It was about two or three weeks ago when I was propositioned to tag along with a geology research team for spring break into the Mojave desert. All I would have to do, I was told, was document everything that happened. This seemed really vague to me and at first I was hesitant. And then I was told it would be all expenses paid. I would just have to bring along my backpacking gear for camping and my journalism gear for documenting.
Sign me up.
My next, immediate question was how I was going to charge my electronics. Normally I couldn’t care less about my electronics on vacation, and especially camping. I’m more than happy to cut ties with the world and live with my senses. But if someone is asking me to take pictures, possibly video and audio, all while taking notes, well, I’m probably going to need to plug a few things in. My canon battery is reliable, but I don’t know that I’d give it a week with constant use (though it did make it through Tassie, so I have some faith in it).
So now I have to figure out what I’m going to bring and what I’m going to use for different tasks. A really detailed itinerary would help, but that’s not readily available because a lot of the research is based on timing and weather conditions and unpredictable things like that. So it’s basically going to be “bring all the gear, figure out what you’re using every morning, make sure everything is always charged.” Not exactly my style, but I can be flexible when need be.
I have the potential to see a variety of wildlife. Some of these I’m excited for: bats, jackrabbits (jackalopes???), coyotes, bighorn sheep, lizards (including one called a chuckwalla), desert tortises and I’m not even too worried about the snakes (maybe rattlesnakes, a little). What I’m really not looking forward to are scorpions. Some are just a little poisonous, the bark scorpion is a lot poisonous. I’m usually not very coherent in the mornings, and all it would take was one millisecond of me forgetting to knock my boots out and I could be on my way to the hospital. The plan is to keep my boots in my tent and make sure there are no scorpions inside before I go to sleep.
The main thing I need to figure out is what I’m going to do with all of the material I collect. Obviously I’m not going to be running for next year’s True/False fest, but I’d like this to be something I can put in my portfolio. It’s geology, and the work being done is applicable in some other situations like planetary exploration. But I need to have a good way to lay all of this out in a compelling manner. I want a lead and an actual story instead of just going in with what seems like no aim besides “we want pictures.”
I definitely want to do an audio piece or three, about 3-5 minutes each. I have to work on those skills and it could end up really cool. I’ve already started planning some of the sounds out. Voiceovers, I forgot how much I hate them. I also need to figure out if checking out a Marantz and taking into the desert for a week is a possibility, and if not, find an alternative.
I’m a little concerned for my camera and sand. Any tips on preventing the ruining of a lens would be appreciated. We’re going to be on a lava flow, so there will be less sand than in pure desert, but I think we are camping on pure desert.
Has anyone seen good multimedia pieces done on science topics like this? If so, please pass them along. Suggestions are more than welcome.
I also got another offer from one of the graduate students going on this trip. The 2nd or 3rd week of April, a number of people are going up to Yellowstone to do another, similar, yet more comprehensive, survey with people from all over the country (globe, maybe?). It was suggested that if I could, I should come along to that too. I’m just not sure if I can fit it in time and work wise. I’d be putting the family I nanny for at a disadvantage and I’d have to find a way to cram a week’s worth of work into other already-full spaces.
With that said, it would probably be a phenomenal opportunity, so I’m just not sure which side of the fence I should climb. I have a feeling that trip would definitely take me out of the running for my honors credit I’ve been busting my butt for. That, and I’ll probably get eaten by a bear. The park will be closed when we go in for that research at Yellowstone and bears will be fresh out of hibernation. Hungry and irritable…the perfect storm for the 5’2″ girl to be eaten.
Any advice would be appreciated. The upside, though, is I get to tan, be productive, develop my portfolio further, learn stuff and maintain my bank account all on my senior spring break. Murphy’s law aside, sounds like one hell of a trip.