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Sophia N. Wassermann

PhD student in Marine Science at the National University of Ireland, Galway & Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholar. Interested in computational approaches to issues at the intersection of fisheries and climate change. Currently modelling mackerel collective behaviour. MSc in Biodiversity & Conservation (with Distinction) from Trinity College Dublin; B.A. in Environmental Studies from Vassar College.

Sometimes Science is Boring.

Starting a new year is always slow. For me, after the rush of the holidays, January feels particularly dull. The cold and the dark start to bother me in a way they didn’t before the new year. These days, my looming PhD clock also does nothing to mollify my existential wintertide dread. Ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but, as I feel like I’ve been saying all year, it’s a tough time of year.

In these winter doldrums, there’s nothing better than diving headfirst into a mind-numbingly repetitive task. . . Right?

They’re common in science, usually coming after the excitement of fieldwork and before the thrills of analysis. They require just enough concentration that you can’t completely zone out. My current task has been to track the position of stickleback fish for every step of a video. I use LoggerPro and though it works well, it is incredibly time-consuming. I spend the majority of days in front of a computer, but there’s a pretty big difference between coding or writing, and tracking little fish across your screen.

Fish tracking in LoggerPro

This took me about 10 hours. No one has suffered as I have suffered.

These tasks are an important reminder, though, that science is not all flash and excitement. While field work in exotic locales and shiny technology lead to excellent science, so does painstaking lab work. It’s in these moments that you really learn whether or not you want to be a researcher. I’m pleased to say that despite it all, I’m not second guessing myself. Yet.

The author and a sea turtle friend

One day I'll be back in the field again! Photo by Kat Millage