In a couple of weeks, I will be at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens (XTBG) for a course in the Ecology and Conservation of Chinese forests. Here’s what I hope to get out of my six weeks in Yunnan (by far not a comprehensive list!):
1. Half of the course will be devoted to developing and executing a field project. I hope to work on something that I’ve never worked on before (my field research repertoire is limited to the two-week work in Costa Rica, so this won’t be hard to achieve!). I wonder if it might be a good idea for me to work on a non-plant centric project…
2. I am very, very excited to do research with my peers from other countries, from other scientific cultures. I really enjoyed working with Andre, a Brazilian visitor to the Weiblen lab, because he had a very different perspective on his plants than anyone else I met at UMN. I am sure that everyone at XTBG will have a different reason for wanting to study forests, different ways of doing it, and different goals.
3. Develop relationships with global scientists that I can maintain throughout my career. I sincerely hope that I will study Asian forests at some point in my career (for both personal and scientific reasons), so these relationships will be great to have.
4. The instructors at this course are “scientific naturalists” (sensu Futuyma 1998), and I greatly look forward to understanding how they bring in organismal biology knowledge in experimental design. This is the first time that I am going to be actively observing scientific naturalists at work — George, Jennifer and the folk at NMNH were all drawing in organismal biology to design the research I was doing, but it just happened around me. Now is my chance to track the process and hopefully start contributing to it.
5. Work on my photography.
6. Get some first hand exposure on how CTFS plots work. Despite being close to the SERC plot while in DC and practically being in the Bukit Timah plot in Singapore (see my pics on the “Photography” page!), I’ve never actually understood how the field crew does its thing. Hopefully this will change at the beautiful Xishuangbanna plot.
There are other objectives, of course, like cultural exposure and meeting fellow young scientists outside of the US. But I won’t list those.