ve spent here somehow simultaneously feel like hours and entire years.
I’m always looking for some kind of anchor to remind me of the time. I’d never know what day of the week it was if I wasn’t planning around trivia on Tuesday nights, and signing up for laundry shifts is the most reliable reminder of how far we are into the field season. During the day on the field site, I measure time in the best way I know how: snack breaks.
8am: Protein Bar
An hour and a half into the field day, the banana and crumpets I’d eaten for breakfast have begun to lose their effect. At this early point in the day, when the birds are most active, the most important function of a snack is to silence the hunger that has begun to creep back up on me so I won’t be distracted from my pursuit of birds. Sitting right on top in my backpack is a protein bar — perfect! This first snack is easy to eat while tromping through tall grass, and its density returns me to comfortable satiety, fueling me through the next hour of work.
Around 9am, I’m at my busiest. By this time, I’ve probably made a few incomplete attempts at taking ten-minute observations on my target birds, and the possibility at getting a successful voice recording under my belt has me almost too occupied to notice that it’s time for another snack, but my stomach predictably produces an indignant grumble to demand its next offering. Not wanting to be slowed down too much, I uproot a box of raisins (or “sultanas”, now that I’m trying to speak Australian), mindlessly popping them into my mouth one by one as I keep my ears tuned for chipping.
The 10am snack is possibly the most important one of all. At the just-over-halfway point in the day, this snack break generally occurs right as I’m shifting gears and preparing to move from one study area to the next. In order to reset my brain, I allow myself to sit down this time, preferably in a shady area off a main trail. Chips are an ideal choice for this more drawn-out snack break, particularly now that I have mastered the art form of stuffing as many chips as humanly possible into a single Tupperware container. I eat these slowly, reflecting on my morning and strategizing for the next few hours on the field.
By 11am, the sun has nearly reached its peak, and my rain pants and snake gaiters have begun to feel like lead weights. I gulp down some more water, but I know I need to be careful not to finish it all before the day is over. In my thirst, I remember the Australian pink lady in my backpack—right in time for my 11am snack! Biting into the cool, crisp apple refreshes me in a way unlike any of the other snacks, setting me on the right track to persevere beneath the direct Australian sunlight.
12pm: Oat Bar
My last snack of the field day is also my most indulgent. With the last hour ticking by rapidly, the fate of my day has already been mostly decided. Whether I’m treating myself to a celebratory snack after tallying down a couple more successful observations or consoling myself after a less productive day, the classic choice of an oat bar satisfies every mood. An oat bar is a glorified chocolate chip cookie dressed up in clever packaging that makes you believe you’re eating something healthy. This deception mostly works on me, and the chocolate gratification gives me a much-appreciated boost that tames my hunger until lunch.