by Nora Casson
What makes a group of limnologists head into the woods in the dead of winter? In the case of the students and post-docs in Emily Stanley’s lab, it was a need to embrace cabin fever, shut ourselves in and get a lot of work done.
A few weeks ago, eight of us piled into vehicles and drove up to Trout Lake Station for a week-long writing retreat. The idea was to take some time away from the distractions of our regular offices, set some specific writing goals, and see what we could accomplish with a few days of concentrated effort.
We led off the week with a discussion of a fascinating blog post about a fascinating man. Brian McGill from the University of Maine wrote the piece for the “Dynamic Ecology” blog produced by Jeremy Fox at the University of Calgary.
McGill writes that, while William Shockley wasn’t the nicest guy who ever lived, his idea to scientifically research what makes successful scientific researchers produced an excellent “how-to” guide for being more productive and “clearing the hurdles” needed to write a good scientific paper.
After the discussion, we then outlined our goals for the week, which were recorded on the board at the front of the room. Not only was our “to do” list there for all to see, but we could also dramatically and publicly cross them off as we finished each one!
The week provided lots of opportunities for sharing work in progress, discussion of science and informal presentations by lab members.
We also managed to find some time for other group bonding activities, including cross-country skiing, some fun group dinners (where we saw John Crawford’s secret pizza-dough tossing skills first-hand), and lots of Olympic watching – we even put the USA vs. Canada women’s hockey game up on the big screen while we were working.
As a Canadian, I was happy to see our team prevail in a nail-biter!
Overall, we had a fun, productive week; a few of us got some papers submitted, while others made a great deal of progress on projects that had been nagging at them for months. It was a great experience which will hopefully become a Stanley lab winter tradition! Besides, with this winter, who wouldn’t have welcomed a productive indoor distraction?