Monday, July 2, 2012

Just another day in the field…

There is no typical day in the field I guess…so this might be a recurring feature of the blog.

But what we do on any given day depends on a few things:

1.       Which project goal we’re trying to accomplish
2.       If our gear is cooperating
3.       If the weather is cooperating
4.       If our guts are cooperating

So here it is…one random field day during the Mahale excursion:

Monday, 2 July 2012

7:30am – Wake up. Head to breakfast and see what Hassan has cooked up. 

8:30am – Start packing up the gear we’ll need for the day (snail quadrats, fish quadrats, plum lines, whirl pacs, dive tanks, BCD’s, regs, snorkel stuff, wetsuits-that-reek-of-urine, our lunch!) into the smallest space possible and walk it down to the water.

8:45am – Head down the beach to boat storage with Pete. Watch in horror as Dakota (one of our trusty park staff) mouth-siphons fuel from the 200L barrel into our 25L tank. Mix in the 2-stroke oil and haul it and our motor down to the Zodiac. Pump up the keel of the Zodiac again because it’s always flat (must find mysterious small leak…). Guts feel…off. Take 2 Pepto and pack 2 more into dry bag Just In Case.

9:30am – Finally leave camp with Pete and Vanessa and attempt to get the Zodiac to plane (Aside: Pete is OBSESSED with getting our boat to plane. It usually involves asking us to move a few inches towards the bow or stern 100 or so times until we are moving as quickly as possible to save transit time.)

[FBN: “If you want Pete to go fast, put him in a boat.” –Yvonne Vadeboncouer]

9:45am – Stop at park headquarters so Pete can show me where the freezer is located for future sample dumps. Keeping stuff frozen here has been a real challenge, and in the end we had to bring our own freezer from Kigoma. Seriously. 

10:05am – Arrive at Site 4. Pete dons dive gear to deploy the sonde.  Sondes are Very Expensive pieces of field equipment that record the temperature, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen of the water at each of our study sites at a set logging interval.  Pete picks a spot, I lube up the bike lock and key, Pete locks the sonde to some rocks, and we hope against hope that we’ll be able to find it again when it’s time to leave (more on that in a later post…)

A successfully deployed sonde!
[FBN: Pete’s notes on where it’s located: “40m off from big white rock. Flat mix of boulder and sand. Should be pretty darn easy to see.”]

10:45am – Arrive at Site E. Deploy sonde.

11:35am – Encounter the WSU team on their way back to camp because they forgot a crucial piece of field sampling gear. Whoops. 

11:48am – Arrive at Site E since Site C is deemed unusable. Deploy sonde. Ho hum.

12:20pm – Eat Clif bar (shameless plug for Clif bars. Please send Clif bars, Clif company…). Feel nauseous. Begin mentally playing out various scenarios of how to deal with soiling my wetsuit should it occur.

12:27pm – Arrive at Site D. Deploy new Onset logger.

1:10pm – Motor to Site B but turn around when we realize how late it is. Drive back to Site D to start sampling, but tons of fisherman have set nets since we left and we can no longer be discreet. Head to Site E instead.

1:52pm – Pete gears up again and stashes the rest of the sondes in the water until we can deploy then at a later date. I am most assuredly going to crap my pants.

2:00pm-ish – FINALLY start fish counts and snail collection. Pete lays out an 8m x 7m quadrat, identifies each fish to species, and records the number of each. It’s actually pretty incredible since there are over 300 species of cichlids in this lake. Attaboy, Pete.

Meanwhile Vanessa and I don dive gear and get ready to descend. This is her Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) project, and I’m her dive buddy. She lays out 1m x 1m quadrats and I come along and pick up every snail I see in said quadrats. Sampling design: 8 quadrats at 3 depths (2m, 5m, and 10m; that’s ~6ft, 15ft, and 30ft for the non-metric folks reading this).

Me...pickin' snails...
 [FBN: “There are a SHIT-TON (of snails) and it takes FOREVER. Giant eel has been watching me work.”]

I found this awesome green spiky sponge growing under one of the cobbles.
3:00pm-ish – Vanessa ran out of air after the 10m snails, so I finished all the 5m quadrats solo. My head hurts (Bad air or dehydration? Hard to say…).

4:00pm-ish – Surfaced and Pete was finished with fish counts, so he snorkeled and helped Vanessa finished up the 2m snails. I descend back to 5m to collect 4 cobbles and surface to discover that a giant leech has attached itself to my hand and is in no hurry to leave. 


We need to quantify the amount of periphyton available for the fish to graze upon at each site, so basically I pick a rock, scrub off all the algae except for a small bit I cover with a centrifuge tube cap. I then scrape the remaining algae into a pan, collect it in a whirl pac, and spin it down back in the lab when we return to camp. It’s not fun, this scrubbing algae off rocks…but whatevs. That’s why I get paid the big bucks… ;).

Voila! A nice circle of algae!
5:20pm – DONE! Watch in amusement as a fleet of (mostly) naked boys in dugout canoes inches closer and closer to Pete as he collects snails with Vanessa. I give them our leftover hard boiled eggs and bananas from lunch. Start motoring home. 

Vanessa, Pete, and their entourage
6:30pm – Arrive at home. Unload all the gear on shore. Vanessa moves things up the beach while Pete and I take the boat and motor to the shed to be locked up for the night. Things seem safer here, but we still need to make sure they don’t walk away… Rinse smelly wetsuit in the lake or there will be consequences.

7:00pm – Dinner! Guts feel marginally better. Recount everyone’s adventures for the day.

8:30pm – Start spinning down algae with hand-crank centrifuge that frankly scares the crap out of me (and no eye protection in site…). Leslie helps me acidify half of the samples with 1N HCl since in the past, half of our samples have turned to tar when we tried to analyze them for Carbon, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus content. Pete and Vanessa scrub algae off all the snails we collected today (so they can later be identified) until well after midnight. There is NO WAY I’m helping with that…

11:00pm – To bed (finally)! Fall asleep immediately.

1 comment:

  1. By my calculation, that was only a 14-hour workday. You are such a slouch.