Stick and Rudder

One of the things I really like about both aviation and wildlife ecology.... you are always learning and you never know it all. Both of these pursuits provide nonstop education and frequent "humility reminders". The sheer mass of interactions, possibilities, interrelationships, situations, equipment, avionics is simply more than the human brain and the time we are given can comprehend, much less fully understand.

Two things that have helped me in both pursuits is to hang around people in different sectors of wildlife biology and different pilots. I could never be a "single-species" biologist or zoologist. I would get bored! With aviation its much the same once I gain proficiency in one category/class of aircraft I am looking towards the next. I did my masters on gopher tortoises but have worked in everything from bats, small mammals, a wide variety of birds and things like manatees. Once I got decent at flying single engine planes I moved into more complex multi-engine setups. Each pursuit adding on to the previous.

In aviation flying alongside other pilots is very beneficial. Some are real tech whiz bangers and can do things on the G1000 panel I never knew the capability existed for. Others are more what we call "stick and rudder" pilots who never need to look at anything and fly the plane as if it is an extension of their bodies. With each type you learn a tremendous amount. Both can perform these aviation styles in an instant without thinking. I love watching a stick and rudder pilot react instantly as speed, attitude, pitch, roll, uncoordinated turns start to change.... they react appropriately very quickly. Over the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of sitting right seat beside both of these pilot types and every opportunity provides a learning experience.

The same happens in wildlife biology when you work alongside bat experts, bear experts, turkey experts, tortoise/herp experts and now waterfowl experts. They are always incredibly knowledgeable in their niche. Fortunately for me I am not afraid to look stupid and I am not afraid to ask the dumb questions. It is not always comfortable to switch specialties whether it be in a type of aircraft or a wildlife biology niche... but it is always rewarding. It always provides growth in many ways.

Over the past few weeks I have been so grateful for growth opportunities within both of my passions. Along with lots of opportunities to remember I really don't know it all yet in either! So when the waitress ask me "What are you doing in these parts?" (after I place my order and it is obvious I am not from this region)... I reply "here counting ducks!" And when she asks "How do you do that?" I say "1 duck, 2 ducks, 3 ducks... its really not complicated". Of course the devil's in the details.

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