Oops Award/Pair-Bond

Oops Award

It has become traditional for all the grad, honours students, field assistants working in or lab and their spouses/partners to have an annual social evening get together. Typically we share some slides of the exotic locations where we have been fortunate enough to do field work or travel to in the previous year. It gives everyone in the lab a much better appreciation for the variety of both the projects and field sites.

The highlight of the evening however, is the review of nominations and the subsequent vote about whom will receive the Oops Award for that particular year. This award arises from the best; of those goofs, screw-ups, mistakes etc. that inevitable arise when doing field work. It was first given out in 1994 to the now eminent Dr. Glenn Sutter who for 10 days called all the Sprague's pipit's he was studying, vesper sparrows. This slight error caused embarrassing moments for me and reems of paperwork for CWS for the banding permits. It was an easy mistake to make and had no long term consequences for PhD work, but as you might imagine, he took a bit of ribbing about it. Continuing on from that fine tradition, each year we make the award to that individual who has contributed the best oops! of the year. The stipulation is that the oops has no long-term negative implications for the recipient's research nor can there be any significant physical injury involved.

Oops award

Past winners:

2018 - Eric Green - The "Paprika Incident".
2017 - Erin Swerdfeger - The Tale of Elbow Grease.
2016 - Phil Rose - An inability to hire himself for a job he created
2015 - Mark Brigham - A lack of attention to detail.
2014 - Louis Gower - Brit freezing on a ledge (a self portrait).
2013 - Gabe Foley - Who cares about the truck, look its a Shrike!
2012 - Brandon Klug - The importance of spelling: NSERC application detailing the candidates good work promoting scientific pubic awareness.
2011 - Sarah Ludlow - Exploring for natural gas by digging a hole in a well pad with a truck.
2010 - No Award. Everything went perfectly.
2009 - Sam Skalak - Caught peeing by a movement camera.
2008 - Sam Skalak - Extending a helping hand to fugitives.
2007 - Jared Clarke - Locking himself in a -20 freezer.
2006 - Mark Brigham (won his own award AGAIN) for having a squirrel trying to escape the anesthesia machine, run up his shorts in search of ...food Squirrel Sonnet.
2005 - Jackie Metheny - Sinking big red in Battle Creek and making the Mighty Ranger come to the rescue.
2004 - Mark Brigham (won his own award) for failing to invite his non-golfing female graduate students golfing
2003 - Kristen Kolar - Nothing like waking up a rancher at 2 am to help fix a truck that don't need fixin.
2002 - Daniela Rambaldini - An adjective strewn description of driving where no one should try to drive.
2001 - Jeff Lane - Off loading used beer in a public place under the watchful eye of the police.
2000 - Rolf Vinebrooke - Nose testing an electrical fence.
1999 - Darren Sleep - Dumping a GPS while having a dump.
1998 - Tyler Cobb - Sitting on a nest of fire ants.
1997 - Danna Schock - Sinking a trencher in a slough.
1996 - Chris Woods - Locking keys in vehicle resulting in a long unplanned walk.
1995 - Mark Graham - Failing to "run" rapids with a canoe full of gear.
1994 - Glenn Sutter - Mis-identifying Sprague's pipits.

Nominations that just missed winning include:

