Prepared to be Unprepared

Prepared to be Unprepared

By Emily Martin
April 3, 2023

With a packed suitcase, my passport, a checklist of top things to do in Montreal, and an Uber ride scheduled for 4:45 am to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), I had set my alarm to wake up early for my rapidly-approaching adventure, an extra cushion of time in case something didn’t go as planned.

My name is Emily Martin, and I am a PhD student in Dr. Celia Symons’ lab at University of California, Irvine. I am interested in freshwater community ecology, broadly looking at how shifts in abiotic and biotic factors influence alpine freshwater ecosystems in a changing world. Through the ASLO LOREX program, I was selected to join Dr. Alison Derry’s laboratory in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, an invaluable opportunity for furthering my research experience. Her lab at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) links ecology and evolutionary concepts in freshwater systems, understanding mechanisms of ecosystem function more holistically. For the duration of my stay (8 weeks) in Montreal, I will be learning the technique of eDNA metabarcoding and applying it to extracted Alaska lake samples, providing insight into possible changes in bacterial communities with fish transplantations. Ultimately, my work will be a part of a large collaboration of scientists who are interested in fish restorations in Alaskan lakes.

As I am the first of the ASLO LOREX Cohort 3 to begin the international research experience, I contemplated the night before my travel if I was prepared enough for this experience. Looking at my phone’s alarm, reality and pre-arrival anxiety finally set in; I was leaving tomorrow. Running through the events of the past months, I told myself that I was prepared. I double checked my notes about the project. I packed clothes for every possible scenario. I had all my travel documents in a row. I met with my host PI multiple times, and I read a lot of material about traveling to and living in Montreal, Canada. With all this preparation, I wanted my trip to run as smoothly as possible, especially since this research experience is my first time traveling internationally by myself.

Writing this blog post while waiting for my flight at LAX to Montréal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL), I am happy to say that the start of my trip has been going as expected. The nerves have retreated, and excitement has now taken their place. On my way to LAX, I realized how eager I am to just start learning and how thrilled I am to meet the great freshwater researchers at UQAM. All of my preparation and planning will pay off, one way or another. However, I know that I will be faced with challenges that are currently unforeseen. All this time, I have been thinking about this trip as a future venture, and now it is time to live it in the present- with all its highs and lows. Because of this, I am prepared to be unprepared and to enjoy every moment of the unknown. See you soon, Montreal, and let the adventure begin!

Emily Martin can also be found at: email:, twitter: @em__martin

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