Monday, September 17, 2012

Tell me a story

If you and I have ever visited for longer than 10 minutes, I’ve undoubtedly found a way to bring a Radiolab* reference into our conversation. In writing this blog over the past few months, the episode called “Tell me a story” often came to mind. In it, Robert Krulwich gives the commencement address to a fresh crop of CalTech graduates and urges them to talk about their research to anyone who will listen, even if they feel completely inept at doing so…

…because science has to compete against so many other (inaccurate, dangerously misleading, beautiful-but-wrong) stories about how the universe works and how we all came to be upon this planet.

In the case of Lake Tanganyika, it’s no easy task giving voice to a giant body of water that likes to keep her secrets. But we measured this and that, took samples and conducted experiments when we could, and now begin the hard-won task of turning those numbers and observations and samples into a story:

The story of a place that can’t speak for itself.

And in my humble opinion, it’s a good one.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but my hope is that in reading my stories about Lake Tanganyika, you have a slightly better understanding about my little corner of Africa and the absolutely incredible place I got to call home for a while (and have a new-found appreciation for where a tiny fraction of your tax dollars go!). 

The last fish (a kazumbe!) of the fish pee study (oh, happy day!)
If not, the fault is mine, and I promise to try harder next year.

I’ve been home a whole month now, and I think I’m almost back to what could pass as normal. Coming home again is always tough for me, so big thanks (and bigger hugs) to all of you who helped get me through the (painful) transition. Without recounting the incredibly stress-inducing details of my final hours in Tanzania (most assuredly, I lost years of my life ensuring those damn water samples made it to These United States), suffice it to say that if you’re willing to throw down enough cash, you can get even the most overweight of coolers across international borders. And miracle of miracles, everyone and everything arrived home safely once again. 

Some illegal fishing in Mahale (lest we forget the big picture...)
And as the brazillions of samples wait patiently for analysis in the CFL freezers, I have the added advantage of time to look back on what I officially call a Very Successful (if not challenging) field season.

Thank you all for joining me on this journey, and hopefully I’ll have more stories to tell soon.   

*Radiolab is just the BEST PODCAST IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD. I can’t say enough good things about it, and I have a secret crush on Jad Abumrad. He and Robert are coming to MADISON at the end of the month. GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!!!