Friday, January 7, 2011

fieldwork forever?

Everybody's been doing a traveling meme for the past year - Silver Fox has a nice collection of other geobloggers who have done one this year. I didn't join in because of my paranoia about keeping my pseudonymity. But I did start compiling a list of the different places I've traveled this past year, and it's actually fairly short. I haven't done much fieldwork this past year - I counted about 12 weeks, not counting traveling I did for work that didn't involve playing in the dirt.

I never intended to be a full-time field person for my entire career, so it's ok that I'm transitioning more to office work. Contrary to popular opinion, I don't mind the lousy weather or the long days - I just miss having a life on weeknights, and I have certain commitments right now that require at least marginal attention during the work week.

I know a couple of "fieldwork forever" guys (they're all guys) who can't stand being in the office. They get itchy and they tend not to deal well with crowds, with "crowds" being more than about 5 people. I've been helping out a fieldwork forever guy with some basic computer stuff, and his level of discomfort with basic computer stuff is pretty...bad. I mean, technical skills like writing a simple memorandum or downloading a file are a mystery.

I'm glad that these guys are happy doing 100% fieldwork. But it does worry me a little - what happens if work slows down and there's a backlog of reports to be written? These forever fieldwork guys usually do ok for themselves, but come winter, when things generally slow down, they're not exactly flexible. And in this economy, being less than totally billable isn't a good thing. Sure, they'll be working ridiculous hours in a couple months, but will their management wait that long to keep them?

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