Even in the region of far central Brazil, the Chapada dos Vederios, a mountainous land of waterfalls and the occasional jaguar philosophy, is very much dependent on interactions with science people. In ‘normal’ times, Raisa Viera, an ecologist at the International Institute for Sustainability in Rio de Janeiro, will be known as a regular resident, the Kalungas, to help encourage farming practices that the jaguars, tappers , Can feed communities without mane wolves. Other wildlife.
But devastated by the epidemic and seized by the lockout and travel ban, times are far from normal. Vieira’s lab and office space is closed, and he has not visited Chapada dos Vedeiros for more than a year. As much as she remembers her lab-mates and her office space, she longs to mingle with the stigmas for the longest time.
The descendants of people who once escaped the enslaved generations created their own culture and their vision for farming and survival. “When you know those people and how they see the world, you realize that our own vision is limited.” “It is important for ecologists to look at different views.”
Epidemics have changed some methods of science. But as vaccines are slowly distributed in many parts of the world, researchers everywhere are finally getting ready to return to normal for life or to do something about it. Nature asked six scientists from South America, Africa, the United States, and Europe what they remember most about pre-epidemiology and what they were doing – and if – the scientific venture was finally and completely re-created.
Epidemics have come to the center of scientific life. Researchers are eager to resume paused experiments and return to neglected field sites, but above all, they are hoping to return to the human side of science. “I really miss the daily visits with lab members and colleagues,” says Fernando Maestre, an ecologist at Alicante University in Spain. “Personal interaction is an important part of the job.”
Mestre, who studies soil quality and biodiversity, has also had to retreat from fieldwork. He can visit sites in his immediate area, but since late January 2021, travel to other parts of Spain has once again been prohibited.
With the help of colleagues who were already in those parts, Maestre says his research has been more on track despite the epidemic. In January, Maestre and his colleagues published a paper detailing the importance of crop cover to protect the soil (G. Garland et al. Nature Food 2, 28–37; 2021).
The epidemic may not have greatly affected Maestre’s productivity, but it took a toll nonetheless. During the 2020 lockdown, a time of great isolation and uncertainty, he struggled with bouts of anxiety. He still does most of his work from home, but visits his lab and office once or twice a week to check in at a safe distance with team members.
Those brief visits help them stay connected, but they weaken compared to the visits they had treasured. “I used to have lunch with my lab members every day,” he says. Maistre says he wants to remain optimistic, but does not expect a pre-Pandemic-style lab lunch until 2022. “Until we get vaccinated, we won’t be able to do anything normal.” “I hope things get better next year.”
Like Mestre, Elena Tobolina, an analytical chemist at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, looks forward to face-to-face interactions in the laboratory.
She works at the university once or twice a week, but the lab is very quiet as many colleagues are either working from home or keeping odd hours to stay away socially. “I rarely see PhD students or master’s students,” she says. “And if I happen to pass them in the corridor, we can’t stop and talk like we used to.”
As a single parent with two children, Tobokina says she needs time out of the house to really focus on her work. But the epidemic has greatly complicated that choice.
Children are very expensive in Switzerland, she says, and thinkers from other countries, who may charge a more reasonable fee, cannot easily enter the country. Her mother was able to travel briefly from her home country to Russia, but this was only a temporary improvement. “I need to find a solution,” she says. “We have no choice but to adapt.”
The epidemic has taken a major toll in South Africa, especially with a new variant that is now in effect. But Regina Mefanga, a physicist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria, has been able to keep her research up to speed without leaving home. Since the first march, last March, she visited his office just once for a photo shoot.