Every field biologist I have ever known is obsessed with water in one way or another. Too much, too little…terrestrial ecologists sit and stare at the radar and chew their fingernails. It seems like we are always either praying for rain–or praying for it to stop!
Even marine biologists are obsessed with water. You wouldn’t think so, since they’ve got plenty of it, but even they are forced to study the tides, to be obsessed with the temperature and currents and flows of the waves.
I have a friend who once attempted to do a drought study. That summer it rained Every. Single. Day.
If you want engage a field biologist in conversation, any field biologist, anywhere, all you have to do is to mention the weather. Is it going to rain tonight/tomorrow? Have you seen the forecast?
Most field biologists can spin off a four day forecast without blinking. “Well, accuweather says there’s a forty percent chance this afternoon, but those clouds on the ridge look pretty dark.”
You see, there needs to be this perfect balance of water in life. Too much, and everything dies. Too little, and everything dies.
Still, it seems strange that I have been equally obsessed with water in a swamp and a desert.
When I have field assistants, they always dread going out in the rain. I can’t imagine why, and before you call me mean I will assure you that I always check to make sure they are not soluble in water before I hire them (what a mess that would be, hey?).
I remember one year where I had been checking the radar constantly. The forecast for the day was 20% chance of rain, which I felt was low enough for sampling insects. As we headed out, though, my assistants began to protest. “Standingoutinmyfield,” they cried, “It’s raining!”
“No, no, no,” I said calmly, “There is only a 20% chance today.”
“But it is raining RIGHT NOW!” they argued.
“There is only a 20% chance!”
“But…” eventually they gave up.
For my current field work, I have to haul water out by wagon to plots several kilometers out. It’s a lot of hard work: each of the three tanks I haul is 20 liters (about 5 gallons), and I have to drag them up a steep ridge. And, unless it rains, I must do this every day. (*flexes biceps*)
You might think, at this point, that I am praying for rain, but I cannot! For when it rains, there are no insects. And without insects, my experiment will fail.
Of course, the ideal situation would be for it to rain every night and be sunny every day.A stanza from Dr. Dolittle’s (1967) “My Friend the Doctor” MY FRIEND THE DOCTOR SAYS THAT EVERY TIME IT STARTS TO RAIN AND PEOPLE RUN INDOORS AGAIN IN SWARMS IF YOU REMAIN OUT IN THE RAIN, YOU’LL THINK YOU’RE DRINKIN’ PINK CHAMPAGNE! AND YOU’LL SPEND YOUR LIFE PRAYIN’ FOR THUNDERSTORMS!