by Joanna Pranga (ILVO, Belgium)

My PhD started just one month before the pandemic and the subsequent lock down. It was not an ideal start to a doctoral research journey. Just like all of us, a quick adaptation to an entirely new situation was essential. We entered into a time of new normal. Today I would like to share a sneak peek into how was it for me adapting to this new normal.

By now it is almost one-year home office for me. There were definitely some ups and downs along the way. One of the significant downsides of such a situation was the lack of on-site workshops, team integration activities, and limited scopes to meet people in a new country. However, on the positive note, this was also an opportunity to learn flexibility, resilience and a space to collaborate effectively through the digital platform.

ILVO remained fully operational, and thanks to corona-proof guidelines and regulations, it was possible to conduct a series of field measurements throughout the vegetation season. Those included, among others, biomass sampling, UAV flight campaigns, LAI and plant cover measurements. Fieldwork days were a great break from the home office routine, especially those sunny and warm days during the springtime.

Apart from the professional landscape, there was some development at home too. Stress is already a global concern that can lead to severe physical and mental health problems. Therefore, some new adaptations became necessary to keep a work-life balance. Due to limited options of free-time activities in lock down and finally renting a flat with a balcony, there was no other choice than (indoor and outdoor) gardening! We started to transform the apartment into a living breathing greenhouse!

Urban green spaces can create peaceful ambience with healing and restorative qualities. Primarily it can work wonders when we are stressed and under a lot of pressure. However, it can also teach gratitude and patience. You can understand how much effort it requires to grow a bunch of tomatoes! Preparations for this year’s plantation has already started. So wait for the update in a few months. I hope that soon I will be able to organise a community garden in my neighbourhood. I would recommend checking if there is any in your area too, maybe you can get involved.

Even though last year there was no opportunity to visit the ForHot site as planned, I hope we can all meet up this year in Iceland or somewhere else.