  • Loss of bladder control at the prospect of an important landowner meeting.
  • After a bit too much hydrating, falling asleep and proceeding to "wash" one's laptop with the unconsumed beer.
  • After spending much time and effort sterilizing mist nets to prevent the spread of WNS, leave them in the lab before driving 3+ hours to the field site.
  • Almost being thrown out of Texas for netting in a state park without the appropriate permit (even though it was issued by Texas State Parks) while having an open beer in a dry park.
  • Ascertaining the reproductive condition of a female bat and inadvertently squirting milk from a nipple right into ones mouth.
  • Questioning a lab mate as to why a bed sheet was hanging in the lab to dry, then while taking it down discovering with horror that the material was your supervisors underwear.
  • Sneaking up on an Island in the middle of the the night carefully only to spotlight "pelican" bushes
  • Stuck on a rock in the middle of the night wondering why the canoe is going nowhere with the motor full on
  • Leaving the bat detector in a classroom for 2 years after giving a talk there
  • Clonking young people on wide streets with mist net poles hanging out of a parked truck
  • Trying to get a marriage license with documents located 2000 km away with 8 hours to get 'em and 36 hours before the ceremony
  • Assuming that "everyone" has the software to launch ibuttons while poised to implant them
  • Spreading a "honey like" substance on the truck interior before a night out
  • Different individual misidentifying Canada geese as both jack rabbits and deer
  • Wrecking the security pad trying to get into CWS property
  • Trying to film a roost emergence using a pole assembly manufactured by the Gumby Company
  • Having to find a lost assistant with 2(!) dead lights "somewhere on a little hill" in Nettle and Briar-land
  • Forgetting the advice to stay away from the shore and sinking a quad some good
  • Breaking belts, missing exits, visiting the wrong province and running out of gas, all in one trip
  • Distractions caused by nude sunbathing on public thoroughfares
  • Driving on the rims of an ATV for considerable km's
  • Donating gas to kleptomaniacs
  • Running into a cougar while the pepper spray is in the truck
  • Running over freshly radio-tagged birds with a truck
  • Various and sundry mechanical failures at the worst of times
  • "Losing" roost trees
  • Pouring beer all over video cameras
  • Reading the gauge to mean "gaining" gas
  • Driving on a flat tire for 20 km
  • Mist netting cars on roads where no one drives
  • Getting stuck driving through the water filled ditch to avoid the puddle on the road
  • Falling off ladders in attics
  • Being chased out of rivers by man eating salmon
  • Etching ones initials in the paint job of a truck
  • Driving while asleep
  • Results of "extra" rabies shots

The Bat, Birds and Bees Pair Bond

I think it fair to warn all those folks who do decide to work in the lab, be it as a graduate or honours student or as a field assistant that there is a strong possibility that your social status may change as a result. It seems that the close proximity of field-work has resulted in a number of permanent pair-bonds being formed. A suitable monument in the lab celebrates these associations. Be forewarned.

Citations in support of the Pair-Bond Plaque

1. Award for Unobjective Study of Animal Behaviour (USAB).

"Science" is (insert some big quote from a famous person, pertinent or not.). And yet, those who study objectively, eschewing all anthropomorphism, may be inadvertently altering their own destiny. For by leaching out the subjective and human influence on their studies, the inevitable behavioural response of scientist to subject is referred! Instead of going "awwww, cuuute" to the charismatic megafauna being studied, said researchers (whether grad student or field assistant) think, "awwww, cuute" about their human companions in the field. This referred affection, emotion, and yes, love, is thus inappropriately enmeshed with another person who has similar goals, philosophy, enjoyment of the outdoors, and accurate powers of behavioural observation. Is it thus so surprising when the field crew "gets together"? Is it surprising that a long term pair bond ensues? Is it surprising that pair bond maintenance is ensured and attended to with a care only found in those who study and value behavioural cues?

To all those who fling heart and soul into their studies, and find a life partner in the process, we shout "Hooray!" To those whose fitness is improved by the creation of offspring, well, You win!

2. Great idea to commemorate the labs influence!

Your lab must also be generating some sort of pheromones or something, given the manifested reproductive potential (at least as far as pair-bonding). It could also be spatial constraints, as I fondly remember the dozen of so of us squeezed into your first small lab space. We know what happens to most animals in close quarters; they either end up consuming each other, or shagging like crazy. Although, I believe it's the conducive field environments you offer (e.g., beautiful, isolated, field camps) that promote these bondings. Again, perhaps a spatial analysis is required (H1: isolation and/or condensed captivity = copious shagging?).