One of our plots is inaccessible without the use of a helicopter. We step off the helicopter, grab our gear from the back, walk to a safe distance from the helicopter, turn around and see our only way out fly away. On days we conduct transects, we are only 100 meters away from each other and try to keep pace with one another. Other days, we may be following males to record their territory locations or trying to find a nest. The males we choose to follow are the ones recorded on the transects and again, we are able to see each other. On transect and territory days we are more or less one kilometer away from our pick up point, and this is a nice feeling after a hot field day in the Everglades (which is most days). However, there is a third method that we use to collect data that leads us far from each other.
On range-wide survey days, we walk to designated locations where Everglades National Park biologists conduct point-count surveys and conduct a point-count and a transect survey. Above is one of the survey areas more than two kilometers away from our drop off point. It was nice to have the Everglades to myself. I could see a tower that allowed me to have service, making me feel a bit less isolated and safer.
I am lucky enough to have conducted field work on land and in the sea and am able to experience how safety works in both. Diving, even for recreation, requires a “buddy” who should stay no more than two seconds of swimming away from each other. This is not required on land. We also have a saying in diving “Plan your dive, and dive your plan.” It also holds true on land (minus diving, insert walk?). We report where we are going to be, either to Everglades Dispatch or the airport we take off from, what time we plan to be back or picked up and our contact information.
To further enjoy having the Everglades to myself, I also communicate through a walkie-talkie whenever I arrive at a survey location and when I begin walking to the next one. Once you hear “Copy that” it feels much better to continue walking another kilometer or two.
One thing I don’t think I’ll ever truly enjoy is walking on pinnacle rock (pictured above) when I’m away from my team. Just know that my biggest fear is (maybe was?) walking on slippery rock. I am very cautious walking on any rocks and sometimes still need some mental warm up before doing so, but it is a part of my job and it will get done safely. More on my fear and pinnacle rock in a later post.