Suddenly it seems like everything is happening at once. The project for which I spent months measuring museum specimens has abruptly transformed (with the help of some key collaborators) into analyzable data, with statistical models and graphs and potential paper titles. The start of the field season, so far away for so long, is next week. And I’m giving a guest lecture to a large class today, which, although I’ve done it before, has been the occasion for some minor panic on my part.
The progress of the museum-specimen project is especially exciting because it will be a chapter in my dissertation, which up until now has been an entirely theoretical object. One of the challenges of field work is that it takes a few years to get enough data to be able to say anything, so there’s considerable lag time between when you start collecting data and when you can start writing. Using museum specimens for this project has given me something to work on while I wait to have enough data from the field. And I think it’s shaping up to be pretty cool. (Unfortunately I’m required to be coy and uninformative about it until it’s published. But when it is published, I’ll tell you all about it!)
I’m going to try some new things this field season, focusing more on certain behaviors. We’re also going out earlier than last year to make sure that we’re there just as the action begins. We won’t be trying to top last year’s 286 birds banded, although of course we will be banding (and I’ll keep the tally on the right side of the home page updated, as usual). I’m really hoping to see some of the birds we banded last year show up again this year – or even to see some of our 2012 birds for the third time.
As for that lecture… I don’t consider myself afraid of public speaking. I genuinely think the topic is cool, and having TA’d for this course last year, I know the students who take it are great people. So why is speaking in front of a few hundred people so intimidating? They can’t do anything to me. They are undergraduates and I am an almighty graduate student! Hah! But I can’t get that anxiety-quiver out of my voice when I rehearse.
Well, these students don’t know me. Maybe they’ll think my voice is just naturally wobbly, right?
It could be worse, though: when I say in my lecture that I study birds, the students will know I mean the small feathered dinosaurs. An officemate of mine who is from the Czech Republic reports that the Czech word for “bird” is the same as the word for… a certain piece of male anatomy, so that when she tells people “I study birds,” it can sound a little strange. She specifically studies bird feathers, so she might say “I study feathers”—but the Czech word for “feather” is a more vulgar term for that same piece of male anatomy! She jokes that, in Czech, women have gynecologists and men have ornithologists.
Thank goodness I’m giving my lecture in English.