Back during those grad school years, one of the many (yes, many) projects I did, not quite singled handedly, but not all that far off, either, was to plant 14 10m x 10m experimental landscape “patches” with a dozen shrubs, a couple of trees, and a prostrate ground cover, and then I differentially irrigated and pruned those plots, and looked at effects on productivity and water use.
My productivity was quite high, but also water dependent. I was a lot like my plant friends.
At any rate, I also monitored rates of photosynthesis, and transpiration, and mass sap flow, and with the help of some electronic and artificially intelligent friends, I monitored local climate. The NSF was spending lots of money, and some of it went to the work I was doing, which I kind of liked. That the IRGAs were more valuable than the student workers was kind of an issue for me, but not much of one. You can look IRGA up.
As an aside, I still have a data set, unused, one that could be mined to write a dissertation, data on climate, and mass sap flow, and water inputs, and the models exist, but I never could talk a student into it, within a wonderful system, hot desert, almost no precipitation, outdoors, and almost every Ph.D. biologist I know has at least one such data set that has never been used and likely never will be because we cannot stand to look at it, ah well.
The equipment from Campbell Scientific was cool stuff, I really dug the science of environmental biophysics, something one of my colleagues where I worked later asked me what it was, and him, a physiologist, and basically I said it was about how environment affected the biology of living things, the physics of it, the environmental end, but also the physiological end, like, what is the rate of conductance of heat off that sheep before and after shearing, given this temperature and that metabolic rate, or how does windspeed influence transpiration rate of that plant, given soil moisture conditions of x or y.
That’s the kinds of thing that equipment could tell me, so I dug it, just as surely as I dug through the caliche to plant those (12 x 14) + (2 x 14) + (14) plants and the irrigation system to water them, well, we rented a rototiller for that one, a jackhammer later on, for some of those other sites, twice, because the freaking jack rabbits ate a significant portion of the (12 x 14) and (14) right off the bat, and that’s kind of the point of the story.
The scientist, doing research, affecting the system she is attempting to study, immediately, irrevocably, in ways that influence results. Rabbit herbivory. Fence building. Three years of study, affects on local herbivore populations, which affect the study, big as life.
For almost a year, it did not rain, at all. The site was in the low desert, during a period of prolonged drought. Finally, rain. I run to the site, download the data from the microclimate station, no rain data.
A local avian predator has been using the tip bucket as a dining area, perching there, setting its kill into that handy container, rendering it useless. Until the hardware cloth was put on top, which of course, influenced the way rainfall would enter the system.
We always influence our research, always. Marking those turtles. Moving that enzyme out of the cell and isolating it in that glass tube. Colliding those subatomic particles in that tunnel under Europe. Interpreting that data from space with those pitiful (right now) tools we’ve developed, discovering everything those more pitiful (back then) tools were that led us to that false belief.
There is always error inherent in research. Always.
But then, I’m a discerning scientist.