To borrow from our lead in paragraph for post-Evol2017 wrap-ups:
Two weeks after the closing day of the 2017 Evolution Meetings, the Molecular Ecologists have all dispersed from Portland, though items from the Krueger-Hadfield lab didn’t make the return journey! Still, the conference was so big that there’s a lot we missed the first time around — many great talks were scheduled against each other. Fortunately, hundreds of talks were recorded on video and posted online, so it’s possible to go back and catch up with them all. Be sure to check out the great videos on the conference’s well-organized YouTube channel, but, here, I’ll tell a tale of woe …
In the month leading up to #Evol2017, my lab had embarked on some ambitious field sampling down the Pacific coast of North America. It was mostly a reccy to facilitate new lines of inquiry based on natural history. Maybe a few small natural history papers could even come out of it.
If you caught Stephanie Meirmans’ talk (Doing research in the wild: Why does it matter?) on the final day of #Evol2017, she highlighted exactly what this trip was about:
We went out, hoping to stumble over something cool (we did, more about that in the future).
We went to almost 70 sites over 15 days of low tides. That sounds like a ton, but in reality, many sites had nothing for which we were searching or they were very close to one another making it possible to hit several sites in the space of a few hours.
It was amazing, good fun and facilitated by my longest-serving seaweed roadies (my mom and dad), and during the second leg, a grad student at UAB (Sabrina Heiser wrote a post for TME as a #SciComm student).
As I hadn’t planned on attending #Evol2017 this year due to prior commitments to other conferences, I returned to Birmingham for two days before venturing out west again for another few sites of algal adventuring. Field + jet lag can make you sick …
Nevertheless, whither we went, so did the dissecting microscope with which to identify reproductive structures, boots, Falcon tubes, and an herbarium press!
At many other stops along the first legs before the serendipitous #Evol2017 sampling, we’d left the Pelican case (complete with stickers attesting to the scope’s first, of what I’d assumed to be many, outings) and other suitcases in the back of our rental minivan. So, we did the same thing in Portland in what we assumed was a secure hotel parking lot.
Well, you know what happens when you assume …
The Friday night, or technically early Saturday morning, blissfully unaware, we got a good night’s rest before the first full day of #Evol2017. Simultaneously, someone was relieving us of our duffle bag filled with all the goodies, including precious herbarium specimens, and the Pelican case complete with microscope
The next morning, unaware, I went to see some talks. Then, I headed over to the train station to hang out with a colleague who happened to be transiting through Portland.
Then, I found out …
Pelican case, gone.
Herbarium press, gone.
Brand new waders, gone.
Cool drawstring backpack from the Tour of California with pre-labeled Falcon tubes, gone.
Sense of security and opinion of humanity … severely dented.
It was all caught on video … the thief brazenly walked along “casing” cars. Popped the window (it turns out some minivans are dead easy to break into …), climbed in, took our things and went off into the night.
I imagine when he popped the Pelican case open and saw a Leica scope, he was bitterly disappointed to have committed a felony for a scope and some boots and some stinky seaweed drying on paper.
Honestly, I was most upset about the Pelican case. I’d begun to populate the case with stickers of places we’d been. Like, the most amazing fish and chips in Oregon that incidentally has the most amazing stickers. Tangible memories that are not replaceable …
As I thought of the sticker loss (silly as it was), I immediately thought of the herbarium samples. Luckily, I’d had the genetic samples in silica gel in my other luggage. All wasn’t completely lost.
However, those herbarium specimens were destined for my lab’s herbarium, along with the University Herbarium at Berkeley and the Natural History Museum in London once we’d completed some genetic and morphological analyses completed. There were quite a few talks on using herbarium specimens at #Evol2017, such as the talks by Lua Lopez or Kathryn Turner, so the loss of these for future reference was saddening. And, it was such a waste!
It was only a few sites lost in the end, but I’m still angry that someone had the audacity to brazenly take things that weren’t theirs!
The microscope can be replaced.
New stickers will decorate my new Pelican case.
But, the herbarium samples cannot be replaced. They are forever lost in presumably a Portland dumpster somewhere … or maybe now a landfill.
So, if you see these items:
Get in touch … I’ve replaced the scope, but I’d quite like the herbarium samples back!
At least, I’ve progressed to acceptance. I can even find humor in the situation.
And, we’ve learned a lesson … never leave anything in a car, or at the very least as a friend told me today, chain it to the seats.