The winter is upon us, a bit prematurely, and non-essential environmental field work is mostly behind us except for the brief respites from snow and ice that might occur until January. There is, of course, a lot of field work that has to go on, just like the delivery of the mail. Come rain, snow, sleet, or hail, the permit requirements have to be delivered.
But with the cold weather here in the Midwest, many of us settle in to assess the data from the “sampling season” and use those data in analyses of all sorts. We do this to better understand the needs of our clients and determine whether the path we are on is the best vector to resolving their problems or whether modifications will get us there quicker and more cost-effectively. It is during this period of focus and data exploration that we can clear our heads of the often spastic contingencies of field work and mentally wallow in the wealth of empirical information, as scientists have done for centuries.
This is the time to think back about the odd things, the little things in the field that seemed off, events, observations, and findings that just weren’t quite as we expected, and explore the data to see what we might be missing. Some clients might perceive these ruminations as a waste of billable hours, but the best consultants and the most aware clients know that this is the process where the money is saved; i.e., in the refining of the mental conceptual models of the site, filling in the holes, doing the calculations that result, running the models and stats, and creating alternatives to the usual “best practices” that save time, money, and regulatory rancor. Contemplation saves money; rushing through things is costly. Measure twice and cut once, rather than measure once and have to cut twice.