Art and Beauty in Scientific Research

When I’m not chasing down summer camp kids to get their photo or staring at a computer editing footage, I offer myself up as an extra pair of hands for research projects being conducted through the South Slough or OIMB. In between data collection I like to step back and take in what’s beautiful about the work we’re doing or the site on which we’re standing. To some, using binoculars to estimate the percentage of live crown coverage in a tree plot seems like a normal field task, but when I saw it, the binoculars looked like little reflection pools similar to those that have been built for stargazing in the past.

Then there’s the tall grasses that catch the morning sunlight and look reminiscent of oil paintings. Watching some of the other interns walk through the fields to get a better perspective for tree height estimation was a magnificent display of nature’s indifference to our intrusion that morning. As quietly and efficiently as possible, dedicated environmental scientists check up on their beloved reserve like an attentive parent; measuring its growth, checking for invasive species, metaphorically taking its temperature.

An intern evaluates the surrounding plants

OIMB intern electronically calculating tree height

Finally, there is a definite art to fieldwork, as the conditions may change at any moment and you need to be ready to adapt. For example, during a trip to Bull Island for more habitat sampling, the tide came in higher than we thought and took our kayaks down river! After a long day of identifying different species of grass, the last thing you want to do is retrieve and tow your crew’s kayaks back up river, but that’s exactly what our amazing mentor did. In the picture below, I’m standing next to the empty spot where are kayaks used to be, all smiles even though I know I’ll soon be paddling against wind and current back up river. That’s perhaps the most beautiful thing about South Slough fieldwork, it tends to make your spirit tougher and more adventurous.

Every day here I wander a little further out of my comfort zone, and I’m loving the view!

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About Makinna Miles

Spanish/Cultural Anthropology/Law & Politics. Interested in telling human stories through the use of digital media, particularly surrounding topics such as the environment, health, and human rights. Mediocre kayaker and expert crafter of banana bread.

2 thoughts on “Art and Beauty in Scientific Research

  1. Sounds like you are getting perspective on and exposure to many different aspects of South Slough! Thank you for the artist’s view of field work. Is that something that you are able to communicate with your students?

  2. Thank you for sharing this perspective of field work! It certainly makes me want to explore South Slough firsthand.

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