Looking at the hard copy of my recent publication, I can’t hep but marvel at how clean it looks and feels. Each sentence is as crisp as the months long editorial process could make it and each section offers a critical addition to the simple narrative: Crows gather around their dead to learn about danger. As any of us in field biology know, however, the austere, concise nature of our publications make every effort not to betray the dirty, messy, sometimes chaotic process that defines the research experience.
Equipment breaks, ideas don’t work, field sites get destroyed, animals refuse to cooperate, money runs out, these are all par for the course for any field biologist, and any “field” is going to come with its own hazards. My field, of course, was the city of Seattle. By now, most readers are familiar with the look of our experimental set-up; a masked person with a “UW research” sign holding a dead crow. We could have made the sign the size of a billboard and it still couldn’t have eliminated the sense of shock those latex masks instilled in people. So you can maybe imagine how conducting those experiments in the heart of downtown, in people’s parks and neighborhoods, went over. But you don’t have to.
A few months ago an excellent new popular science publication, Biosphere Magazine, approached me about doing a story detailing my experience as an urban field biologist. Today, with their permission, I’m posting the story in its entirety. I hope it gives you some insight into the research process, but I also hope it encourages you to check out this delightful new publication. I have no doubt it will feed your hunger for science. Enjoy!