Blog, Boulder Patch, Field Season, Fun, Methods, Science

Why Matthew McConaughey is my field season spirit animal*

*abridged title. Original title: Why I try to have Matthew McConaughey as my field season spirit animal (but more of a caricature of Matthew McConaughey, because the real man is a multi-layered, complex being, as all people are, so please don't be offended)

It is a fact of doing science in the field (i.e. outdoors, often in remote locations) that things will go wrong. A substantial part of planning to go into the field to do science consists of planning your back up plan (and often your back up back up plan). The weather may be bad, underwater viz may be awful, your buddy may snag and flood their drysuit. When you work in a relatively remote location like the Arctic, it is also important to pack extras of EVERYTHING. There is no Home Depot or dive shop on the North Slope. As much as possible, you really have to plan for everything going wrong.

Despite all this contingency planning, and the knowledge that SOMETHING is bound to go wrong, it can still be immensely disappointing and frustrating when things do go wrong.  That’s where this man comes in:

Photo from
Photo from

Matthew McConaughey oozes chill like no one else can. I mean, just look at him:

There is so much chill happening in this photo.    Photo from

Despite being ‘chillax’ incarnate, Mr. McConaughey also knows how to get the job done. I mean, have you seen Mud?!?? (also see: the 86th Academy Awards; the McConnaissance)

Matthew McConaughey is who you want to be as a field scientist: able to “keep on livin'” when things go wrong and able to get work done like a champ.

Mr. McConaughey acting his butt off in True Detective. Do work, Matt! Photo from
Mr. McConaughey acting his butt off in True Detective. Do work, Matt!
Photo from

Sometimes, things go wrong in the field. Sometimes, the winds blow hard for about 10 days straight, cutting  field time down to about HALF of what you had expected to have AT MINIMUM. Sometimes, you snag your dry glove under water and you have to end your dive early because you now have a popsicle instead of a hand. Sometimes, it seems like every bit of gear you are trying to use is broken or malfunctioning.

When things like that happen, I would recommend trying to channel this

Just chillin with my airstream and surfboard bro, no worries here Photo from
Just chillin with my airstream and surfboard bro, no worries here
Photo from

Or this

Just paddling in some sweet kelp, man Photo from
Just paddling in some sweet kelp, man
Photo from

As silly as it is, adopting Matthew McConaughey as my spirit animal this field season helped me keep a positive mindset through the many things that went wrong.

In the end, although we couldn’t collect much of the data I had planned on, the large majority of our equipment was deployed (with the indispensable help of Ted and John Dunton) and we collected kelp for genetics and growth measurements. Over the course of this year, that equipment will be collecting data on the temperature, salinity, current speeds, and light conditions around the Boulder Patch.  Animals and algae will (hopefully) start growing on the settling plates. Kelp will continue to grow and reproduce. The weather this year was definitely an anomaly and we are scientifically crossing our fingers and knocking on wood that next year will be better. I will say, however, that I gained a valuable insight from this experience:

When you are channeling Mr. McConaughey, your field season will be alright, alright, alright.

Photo from
Photo from

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