“Do I want to go where?!” I thought incredulously as I held my phone to my ear, still in my towel. Well maybe it went more like “Whaa…Huuuh…Whaaa?”. I had heard my phone ring while brushing my teeth after having showered, but as I had a mouthful of toothpaste, I let it go to voicemail. As soon as my mouth was more suitable for speaking, I called back and heard Susan’s voice say: “Do you want to go to Alaska?”. Two and a half days later, in happy disbelief and without much idea of what to expect, I was on my way to join the stickleback crew in the opposite side of the country.
Five days in Alaska and I am starting to get the hang of the field work behind the numerous insights that can be drawn from the stickleback radiation. I was initially a bit surprised by the apparent simplicity of collecting samples, perhaps because of the complexity of the information they provide. Well, maybe simplicity is not quite the correct word, as collection not only requires determination, but also, if I dare say, passion.
Although I have already mentioned that I did not come to Alaska with many expectations except for that of adventure, I certainly did not foresee the intensity of dedication and sense of purpose that goes into the countless jars of stickleback back at the lab. For, setting and retrieving traps often entails skilled footwork to maneuver through swampy areas (translation: water-filled shoes and soaking wet pants); and if the inhabitants around the lake receive you with a shotgun, as was the case for Whale Lake (well, at least if John says they did), then add a nice walk through densely vegetated forest while carrying equipment. Doing this for a few hours may sound like an easy day at the office, but when the sun does not set until around 1am, you can keep at it all day long! The exhaustion at the end of the day is completely worth it, however, as our work is accompanied by some of the most (maybe even the most) beautiful views I have ever seen, and, as I imagine is the case
for John, the satisfaction of continuing and expanding a lifetime (well the extent of my life at least) of work. Being around someone as energetic and hardworking as John instills admiration as well as inspiration as to how much can be achieved when you truly care about your undertaking. I feel extremely lucky for the opportunity to partake in these stickleback endeavors!