October 2023

Texas Heat Avoidance Tactics from a Field-Researcher teaser image

Texas Heat Avoidance Tactics from a Field-Researcher

By Serina DeSalvio

Texas summer has never been my favorite time of year- I’m more of a 60 degree, sweaters and tights, pie and warm coffee kind of girl.

So you can imagine my horror when I entered my research lab and realized that my crop (cotton) is a summertime crop- which means we are outside most days, all summer long. What a nightmare!

Initially I was nervous- I overheat quickly, I didn’t think I’d be able to enjoy my work at all, plus I’m a total chicken when it comes to big Texan bugs (they scare me to this day, I jump about four feet in the air and let out a high pitched “EEP” anytime something buzzes past me).

However, after a full four summers of field work I can say that I have survived- and I have a few new perspectives on (and ways to work around!) the Texas heat.

1- Once you accept it, it’s not that bad

Half of my problem with the heat, I’ve come to realize, is that I’ve always fought with it. I never wanted to get hot, or sweaty, or have to refill my water bottle over and over again- so most of the problem wasn’t even the heat, it was just me! Since the start of my field work era, I’ve bought two gigantic Hydroflask water bottles that keep my water cold and I fill them up every morning before I go out. I also plan my days so I can sweat it out in the field, go home and shower, and then come back to lab and keep working, rather than spending the whole day in my gross field clothes. I also accepted that, well, to do my work, I’m going to get hot. So, I wore hats, put my hair up, wore light colors- and all of this helped, but not as much as my mindset shift.

2- Turns out, wasps are stupid (literally)

Like I said before, I’m a huge chicken when it comes to bugs. However- a valuable thing the field has taught me is that none of them are actually out to get me (at least, not the ones in the cotton fields). Wasps have always been the biggest worry for me- they are loud, they look aggressive, and I’ve never been stung, so in my mind it’s the worst pain in the world! I think I used to imagine that if they caught a glimpse of a person, they would be after you to try to sting you.

Why I would think that? I have no idea- it doesn’t benefit them or us for that to be the way it works, so it’s NOT the way it works! Wasps, as it turns out, are pretty dumb- they bumble around similar to the way bees do, aimlessly flying around or wandering up and down the same branch for a full 20 minutes. I’ve straight up knocked a wasp off a leaf and it just flew away, unbothered by me.

3- The bird watching is fantastic here

This is the nerdy biologist in me talking, but the birds you can see out in an open field like that are so cool! I never knew what diversity of birds existed in this part of Texas (or in general) until I started doing summer field work. Now, the birds are something I look forward to every summer- seeing where they make their nests, which ones live in trees versus the ground versus in bushes- seriously if you haven’t noticed the birds and you do field work, check them out!

4- It pays to be an early riser

I started this post with how much I hate being hot- but the good news is, in the summer here, the sun rises around 5:30am. And if you get outside right as the sun is coming up and knock your work out before 9am, you’ll never have to deal with the 105 degree highs! Most of the time, in the morning, the temperatures are around 80F- which is very manageable, even as someone who overheats quickly!

About the Author

image of author Serina DeSalvio

Serina DeSalvio

Originally from Dallas, TX, Serina is a doctorate candidate at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in the Interdisciplinary Genetics and Genomics Graduate Program. Her current research specializes in genetics, cytogenetics, botany, chromosome structure and dynamics, science communication, plant breeding, and biology. She enjoys painting, playing guitar, playing sand volleyball, ice skating, and taking care of her houseplants.

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