My favorite part about studying wildlife is being out in the bush! This can also be the most dreary, and downright unbearable part too. But the right field camp makes a big difference. Let me share with you a time when I volunteered with the biologists of the CSIRO to do some fauna surveys in Australia's Paluma mountain range.
We arrive at base camp just after dark. Myself and three other Uni students are given a quick welcome brief and then we begin to setup our tents. Being a minimalist, I only brought my one-person tent, a bed sheet, my friend's jacket and my backpack full of fun field gear. And as the night wore on I become more and more thankful for my buddy Cory giving me his jacket for the week. After five grueling hours of on and off sleep, I roll over and rummage through my bag to find the temp/humidity gauge. My fingers had memorized the power and light buttons and I cringe when I see a whopping 3 degrees C 40% humidity. I think to myself, "well, that certainly explains a why this sucks so much at the moment!" and I thought back four months to a coyote hunting trip where my brother and I nearly froze to death under a cedar tree one night in Western Nebraska when it was -10 degrees C. These sucky nights happen every now and then. This part of field research has got to be one of my least favorite, but it is still much better than winter in Nebraska.
The next morning, we are scraping frost from the windshields, before we set out to check drift fences, pit falls, camera traps and cage traps. We are blessed to have a hot breakfast in the quarters, which had a partial kitchen, and that luxury is awesome for a field camp!
Unfortunately, we are not happing much luck catching any critters. . . Probably because it froze last night and these warm weather animals are hunkered down. So yes, it is a pretty common to strike out when you are looking for wildlife, and that's no fun.
However, there is hope! Wildlife can hide, but plants and landscapes cannot. So when in a location where you will never see another person or glimpse of civilization, you will inevitably see something beautiful. You will probably see many beautiful vistas, gorges, plants, and rocks, and that is a win any day of the week!
In this trip, we commonly ate lunch far from base camp to maximize our time in the field. Today, finds us eating lunch on a large flat rock in the middle of a grassy savannah, dotted with eucalyptus trees. Now, the simple bliss of this situation satisfies me plenty. Eating flat bread sandwiches, with fresh fruit, in the fresh Australian breeze. Then, a family group of emus show up! It appears to be one larger adult and three adolescents. They are so inquisitive! And though my picture do little justice to the situation, it was an absolute thrill to sit on that rock, as those emus pocked around checking us out from maybe 50 meters away. This was an awesome moment, and it's moments like these that keep you going when the times get tough out here.