I learnt a new word this week: turberas. In about three weeks’ time, I’ll be off to Peru’s turberas. In case you hadn’t guessed, turberas = peat. My new gig is on a project entitled Valuing Intact Tropical Peatlands. I’ll be heading out to Iquitos, a city (inaccessible by road – for better or for worse) within the Peruvian Amazon, which will be the base from where a crew of us researchers will be heading into the swamp forests this side of the Andes.
There are still a fair few questions to answer on the exact details of the research and the associated fieldwork that we will be doing, but we made huge head-way this week at our first project meeting. We were fortunate to have four of our Peru-based colleagues join us (all from the Instituto de Investigaciones Amazonía Peruana) for three and a half days of intense discussions. And my, it was frazzling. (I have a new-found respect for the MPs of the UK Parliament after two+ years of what have effectively been intense interdisciplinary discussions.) This project is the first truly interdisciplinary one I’ve been a part of, i.e. much more than just lip-service is being given to the notion of working together, across disciplines, to answer some multifaceted questions. I’m re-learning the importance of patience, open-mindedness, clarity, humility and perspective: all immensely valuable skills for any project, and any well-lived life.
I will write more about the project as the days fly by, but at this point, one of the persisting aspects of it (whilst others seem to come and go with the wind!) is that we’re interested in finding out how and why people are interacting with their environment, notably the boggy bits of it. For me, it’s such an exciting project, and certainly as interesting as it is challenging. And it’s such a privilege to work with a team of passionate Peruvians, and an engaged UK-based crew, spanning the social and natural sciences.
Watch this space for more reflections on working interdisciplinarily (a word? – probably in the social sciences), and for news on how I fare in a real-life intact peat swamp. A rare and wonderful space these days.