Doing fieldwork for my research is when I’m happiest. I’m an outdoors, physical person – I like to be doing things and interacting with the world. Collecting my own data is also hugely exciting! The problem with me doing the fieldwork is it means I don’t have any free hands to photograph the fieldwork being done.
Which is why I like to take people with me.
To be fair, it’s not the primary reason – usually I just need an extra pair of hands to help record data and label samples, carry kayaks, and laugh when I get bitten for the third time in the space of twenty seconds. But I will also have a camera lying around, and the instruction will be to use it. So after assuring me that he takes terrible photos, my friend and fellow Master’s candidate Neil took on the role of data recorder-photographer during our recent foray to collect blood samples for my project.
Also with us were two vets, who I gladly handed over the task of obtaining samples to. Because I’m studying stress hormones, I need to get an idea of what the baseline level of these are in each of the petrel populations. This means that I have to get blood samples out in less than three minutes, which is when corticosterone, the main avian stress hormone, begins to elevate after the onset of stress (in this case, being grabbed).
Vini and Carlos were legendary at taking samples in record time – sometimes even less than a minute after I’d caught the bird! After sampling, I mark the birds with a bit of white-out/twink on the forehead so I don’t accidentally grab the same bird again. It washes off after a few days.
So without further ado, here are Neil’s photographs. I think we can all agree he lied when he told me that he takes terrible photos. I think they’re fantastic! And taking photos in the dark lit only by head torches is no mean feat.