String of Bad Luck – But We Push On!
Time flies… I’ve been up here in the Great North for six weeks now, but it feels more like the blink of eye. On June 17th, Matt Wund, our lab’s postdoctoral research fellow flew up to our neck of the woods from the Evolution Society’s annual meeting which was held in Moscow, Idaho this year. He and Sophie Valena were there presenting work on an ongoing project concerning ancestral plasticity of the threespine stickleback (you can read more about this fascinating project by following the links to Matt or Sophie’s biography). Lauren then left very early on the morning of the 19th after a marathon session of packing up our 2009 fish collection to be sent back to the lab in Massachusetts.We were back to being another fearsome foursome, though it more often felt like two dynamic duos. Kat and Jeff continued to visit their lakes in order to observe male stickleback in their natural habitats while Matt took me on to help him in our makeshift lab creating crosses (also known as making stickleback babies). And while Kat and Jeff seemed to be having decent luck getting the data they needed, Matt and I descended rather quickly into an unfortunate state of field season chaos.
I’ve experienced minor setbacks in the field before. Many have been detailed here in this blog. But nothing prepared me for the utter frustration of 1) not being able to get the reproductive fish we needed for making the appropriate crosses, 2) having half of our already-caught fish die in one night, or 3) Matt’s ability to curse like a sailor. (Oh, he actually wasn’t all that terrible. But when things are going wrong, one tends to exaggerate the negativity to make the story sound even more horrific.)
But, of course, there’s nothing that can completely dampen our spirits. I mean, I survived our mid-May camping trip on the Kenai last year, didn’t I? And I’ve heard worse field stories from Matt’s graduate days… So, we went back to our study lakes as many days in a row as we had to in order to get the fish we needed. We paid close attention to our live fish at the UAA lab in an attempt to prevent any more catastrophes at home. And we made very sure to listen to a lot of U2 to keep our morale from flagging.