Elizabeth Tapanes - Satisfying your soul and science
Working in the eastern rainforest in Tsinjoarivo, Madagascar means you are privileged to work with amazing lemurs and amazing people. It also means you move camp often in the field, and every three days you may be in a new part of the forest looking for new lemurs. It is a part of the world few people have ever or will ever see because it is so remote and inaccessible. For that, I consider myself very lucky because not many people can or want to say that about where they work. The photo above was taken at the start of one of our long hikes to move camp for the last time during the summer of 2017, next to the Onive River.
When I say “long hike” what I really mean is at the start of a nine hour hike, involving: scrambling along boulder-like rocks next to the Onive River, going up and down very steep mountains, crossing streams in sandals (because I forgot rain boots!), canoeing for five minutes, collapsing a bunch of times from exhaustion, getting tree parts stuck in my hands that I could only remove with my hair, and exclaiming: “I am going to die! I am dead!” more times than I can count. It means a lot of laughter and at least some tears. I still remember during our last hour the joy of seeing one of the Malagasy research assistants hike down the mountain with a pot of rice and beans in hand, for us (I was hiking with the wonderful veterinarian Dr. Karine Lalaina) to rest and eat.
Fieldwork isn’t always easy, and many times you go without showering, and may risk life and limb to collect data. But if you are like me, it is deeply rewarding to connect to local people and a way of life that is so removed from your comfort zone while doing something you love. For those of us crazy enough to find joy in that way of life, fieldwork is a necessity for your soul as much as it is a necessity for science.