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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/970549-Biodiversity-Studies-Suck
Rated: 18+ · Book · Writing · #1197218
Reflections and ruminations from a modern day Alice - Life is Wonderland
#970549 added November 27, 2019 at 8:54am
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Biodiversity Studies Suck
30 Day Blogging Challenge
PROMPT November 27th
Write about a time when you surprised yourself with your abilities. Is there a specific time you can remember when you were convinced that you could not do something, and then you did it? Tell us!

I've been struggling with this prompt this morning, not because I have done so many things but because I was never raised to believe I could not do something. My parents subscribed to the adage that "you can be or do anything you want in life if you work hard enough" philosophy. The concept of there being something I was "convinced I couldn't do", is the part I am wrangling with. It is a bit idealist and unrealistic to believe I could have done anything of course. I don't think I could have ever been an astronaut or professional athlete for example but I also never would have pursued such things in the first place, so how would I have ever known? It seems more apt that I've been surprised by my ability to do something, or that I've done something and gotten far better results that I had expected too.

One thing that comes to mind is my semester project during my time at the University of Hilo, Hawaii. We had to work as a team to complete a density of life and diversity study on the reef at Richard's Bay. We had to lay out quadrants along a section of the reef. Then, we had to take turns identifying and counting all the organisms that appeared in every square meter of it. We did this by snorkeling just below the surface and laying down a metered square of PVC piping and recording every single element of biolife we saw, over and over again, over the entire area.

It was difficult work. The metered square was awkward and it floated up and moved with the current if you didn't grasp it tightly. The surf was often rough and it took a lot of effort to stay in place and not slip off location. The sun on our backs was unforgiving and the sunscreen had to be reapplied more often than we could afford to stop. We eventually opted for wearing t-shirts instead, which restricted movement more on the most tricky sections of reef. You had to watch out for sea urchins which were plentiful and fire coral, which was everywhere and could leave you with very nasty skin abrasions. There was always the chance encounter with sharks or moral eels to be wary off too. The weather often did not cooperate and rain and rougher seas could make focusing very difficult. The days were very long and we were all exhausted by the time our afternoons on the reef were done. We also still had to write the paper and publish our findings and the project was to be our entire grade for the course.

By the end, our team of three was nearly wrung out with the efforts. The was only one day left to complete the last section and we had only 5 hours to do it in. We were also down a team member, Ray, was out with a stomach flu. It fell to me and my teammate Heather, to get the field work completed on time. We worked in shifts on the worst weather day we had seen. A particularly strong surf had slammed us both into the coral heads and bounced us off the bottom in the more shallow sections. We were exhausted and bloodied. I remember thinking that we would never finish. After my last break I sat, nursing my blazing elbow with my back and shoulders on fire, thinking how much I hated the thought of going back in. Everything hurt and I felt water logged and nauseous. I honestly entertained fudging the remainder of my line, just duplicating data from random sections and moving from the field to the paper writing early. Then Heather came back up, her face whipped raw but her eyes bright behind her mask. She handed me the counting square, smiled and said, "last fucking run baby!". I pulled on my mask and fins, gave her a high five and slipped over the side.

I'm not sure how I made it through that last 40 minutes, I just did. We took that final data and together our team plotted the results and produced our findings. And we kicked ass. The professor called out our team for all the effort and hard work. The three of us stood beaming in front of the class while he lavished praise on our work. I remember thinking at the start of the semester, if there was ever an instructor I had wanted to impress more than anyone, it was this guy. I had made my impression and I was thrilled. Looking back over all the data, I was really surprised at what we had accomplished and at how I had been able to rally and push myself that last day on the reef.

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