Motivate your crew!

We’ve all been there.  You and your field team have been together for long hours, hot/cold days, bruising tasks, and exhaustingly mundane chores.  Rainy/snowy days stuck inside or stuck working. You’ve probably pulled more than a few ticks off of each other. Your nerves are frayed.  There’s no other words to describe the feeling at the field camp but blah. You know what it’s time for? Team building and solidarity!!!  Do I mean like a ropes course to build trust? Hell NO, I do not. Do I mean games, junk food, and whatever else works? Why, yes I do!!

I dubbed my tent “a river runs through it,” because it leaked so much a river pretty much ran through it.  There were no showers. I saw the sun maybe twice the entire three months I was there. The Bering Sea had strong ideas about whether we could launch our small skiffs to get to our study islands, but we often launched anyway.  We were wet and cold pretty much the whole time. There was no fresh food. We had a toxic field leader.

When I worked in the Aleutian Islands (you know, that little island chain off the west side of Alaska in the Bering Sea), I had the time of my life.  But, we also had some long, sloggy days. I dubbed my tent “a river runs through it,” because it leaked so much a river pretty much ran through it.  There were no showers. I saw the sun maybe twice the entire three months I was there. The Bering Sea had strong ideas about whether we could launch our small skiffs to get to our study islands, but we often launched anyway. We were wet and cold pretty much the whole time. There was no fresh food. We had a toxic field leader (there will be a future post about toxic masculinity featuring him). We had ample reason to be deflated out there. But we did not give in to those impulses often, and that’s because we kept ourselves motivated and entertained with, from people who haven’t experienced remote field work, what may seem like the most mundane of things.

Firstly, there were Gushers.  Do you remember those little Kool-Aid drinks that we had back in the day that were cloyingly sweet?  If not, go ahead and Google them. They were even shaped like soda bottles! So precious. Now, I’m health, and especially food conscious, but in the field in the Aleutians, these gross things were LIFE.  And we had the best game where we would race to go get a Gusher when we got home from particularly challenging days.  Whoever won got to pick the flavor we’d have that day. It’s amazing how just a silly little drink can brighten your whole team’s day if you make it fun.

We also had radio Jeopardy! All the remote field camps in the Aleutians checked in by radio daily.  And sometimes we’d play radio Jeopardy. Those radio check ins were so important for our mental wellbeing.  They connected us to the outside world. That’s critical. But Jeopardy days were simply THE BEST. They gave us something to look forward to and allowed us to hear voices beyond those few at our field camp.  So much fun.

No matter what field setting you’re in, it’s always a good idea to anticipate a bit of the doldrums and have something up your sleeve to break the cycle.

We also played the dictionary game.  Anyone with a dictionary can play it and it’s super duper fun.  One person writes the real definition of an obscure word down and the other people except the guessers make up a fun definition of that word.  The guesser guesses which is the real definition. It’s hilarious.

We also got unreasonably excited about fiddlehead ferns when they started emerging and chocolate lily roots because that was literally the only fresh food we could eat.  I can still taste those delicious salads, so much more delicious after days on end of canned and processed foods.

No matter what field setting you’re in, it’s always a good idea to anticipate a bit of the doldrums and have something up your sleeve to break the cycle.  What do you do to keep motivated in the field?  Let us know in the comments or on Twitter (#FemFieldSecrets and @FemFieldSecrets).

Interested in telling your whole tale? We would love to hear from you!

HJ_Aleutians

I learned how to drive skiffs in the Bering Sea. I also learned how to keep motivated.

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