When is accomplishing nothing, more than just accomplishing nothing?

Good afternoon everyone! I hope everyone had a good summer! For us, school is beginning, once again FIU has become a large traffic jam.  And as I was sitting in my car waiting to leave FIU, I came up with this blog idea. When is accomplishing nothing, more than just accomplishing nothing? 

                What I am referring to applies to research with animals.  Often, when you work with some mobile animal, your study organism may not be where you think it is in the environment.  Causing you to spend an entire day in the Everglades searching for your target species, only to go back to your lab empty handed. These events usually precede a very fun conversation with your adviser about what exactly you were doing in the field.   

                I found myself in this situation last week, when I spent 3 days on the water attempting to find any of the 50 snook that I have tagged with acoustic transmitters.  These transmitters send out a sound pulse every 1 to 3 minutes at a frequency outside the range that humans can hear.  However, the sound pulse can be detected by specialized stationary underwater equipment or by a mobile reader… both pictured below.  During these three days I roasted under the hot sun idling along listening to the mobile reader make sonar type static noise, which is way less cool than Ann’s fancy didson videos!   Long story short, I didn’t find a single fish.  
    However, like my old boss said “Ross, a zero is a number too!” meaning that knowing where fish aren't sometimes is just as important as knowing where they are!  In my case, this was particularly true.  I was searching for snook at their spawning grounds.  Snook spawn on the new and full moons at river mouths from May to October.  Last week was the new moon, and none of my snook were at the river mouths…..clearly snook need to read more scientific papers about their life history! 

Though i didn't really accomplish what I wanted, I still have meaningful data. Also, I came up  with some new great questions, like “Why are snook not spawning in August, are water temperatures too high?” and “are predators like sharks that eat snook (punks!) more abundant during this time of year and would keep snook from moving to the coast this month?”  


Or did I just have the machine at some wrong setting….


  1. Zeros bum me out too. Joel tells me the same thing though that even zeros are meaningful numbers. Unless of course it just means you're not using the equipment correctly :). Hopefully that's not the case! Good luck on the hunt.


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