Graduate Fieldwork

Fieldwork in ecology and other field-based natural sciences is critical to completing graduate programs successfully and requires a variety of skills, from scientific to interpersonal. Graduate students are often responsible for organizing, leading and managing their own fieldwork and field crews, but few resources exist for those entering graduate schools without past experience.

I lead a project that starts to fill that gap. We compiled a survey to collect generalized advice, strategies and resources, aimed particularly at supporting graduate students with the interpersonal and leadership skills required to complete fieldwork successfully.

We found that graduate student leaders can improve the success and safety of a field season via clear communication, risk assessment and procedural planning implemented before, during, and after the field season. Survey responses also prioritized the role of labs, principal investigators, departments, and professional societies who can support graduate field leaders by formalizing institutional resources, financial support, and incentivizing skill development.

The full results of our study was published in Ecosphere, linked here. The archive of our survey, if you’re interested, is here.

Katherine Hayes
Postdoctoral Scientist