Saturday, August 3, 2013

That's not a fish...

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.
This has led to many an interesting conversation regarding poo (poo jokes, poo puns, etc.), which I fully support.

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. 
Well hello!
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.

"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.
* It’s ok because you saw how to survive a croc attack on NGC once upon a time…
* Is its mom nearby?
* 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…

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