Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 16: Wavin' flag

Today we had a cold east wind of 30 km/hr gusting to 60 km/hr so the flags outside the study centre were snapping. Perhaps it was this scene that inspired the song to develop note for note out of my mouth during the drive to town to pick up the researchers off of the train or just the chance to be alone in a van with bad radio reception and an urge to sing for days without any release (I'm too shy to sing in front of people!)

"When I get older, I will be stronger, They'll call me freedom, just like a Wavin' Flag!" - K'Naan

This song holds so many meanings, from the inspiration that it embodied during last year's FIFA World Cup, when I first heard it, to the poverty struggle that keeps hope alive in what I think the original intent of the song was. Today, I'm feeling that this song relates to my research (thanks to my undergrad program, Knowledge Integration, I've been trained to connect anything to anything, but I think that it's a great process of reflection so I will use it here).

I understand how amazingly fortunate I am to have this opportunity to do research up here in Churchill, even more so as an undergrad student out of 3rd year and to stay up here for the entire summer! It's hard to believe that I'm really here sometimes, like the sunrise at 4:00 AM this morning, shining pink and orange into my 6 foot window in my room is just a dream, it's just too much breathless awe! And I thank everyone who has given me a chance to experience this.

That said, with planning and executing this experiment, I still feel so young and inexperienced. I know it's supposed to be a learning process and that I won't get everything right the first time I try to plan an experiment even with the help of 3 direct supervisors. I feel like I'm fighting with myself to get everything ready and planned. I've never been in charge of determining what other people should do for a day, of directing the sampling process rather than being the lab assistant. The experience is powerful and distinct. I was surprised that anyone would listen to me even though I am so young and inexperienced. I also feel like I don't really know enough about the field to truly understand what I am designing - which is where the supervisors come in. I can only explain, superficially, what my experiment means and how it is being analyzed. As soon as someone who is familiar with the field asks a question, I'm uncertain and tend to ask the question back because I just don't know enough in this field.

My hope is that when I'm older, when I have time to study a single subject in depth for a year, rather than this intermittent learning that I've been able to grasp, I will finally begin to understand the science in a broader sense and understand the processes involved and how it fits in with a regional or global perspective. So my hope is that I will be stronger, smarter, as I see the grad students and profs around me are, the ones who know everything about their field and if they don't know something it becomes an opportunity for exploration.

So that is my next point, the concept of freedom in exploring science. As the saying goes, the more answers you are able to get, the more questions develop. This question, answer, question cycle drives curiosity and I believe that it is curiosity that drives science. The only limit to the exploration of this science is then the ability to get someone to fund you to research it. Maybe getting funding is a big limitation, but I still think that there is a remarkable freedom that allows a scientist to explore whatever questions their observations lead them to follow. It is the freedom of the mind to learn and discover.

The Tetons and the Snake River - Photo by Ansel Adams
"The Wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask." - Nancy Newhall

What a great place to start looking for questions, just looking outside, being able to talk to the other researchers up here and exchange stories and perspectives about the same strip of land south of the Bay. Maybe we can start learning how to ask these questions through the freedom of thought, exploration and discussion.

The idea of exploration and discovery makes me think of the early, pioneer explorers, standing on foreign soil, flag waving, marking the achievement and bringing an entire nation, an entire world, with them to that moment, to that soil, to that discovery.

Apollo 11 on the moon - the iconic image of exploration, of the Flag
I will get there, to some discovery and follow my curiosity as I develop my own understanding of the world around me. "And then it goes back." I guess that's where I am right now, back here, trying to figure out my path.

1 comment:

  1. This made me smile. Really got me thinking about the desire to make one's mark on the world, and a very innate sense of curiosity and interconnectedness among life on Earth.(props for the K'Naan video, that song was also in my head all of last summer lol)