Logistics and Planning
I thought long and hard about what I would want to read if I were reading a research blog. One thing would be to learn about how it felt to be a scientist in another country, and see how the writer dealt with all the difficulties and uncertainties that came with that, alongside the more positive new experiences he or she had. I would also want information that I could use to make my own scientific visits better, both personally and professionally.
In terms of logistics, my research stay at the station was made very comfortable and efficient due to three main reasons: good planning, staff assistance and station amenities. I really recommend having a few skype calls, alongside emails, with the station manager and her or his staff to make sure you know more about what the station can offer. Also, try to lock down whatever you can in advance. We also had a very organized shared file (using google docs), so we were able to write down all of of our contact information, plans, follow up suggestions etc. So what were the most important things for me that the station offered, apart from a comfy place to live?
At Hyytiälä Forestry Research Station
Recruiting participants: Without a doubt, the most important part in terms of logistic support was the help we got from Terhi and Jaana with recruitment of participants for our study – “walking-focusing” interviews with people about their nature experiences. (More on our research methodology in the next post). Terhi also went out to two different yet equally suitable parks in the area and took pictures, about 5 weeks before we arrived, and that’s how we decided on the trail together.
We used everything we could think of to find people to participate: Facebook helped a lot, as did a short piece about the study in the local newspaper, and the Park itself was nice enough to publish our call for participants on the Park’s Facebook page. A few participants were employed at the station, as well as a few students and researchers who happened to be attending a summer forestry training at the Park.
I am happy to say that each and every one of these recruitment techniques worked, yielding more than 30 participants in six days – and 30 was our target number. Altogether, pre-planning was done well and the station had a vital role in it. I should also add that in addition to performing the Finnish-language interviews for non-English speakers, Terhi helped with all the Finnish translation of our call for participants. Both allowed us to work with participants who felt more comfortable communicating in Finnish.
Transportation: The station also provided us with a large car, which we could use to take people with us to Seitseminen Park on weekends and evenings (they needed the cars for the course students during the day). This can be a valuable resource for some researchers, and it definitely was for us. However, note that only University or station employees are allowed to drive the car, so in this case, Terhi also had to drive us whenever we had more than 2-3 participants per trip.
Food: Following the tradition of great British literature, I’ll also talk about food, as part of the experience of being at the station. Because, while food may seem like something superficial you shouldn’t care about too much, it really does to a lot to influence how you feel and even how you work – especially if you are working as physically intensively as we were. So we received our meals (3 + afternoon coffee), which were quite healthy and included vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. If you know you’ll miss a meal, the kitchen can reserve one for you in a special kitchen, and you can heat it up there. We also had a fridge, a microwave and a stove in our little kitchen upstairs, so we were able to make a couple of meals and snacks there when we wished with some food we bought at the supermarket, which was about 20-30 minutes away.
Take into consideration that without a car, it is very difficult to do any kind of shopping, food or other, as the station is relatively secluded (20+ minute drive to anywhere with food). Making sandwiches for the rest of your day at breakfast is also fine. You can also take coffee and tea from the station, which was good for us, as we wanted to make our participants feel comfortable, with coffee-time at the end of each walk as a nice way to end things for everyone involved.
Now that you know more about the preparations and logistics, as well as what the station can offer, next time I’ll write about the actual work that we did, about our research and some preliminary insights.