For the past few days, Pete, Benja, and I have been doing our best to collect poop. It’s one of the missing pieces to the nutrient puzzle in Lake Tanganyika, and a top priority this season has been to figure out just how much nitrogen and phosphorus get released when these guys decide to drop a load.
|And we're off! Our morning commute is pretty sweet.|
In addition to figuring out what it’s made of, Benja is also interested in poop rates, which requires catching fish, putting them in a ziplock bag, handing them a newspaper (just kidding…), and timing just how long it takes for nature to take its course.
|This adorable little eretmodus never did poop.|
Luckily my fish-catching skills have multiplied exponentially, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time manning the gillnet for this project task.
That leaves Benja with the all-important duties of shore guy: processing fish (weights, lengths, time-in/time-out, waiting for poop to settle, etc.), guarding our lunches from the band of Vervet monkeys inhabiting the area, and working on an even tan.
|They're cute...right up until they run into the trees with your popcorn.|
Each fish gets at least 30 minutes in the mini-toilet, but for some fish, that’s not long enough. The algivores poop constantly, but the piscivorous fish need much more time (sometimes upwards of 6 hours, it turns out. No judgement...).
We’re also collecting what’s come to be known in our little circle as “wild poop." Basically Pete swims around, catches a fish in the act, and collects the fresh droppings into a turkey baster. It gets handed off to us on shore, put in a pre-weighed vial, and eventually (back in Madison) prepped for CNP analysis.
|Pete returns with some fresh poo in hand.|
|The shore handoff! (We're making good use of the new GoPro ;))|
Today I caught fish all day, and while Ben waited for the last of our bagged fish to poop, I thought I’d grab some field footage with our new GoPro video camera. We’d heard rumors recently that a crocodile had been spotted in this particular part of the lake, but none of us really believed (or rather, wanted to believe) it was true.
BUT THEN I SAW A CROCODILE!!!!!!!!!!
|"Holy shit, Benja...I just saw the crocodile!!"|
It’s hard to summarize the thoughts that ran through my head in the course of a milli-second, but here, in no particular order are a few…
* That’s not a fish… Holy shit.
* SWIM AWAY.
* STAY WHERE YOU ARE. GET GOOD FOOTAGE.
* It’s ok because you saw how to survive a croc attack on NGC once upon a time…
* Is its mom nearby?
* SWIM AWAY.
* Should I be worried? Should I be in the water? Shore’s probably not safe either? Crocs are ambush predators, right?? It’s not too big…
I eventually high-tailed it to shore and told Ben the tale of my epic encounter. I’d put him at just over a meter or so, and I’m still not sure how I feel about this swimming-with-crocodiles business. Something about it doesn’t seem safe…