Summer is ending and fall is just around the corner. As Laura mentioned in her last post, it is time again to tackle the chores and be productive for school. However, I wanted to add how volunteering and doing new activities are also great ways to start the fall.
This week, I began my semester with some field volunteer work before consuming myself with writing proposals and papers. It just so happened that my friend who is studying ants needed help collecting insects for his thesis project. I thought, why not tag along? And so, off we went on an adventure to find ants in the Quebec wilderness.
While I am not an entomologist, I have learned to appreciate how insects can be just as exciting as the larger mammals that we usually adore. And let me tell you, ants are funny little creatures. Not only do they create complicated societies and roles in their colonies, but they also have quite the personalities.
Once arriving to a forest, we set up some plots and collected ants through these tube devices called aspirators. I eagerly searched for ants, turning over rocks and hacking through wood (which, by the way, is a fantastic way to get out one’s writing frustrations). Soon enough, I found a lonely ant wandering about. Feeling quite like the detective, I followed its path to a broken tree log, where I discovered hundreds of more ants, angrily gathering to defend their home against me. Armed with my nifty aspirator, I vacuumed up most of the workers, which just angered the colony more. Before I knew it, I had ants marching over my legs, back, and across the face. I’ll admit that my colony conquest was concluded with lots of swearing and bouncing around. While I did manage to survive, I now have the deepest respect for ants.
The day ended well with lots of insects and leaf litter collected. Overall, it was a great experience for me, as I also learned a few techniques to use for my own field research (of course, one being how not to panic during an ant colony attack).
I cannot express enough how important it is to volunteer as a grad student: be active, learn new things, meet other students, and have fun! Really, volunteering is also helpful to others and can therefore be a rewarding experience. And with that, I hope you go explore some new activities on your graduate journey.
A thanks to Javier Ibarra Isassi at Concordia University for letting me tag along!