For nearly my entire life, I have lived within the home range of the Southern Flying Squirrel. However, if you asked most folks I grew up with or people around central Pennsylvanian, you’ll find is it rare to find anyone who has seen or even heard one. It’s likely they had no idea it was even a possibility! Growing up, I certainly never hear of any Southern Flying Squirrels in the woods surrounding our home. And perhaps it’s all this newfangled statistics knowledge making room in my brain by dumping stuff from undergraduate courses, but I also don’t really remember talking much about them in the Mammalogy course Rachel and I took where we were supposed to be able to ID EVERY Kentucky mammal. That course was a doozy – do you know how many little brown bats there are?! (Editor’s note: So many.But they are in danger!)
Earlier this year instead of spending my day as I typically do (on campus working on research) I was able to join a fellow #StatStud graduate student, tagging along with her father out in the local wilderness. Steve Eisenhower is Regional Director for Natural Lands’ New Jersey preserves but since his daughter has joined the statistics department he has also expanded his work in New Jersey monitoring flying squirrel and kestrels into central Pennsylvania. These additional boxes have been added through his own personal volunteering efforts, in partnership with Shaver’s Creek, a resource for the community, and as a field laboratory for Penn State students to get hands-on experience teaching about the natural world. The extra opportunities to observe these species add to the general knowledge for conservationists, an they are a great opportunity for science outreach in these areas.
I have been really busy the last several weeks working on writing my dissertation and preparing to teach an Introduction to Ecology course. All the time spent staring at my computer has me daydreaming about all the hours I have spent doing field work over the course of my PhD. I flipped through some half finished blog posts and journal entries form that period, and found the start of the story I’m about to tell you. I was instantly transported back to that day, which was memorable but also pretty representative of how most of my field days went. Some of this is certainly Type II Fun.
Sometime in August of 2016…
I wake up before the sun has inched its way above the horizon, and fumble to turn off my alarm as quickly as possible. At the foot of the bed, my dog whines softly. My husband, Daniel, turns over and away from me in his sleep. In my non-field season life, I often hit the snooze button. I know it’s not good for my brain, or whatever, but I don’t care. I love it. During the field season, my alarm is set so uncomfortably early most days, 4:00 am or maybe 4:30, that snoozing seems masochistic. Also, it’s a little rude to the sleeping partner and pup. Besides, when you’re racing the tides, time is always of the essence. So, instead of rolling over for five more minutes of sleep, I roll out of bed and try to land on my feet. The cat judges me from Daniel’s pillow.
Welp, that title is actually a bit of a misnomer. I really have about 4 more days of field work that I need to knock out over the next week or so. DETAILS. I know I wrote a lot recently about how stressful the summer can be for me. It’s my busiest time of the year, field work is exhausting, and I probably don’t get enough alone time to really recharge (#introvertprobs). But, more than any of those less positive things, I really love how much time I get to spend outside each field season. I know I really like it, because I take about a zillion obnoxious iPhone pictures in the marsh each summer.
For your enjoyment, here is the view of my summer, from my smart phone.