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How it is living in the ground: Tips and tricks to not fall while doing field work

By Katherine M. Pagán Rivera

Falling is not always fun, but when working in a tropical rainforest seems like it is part of the job. The floor is usually muddy, and there are a lot of rocks, branches, and leaves to stumble. As a person who is always falling, I have found some tips to avoid that from happening. Some of them are:

  • Practice your balance and resistance. An excellent physical condition is always a plus when doing activities outdoors. You don't need to know how to run a marathon in 20 minutes, but having good resistance and knowing your body's limitations is essential. Try to exercise at least 10 minutes daily, and you will see the difference when hiking in the forest.

  • Try to carry less. Carrying a lot of things will make you heavier and it will be more difficult to move around. Also, having a light backpack will allow you to add more items, such as tools for installing minirhizotron or HygroVue at El Verde. A carabiner will enable you to hang things in your backpack and be more hands-free when working on your balance.

  • Look always where to step. This seems obvious, but we are in a tropical rainforest known for having most of the world's biodiversity, it’s easy to get distracted. Also, walking with your toes sideways instead of frontwards can significantly help when going down a slope.

  • Use the correct footwear. In the field, you will find many things in your way, so it is crucial to have close and resistant footwear like boots. Your boots are your best ally, and you must be comfortable walking with them, so try to look for lightweight boots. In addition, there is a lot of mud in the forest, so having them waterproof will extend their lifetime, and it will be easier for you to clean them later. The other thing I recommend is to look for high top boots. This can protect your ankle from minor injuries.

  • Do not rush yourself. Take your time to go in and out in one piece. If you get injured, it will probably slow the workday instead of arriving late at the plots but ready to work to the maximum. IT IS NOT A COMPETITION!

Sometimes even with the application of these tips is inevitable to fall. We always want to prevent lesions or a trip to the hospital because we did not fall correctly. So as a pro tip, if you are falling, always try to turn your body so you land on your side and keep your arms and legs bent. This will help you protect the most sensitive parts of your body, such as your head, face, and extremities.However, falling does not need to be a bad thing. It can help you see things from a different perspective and things you overlooked, such as feathers, plants, roots, and invertebrates! Do you know how many of these we can find on the floor? There are snails, ants, spiders, earthworms, and more. There is a tiny world on the floor that we never notice until we get closer and look carefully.

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