Human+Nature Blog

Ciara Hovis is working toward her PhD with Dr. Jack Liu studying the global soy trade using the telecoupling framework between the United States, Brazil and China.

As glamorous and thrilling as fieldwork might sound, no field season is complete without a few tales, typically funnier after the fact. Here’s my attempt to impart some humor and share lessons learned after the emotional trauma subsided.

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Ciara Hovis is working toward her PhD with Dr. Jack Liu studying the global soy trade using the telecoupling framework between the United States, Brazil and China.

3:00 a.m.

My alarm goes off. I open my eyes and see the Heilongjiang sun starting to rise. I close my eyes just for a minute more… (Editor’s note – China, while geographically spanning five time zones, follows only one for unity. That means far eastern locales like Heilongjiang see daybreak early.)

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July 19, 2017

Thomas Connor is a PhD student studying with Jack Liu. He's doing field work in and around Wolong, China.

My China fieldwork this year splits into two trips – June to August, then January to October of next year. These will differ from my previous trips in that this time, I am funded directly from government sources (An East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute [EAPSI] fellowship this summer and a Fulbright grant next year).

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Ciara Hovis is working toward her PhD with Dr. Jack Liu studying the global soy trade using the telecoupling framework between the United States, Brazil and China.

July 18, 2017

Once again, I am currently adjusting to the Chinese way of life. Thankfully, this is not my first rodeo in China. I spent two months here last summer, so I am hoping most of the culture shock occurred then.

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July 13, 2017

Anna Herzberger is an MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability doctoral student studying soybean production the Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China and in the United States. She hails from the farmlands of Virginia, Ill.

My car packed with too many clothes, an extremely terrified cat and a live Kombucha culture, I headed west to my summer field site.

Oddly enough, my summer field site is also where I grew up.

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Ciara Hovis is working toward her PhD with Dr. Jack Liu studying the global soy trade using the telecoupling framework between the United States, Brazil and China.

May 15, 2017

 “Because that's what Hermione does,' said Ron, shrugging. 'When in doubt, go to the library.” 

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April 6, 2017

Anna Herzberger is an MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability doctoral student studying soybean production the Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China and in the United States. She hails from the farmlands of Virginia, Ill.

As the snow retreats and the days grow longer, I am again turning my attention towards summer fieldwork. I have fond memories of relaxing by the pool and spending time with my friends and family during high school and undergraduate summer breaks.

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Feb. 21, 2017

Ciara Hovis is working toward her PhD with Dr. Jack Liu studying the global soy trade using the telecoupling framework between the United States, Brazil and China.

A professor posed these two questions to my first year grad student cohort. And I realized I did not have a clear answer. If he asked me a year ago and replaced MSU with my undergrad alma mater, I would have fired off a response, no problem. I was a college student studying ecology and sustainability, with the goal of getting into graduate school to get a PhD. Since graduating this past spring, however, my mindset and situation has completely shifted.

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Nov. 1, 2016

Amanda Guthrie is a master's degree student studying who has been integral in developing how the Great Lakes are managed under bi-national agreements under Bill Taylor.

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Sept. 21, 2016

Thomas Connor is a PhD student studying with Jack Liu. He's doing field work in and around Wolong, China.

If you asked me a couple of years ago if I would ever experience waves of pleasure at the sight of fresh feces, I would have probably answered “maybe.” I can now give a definitive “yes” to that question if anyone was wondering, as my fall field work in Sichuan Province, China, kicks off the ground. I am now in the north of Wolong Nature Reserve, staying in the village of Genda. From there it is a 20-minute drive and a couple hour hike into the mountains to reach the edge of the reserve, where it borders Caopo Nature Reserve to the north. The quest for panda poo is not easy at this time of year – it is the tail end of the rainy season, which leaves ground slippery and muddy and the bamboo understory soaking wet even on clear days. The pandas in the area are also currently eating the leaves of arrow bamboo, a species that occurs at high elevations above 2700 meters. This means a long climb every day, usually with the threat of rain, and without the promise of success.

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