First I heard that I was eligible to apply to the Plant Functional Trait Course 3 (PFTC3) in Peru, I thought it’d be a neat thing to apply for. Reading up on it left me stunned by the opportunity this teaching program presented me with. Elated to have been accepted to participate in the PFTC3, the time of my departure to Peru is drawing closer and closer with each day.
Scientific publications have been read in anticipation of the course’s materials, vaccines have been administered, a general idea of what to pack has been established and family members have been calmed down about my being far away from home. In short: I am ready to cease the opportunity.
Being German by birth who is living and studying in Norway and has never been farther to the south of his birth place than the canary islands, I am beyond excited to get to see a new destination outside of Europe whilst staying within the context of my studies. That is the big deal for me – Internationality. So often, it is easy to get bogged down in echo chambers. Even in science. By partaking in the PFTC3 I hope to gain additional insights on the big topics in ecology not only through the diverse team of researchers and students I will be working with but also by getting to know a different cultural mind set on the big questions of our time.
One of these big questions is climate change and how it will affect our lives and shape the livelihoods of the generations to come. I know nothing about the people of Peru and their perception of the challenges or even the factuality of global warming so participating in the PFTC3 will enable me to widen my world view and possibly get into some lively discussions (so long as the language barrier can be cracked). Germans, although very aware of the causes and consequences of climate change, can surely be said to behave apathetically in regards to the information they are given. I seriously wish that the people of Peru will prove less reluctant to face the challenges of climate change and maybe even set me up with some ideas of how to get my own countrymen to care.
Studying in Norway has already set me up with a set of friends and acquaintances from all over the world and the talks we have never fail to set me up with novel input and concepts or talking points which I can revel in. Immersing myself in an even more diverse environment will surely be a blast!
So far this may sound to you like I am going on a glorified vacation. Although this is not the case, I am very much looking forward to gaining some fieldwork experience. So far all of my scientific work has been carried out stuck to a laptop doing complex, large-scale remote sensing analyses using satellite data. Getting to do some actual ground work will set me up with a new appreciation for ground-truthed data in further work and quench my lamenting about a perceived sparsity of ground data in large-scale studies. I know field work can be difficult and is often quite challenging and I look forward to stepping beyond my current comfort zone. I’ll probably know if I reached my goal if, when I return, I will look at the ground data I worked with and thank the researchers who poured their work into them.