Fieldwork is an essential and exciting component of tropical biology. Young investigators often fall in love with research once they have experienced data collection, sampling and processing specimens in the field. Fieldwork provides many professional development benefits for participants as they gain valuable and unique experiences. Fieldwork, however, can involve particular challenges associated with providing a safe and welcoming environment for all. In addition, given that fieldwork occurs outside of traditional classroom settings, away from campus, expectations about interactions and performance are often unclear. Lack of transparent and carefully designed strategies to promote inclusion and equity when performing work in the field are of particular concern given the nature of these journeys. Fieldwork often results in unusually close interactions between researchers who share personal spaces and time together beyond standard working schedules. Teams working at foreign locations can be confronted with unknown rules and traditions to the researchers visiting. Some locations can also present particular health and personal challenges for different people in the team. Overall, the complexity of human interactions is accentuated during fieldwork and, unfortunately, those conditions often lead to harassment and discrimination in the face of limited structure to prevent inappropriate behaviors. Researchers from historically under-represented groups in particular, are at high risk of suffering abuse and discrimination during fieldwork. This talk will discuss implementation of codes of conduct for fieldwork and training for research leaders and participants in fieldwork. Specifically, explicit strategies that team leaders can implement when preparing for fieldwork and put into action once in the field will be addressed. By also discussing tactics available for young investigators, we hope to prepare them in the face of the challenges that may come with doing fieldwork. The field of tropical biology will benefit from implementation of clear rules and expectations for personal interactions that promote broad participation at field stations. Conversations around this topic are critical to ensure the success of a diverse, next generation of tropical biologists.
fieldwork, field safety, inclusion, mentorship