How we do it: Organization

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Before: The cluttered cave

If you are familiar with any type of field work, or even other outdoor activities such as camping, you know that there are all types of gear and equipment needed. Not only do we need the appropriate clothing, but also different field computers, hard drives, cameras, GPS devices, safety gear, diving equipment, sampling gear, microscopes, species guides, maps, field papers/data forms, and all sorts of other stuff are needed. Field work is not clean nor pretty and the SEAmBOTH work is no different. We spend about four months living out of a van, trailer and whatever cottage we can acquire during the weeks. During this time, our gear is spread over our boat and our living area. We stay as organized as we can, but usually everything is organized enough for work the next day. Our survival suits, dive suits and anything used in the water are left to dry each evening and occasionally, we have time to properly clean the gear at the end of the week. However, by the end of field season, our gear is ready for a good cleaning. Unfortunately, at the end of the season, taking care of the gear is not our first priority. It is stored and put aside in our storage room, or as we like to call it, ‘the cave’. In summer, ‘the cave’ is quite empty and often used as a weekend living area for visiting workers or volunteers, but after the field season, all the gear piled in ‘the cave’, just waiting to be organized.

Our gear is symbolic to the rest of our work as well. Similarly, our data is treated about the same way. Since we have a limited amount of days we can work at sea, we need to get as much sampling done in the time we have. This means that most of our data and any office work is also left to be organized until after the field season too. At the end of each day, GPS points, pictures, and videos are input into the computers, and our data forms are numbered and organized into folders, but very little data is put in Excel or sorted. Our data often waits until after we are back in the office sometime in September. Once back in the office, we spend the next two months or so entering all the summer’s data into Excel spreadsheets. This is tedious work and needs complete focus so that as few mistakes as possible occur.

After the data is ready, it’s back to the cave to start sorting the gear. In the beginning, everything is piled up and cluttered. It takes quite a few days to wash and dry all the survival suits, overalls, hats, gloves and hoods. We take inventory of all the boxes and gear to make lists of what is needed for the next summer and repair any equipment that has been lost or damaged. Once everything is ready, all gear is packed up in the appropriate bags or boxes and organized on the shelves. Just as with any cave, ours is cold, dark and silent. Like bears, our gear is left to hibernate until it is time to begin the work for next field season. Fortunately, this year we were able to get started in ‘the cave’ a bit earlier. Unlike the gear, our data is not hibernating. It has been submitted and being used for analyzing and modeling by other various marine team members. While there are still quite a few things to do, most gear is now organized and ready for the New Year and new field season.

After: Organized Cave

Written by Ashley Gipson, Metsähallitus


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