The Hilton it ain't...
Watching the Discovery Channel you may think of field biologists in far flung corners of the globe tracking down rare plants and animals in exotic locations. Not all field biology takes place in exotic, "wild" locales. Often the subjects of one's research are pretty ordinary suburban organisms like Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) or House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), but, sometimes research does take you far afield into more adventurous settings.
But, what is often left out is just how dirty and difficult field work can be. This weekend's field expedition across Taiwan's south cross highway to the east side of the Taiwan Central Mountain Range was about as unglamorous as field work gets. We managed to find a tea plantation that allowed us to stay in the workers quarters on the cheap (see photo left). Normally during the height of the tea harvest there are 50 plus workers staying in this modest building. Luckily save for the farm manager and a couple workers we were the only people staying on the farm. The sleeping area consisted of a concrete floor and a raised platform where we all slept on moldy comforters. The kitchen doubled as a storage room/office and we ate instant noodles lunch and dinner with some pork or boiled cabbage on the side and bread for breakfast. I'll leave the bathroom undescribed to spare the reader the more graphic unpleasantries of fieldwork.
However, life aways has trade offs and spartan living conditions are balanced by seeing some great birds, getting some good data and enjoying some spectacular scenery (see me in photo right). Somehow the birds, the scenery and the camaraderie of one's colleagues stick in my mind a little more than the living conditions and this keeps me coming back to the beautiful mountains of Taiwan. Sleeping on hard surface or eating a steady diet of cabbage and instant noodles are sometimes worth it to see these fantastic views and incredible wildlife.