It’s the beginning of another beautiful Vancouver summer and in the Aitken lab we all know what that means: the graduate students get to sit on their cushy office-chair thrones while the summer help toils away in the field. As a member of the indentured portion of the lab I pass along to you, dear reader, a brief account of my tribulations as a summer lab student.
The first instance of the cruel and unusual punishment that I’ve been subjected to this summer came on the first two days I was back. At the command of his eminence Sir Jon “Iron First” Degner, I was banished to the dark reaches of the Gulf Islands. Oh, woe is me. I was to squire for Sir Jon on his crusade to conquer Garry oak genetic material in some of the most northerly and isolated populations in the species range.
We travelled to Saltspring and Hornby Island where I was made, against my will, to casually stroll through stunning Garry oak meadows, stopping only all the time to look at the abundant wild flowers and bald eagles or to eat a sandwich. We made camp in Fillongley Provincial Park, a treacherous place full of picturesque ocean panoramas and driftwood laden beaches, where we dined on fire roasted onions and perogies. How, you may ask yourself, was I able to endure such demoralizing and arduous conditions? Life finds a way I suppose.
Last week I was sent outside three times to work in the UBC gulag, aka ‘Totem Field’. “Please,” I begged Prince Ian “Soulcrusher” MacLachlan, “don’t send me outside on this beautiful summer day!” My pleas, however, fell on deaf ears. For hours I worked in perfectly bearable conditions, the radiant summer sun exquisitely balanced by the cool ocean breeze, only getting to pause all the time to watch the Anna’s hummingbirds perching on and darting about the Sitka spruce.
The other prisoners and I sampled newly flushed interior spruce foliage like this for two days and it nearly killed every one of us. The following day we were forced back outside to measure the heights of lodgepole pine seedlings in the same egregiously bearable weather. I don’t know how I survived, but it may have had something to do with the sushi I had for lunch.
So beware, dear reader, of summer employment in the Aitken lab. What they flaunt as a position of indoor, air-conditioned lab work quickly warps to become oppressively delightful outdoor labouring with really lovely people, hummingbirds, and perhaps even the odd sandwich.