A Day in the Life… with apologies to the Beatles. And the beetles.

My field season here in southern California is in full swing. I’m out doing butterfly research in the Santa Monica Mountain Range several times a week (6 out of 7 days last week, 3-4 during a normal week). I often joke that butterfly work is much more pleasant than, e.g. bird work since butterflies sleep late and don’t typically fly during bad weather. While I can’t argue that my job is pretty darn pleasant, it’s still a lot of work and makes for some long days. I thought I’d keep track of a typical day in the field and share it here. I find it incredibly interesting how different a field day is for people who study different organisms, or who work in different parts of the world. If you want to share what your field day is like leave a comment!

5:30 AM- Awake.
6:00 AM- coffee and smoothie for breakfast while answering emails
7:00 AM- put together gear for the day. Refill camelback and water bottles (minimum of 3 liters of water for the day). Check sunscreen supplies. Pack extra socks. Put together food for the day. Restock glassine envelopes.
7:30 AM- double-check today’s field sites. Plan to visit 3 of my 23 sites. Today’s sites are in the western portion of the mountain range.
7:45 AM- load up the car and leave the house. Stop to fill the gas tank.
9:00 AM- arrive at site one. Slightly too cool for butterflies, so plan to spend a few minutes exploring a different section of trail. Do so, then discover I’ve accidentally spent almost an hour on ~1/2 mile of trail. Oops.
10:00 AM- 11:50- survey site 1. Count 16 species (and 95 individuals), including 2 of the Griffith Park 10. Cover ~3.5 miles.
11:50- water break for my field assistant.

My field assistant assessing abiotic factors affecting diversity.

My field assistant assessing abiotic factors affecting diversity.

11:55- drive to site #2.  No time for lunch, so snack in the car while driving.
12:25- arrive at site 2. Count 11 species, 145 individuals. Over 100 of those are Hedgerow Hairstreaks. Overhear 2 dudebros who clearly have no concept of how sound carries in a canyon. Enjoy watching them look uncomfortable when I call them out on the racist stuff they were saying as they walked down the trail. Cover 4.5 miles of trail.

Hedgerow Hairstreaks nectaring on buckwheat flowers.

Hedgerow Hairstreaks nectaring on buckwheat flowers.

12:45- Water break for my field assistant.
2:50- drive to site #3
3:20- arrive at site #3. Stare, agog, at how dry it is compared to the last visit 3 weeks ago. Admire the beautiful, clear view of the California Channel Islands. Count only 5 species of butterflies (30 individuals), marvel at how many of those are migrating Painted Ladies. Cover 2.5 miles of trail.

Channel Islands from the western portion of the Santa Monicas

Channel Islands from the western portion of the Santa Monicas

4:25- Water break for my field assistant.
4:30- Check the traffic report and see that it will take two hours to get home. Drive to the grocery store for snacks for my field assistant and me.
6:45- home.
6:50- prepare dinner for my field assistant

My field assistant, performing olfactory surveys of mammal diversity in sandstone canyons.

My field assistant, performing olfactory surveys of mammal diversity in sandstone canyons.

7:00- enter today’s data
7:30- document voucher specimens
7:45- shower, dinner.
8:15- answer emails
8:30 PM- read journal article
9:30 PM- bed.

One thought on “A Day in the Life… with apologies to the Beatles. And the beetles.

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