The 7Ps: Proper planning and preparation prevents poor performance

My other lab's a tent.  Svalbard field camp 2011.

My other lab’s a tent. Svalbard field camp 2011.

It’s that time of year when people might think all academics aestivate in the lull between exam boards and kicking off the new academic year. If only!  For many, this gap is the best time to pick up the lost threads of research work. But for some of us, this is when we migrate north in a bid to make the most of the brief Arctic summer. Our group is no exception. Right now we are right in the midst of field prep. As much as we like to work to the 7Ps, we are also well acquainted with Sod’s law: What can go wrong, will go wrong. So, what are we preparing for (and worrying about) this summer?

Richard: Will be making his second EU InterAct TA trip of the summer to Abisko in Northern Sweden to work on the long-term elevated CO2 experiment. In May he dug out blind to get a good field season and has planned the summer trip carefully. But a large moth outbreak which is devouring the field site is one thing that can’t be controlled for.

Tris: Heading up to Ny Alesund, Svalbard as part of a NERC project. Tris is very excited to have some new toys to bring along. He’s  chuffed to have a brand new ice corer to play with, but is hoping his spectrometer arrives soon.

Sara: Also heading up to Ny Alesund, leading her Freshwater Biological Association project. Right now Sara is being uber-methodical about assembling a collection of exotic sounding microscopy stains: Nile Red, Cotton Blue, Calcofluor White amongst many others. Today we packaged up our shipment of consumables for Svalbard. Now we’re hoping that the shipment makes it, and isn’t scattered to the four winds like in 2006 (parcels sent to Svalbard were spotted in Nottingham, Sweden, Germany and Aberystwyth itself. One parcel made it – a year late…)

Arwyn: Heading to Russell glacier, Greenland this week, before leading the NERC project fieldwork in Ny Alesund later in the month. With a very full set of risk assessments for Svalbard in the bag and a NERC proposal squared away, Arwyn is now “focused” upon issues to do with a planned helicopter transect on the Greenland Ice Sheet.  Helicopter time costs about £30 a minute: for once, next-generation sequencing is not the big ticket price of an experiment. If it all goes to plan, a large number of samples will need to be harvested (on the meter) and processed in very short order. But right now the helicopter is grounded, with pending paperwork issues to be sorted as thumbing a lift is not so easy on the inland ice.

A few of the crew will be staying closer to home though. Jerry and Sophie will be making friends with the flow cytometer and a stack of bacterial isolates from glaciers.

So, anyway – a busy summer ahead for the team in Aber and the Arctic.


About Aber Cryoconite

Senior Lecturer in Microbiology at Aberystwyth University, Wales, UK. Research interest: polar and alpine microbiology. Views my own.
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