I got the opportunity to teach at a field course named “Akvaattisten tieteiden kenttäkurssi” a.k.a “Field course of aquatic sciences” organized by the University of Helsinki. First part of it was held in the mid August at the Lammi Biological Station located in the lake district of southern Finland. During the course my responsibility was first to demonstrate how to take profundal macroinvertebrate samples from a boat by using the Ekman bottom grab sampler and littoral macroinvertebrate samples by using a kick-net. We then took the samples back to a lab, picked and sorted the animals and spend rest of the days identifying our catch. During this work I also explained why the samples are taken in the first place, e.g. the importance of macroinvertebrates for biomonitoring the water bodies and their health, for instance.
But here comes the tricky part. Even though I was well prepared for the teaching task at hand, one can never predict what kind of questions can come up during this kind of work. Things that you didn´t even consider before someone points those things out. Having ten students asking you questions like what is this, why this is done this way, what about this, doesn´t this affect that, what kind of macroinvertebrates live here and why etc. is like having ten reviewers questioning the validity of your research article. The only thing you can do is to try to answer the best way you can and search for more information on the subject. And this really makes you realize that you are never “ready” as a researcher. There will always be something new that you didn´t know before or that you didn´t consider before and, to tell the truth, this sounds a bit discouraging at first. However, when you start to think about it this is also one of the best things about being a researcher.
There will always be something new for you to learn and to get excited about. Sometimes those are big things and sometimes smaller things. For instance, as my research has focused on running waters in the northern Lapland, this course gave me the opportunity to familiarize myself better with macroinvertebrates living in lakes in the southern part of Finland. This was really nice. Although I did know the macroinvertebrate families we came across in the samples beforehand, I did get to see mayfly larvae belonging to the family Caenidae for the first time ever. And this did wake up the “excited nerd” in me. Overall, I have to say that this teaching experience taught me as well, and I would be happy to do it again if the opportunity would arise in the future.