Written by Dr. Kloepper

To say I am a planner is an extreme understatement. I have lists and spreadsheets for everything. For this trip, I made sure we had lists for lists, every detail of every cave location mapped out, copies of all waivers and documents, and back up equipment for everything. 

But what happens when things don’t go according to plan?

That seems to be the theme for our past few weeks. In Kansas, everything went great. In Oklahoma, it started out wonderfully, but then the storm came through that disrupted our routine and broke our tents (thankfully the folks at Marmot sent us replacement parts). 

In New Mexico, coming face-to-face with a rattlesnake certainly shook things up, and coming face-to-face with a raccoon at 3am that chewed through our window screen and ate the dog food gave us quite a fright (and resulted in me chasing it around the bunkhouse with a mop). 

And of course, the students will agree that I am the queen of forgotten pelican cases. Several times now we arrive at the cave and open the trunk to hear me proclaim “oh shoot” and then fly back to our lodging to retrieve the equipment just in the nick of time. The girls now have a “Dr. Kloepper don’t forget this” list.

Also for me, the first 2 nights at Carlsbad were rough as I came down with a fever and extreme dizziness and weakness. Trust me, no student wants to hear “if I pass out, prop up my feet and cover my face with something so the bats don’t poop on me.”

Thankfully I have recovered, and due to very liberal use of hand sanitizer the students avoided contracting my illness. And despite all our setbacks, we have still be able to collect complete datasets every night. Our hard drives are filling with terabytes of acoustic and thermal data, and we can’t find enough hours in the day to process everything. Trust me, this is a very good feeling for a field biologist. Having too much data is never a bad thing!