Saturday, July 30, 2011

Field ready to go

Dear Society,

Amanda here! Today was a day full of mud and bugs. We visited two wetlands in the morning and three in the afternoon. It’s exactly 5:00pm at the moment and I’m a little past exhausted. Most of the wetlands today were spaced pretty far apart so we got a pretty awesome workout walking through mud and goop in between each one. We collected things like tadpoles, dragon fly larva, and diving beetles. We saw Boreal Chorus frogs, Wood frogs, a Golden eagle, damselflies, stickleback fish, and a few fairy shrimp. It was a beautiful day, but warmer than yesterday, therefore more mosquitoes and bull dog flies. Even though we saw/gathered many little creatures, it was quite an effort to find them. Sometimes we’d spend a whole 30 minutes at one wetland searching for significant bugs, but only walk away with one lonely diving beetle, which was kind of depressing. Dinner is at 5:30 every day, which for most people that’s pretty early, but right now I would consider myself on the edge of starving. Did I mention the food here is amazing? Because it is. They have a very vegetarian friendly menu, which is always nice. When we get back from our “afternoon wetland trips” each team records/organizes their own data they collected. This consists of things like labelling and dividing up all the creatures we kept into vials filled with ethanol, filtering water samples and organizing them into capsules, and recording measurements of wetlands and their characteristics onto a spreadsheet. I didn’t realize how much technical equipment I’d get to use/learn about on a daily basis. At first it’s super confusing and really scary, but by the end of the day I actually understand what I’m doing and can do some of the tasks all by myself. It’s quite a self-improvement that I’m very proud. Later this evening we have a lecture on polar bears, which I am very excited about. Well, dinner is being served so gotta go!


Friday, July 29, 2011

The first day of training

Today’s Wednesday, July 27, 2011—although this may have seemed to be deceptively normal day, it was decidedly not; this day contained the joyous occasion of six teens on an Earthwatch expedition trying out their stylish (that dark brown is very attractive) and “hot” hip waders. Luckily, with the help of all the beneficent adults watching over us (Ben, LeeAnn, Paige, and Kat), we were able to find our respective boot sizes and waders, as well as those wonderful bug jackets that prevented us from becoming bug bait. Afterwards, yes, this was all in the morning, we proceeded to try out our newly fitted gear. There some near full-body immersions, but luckily, the composite experiences were avoided. The feeling of striding around in the wetlands was strange and slightly disorienting because what sometimes looked shallow was actually much deeper; the same sort of principle seemed to govern the solid-looking areas of the wetland—sometimes they were steady, but other areas seemed to pull you right in. However, one could argue that all of this was irrelevant in the glorious face of the science we were being exposed to (not really). Seriously though, it was fascinating to be able to see the amount of life that existed in the areas that Ben showed us how to sample with a dip-net. This sort of vitality was persistent in many of the things we saw along the way, including the dense and springy vegetation, the variety of birds, the bugs, everything…It changes one’s perspective a bit to see how all this life is able to exist in such variable conditions. Constantly changing, the environment allows little leeway to the organisms that do not adapt with it. Compared to all that, biting bugs, and slipping just a bit in the water does not amount to much on our part. ;)

Blog post by Marianne Dang

First Day in the Field!

After our normal morning briefing about the current day’s weather and objectives, we all collected our outdoor gear, put on our waders, and headed out to the coast. Today was a sort of special day because we had a small filming crew from the Winnipeg Zoo come and film us for a video in their polar bear exhibit. Before the team stepped out of the van, Ben Cash and Kat checked out the horizon for any polar bears to be safe. Once the coast was clear, we all began walking towards the chosen wetland to examine its water quality, specimens, and physical data. Right before we started working on the wetland, Ben said he spotted a polar bear out in the water, so the team and the film crew walked back to their cars, and we ventured to another wetland. Once the new location was checked clear of polar bears, we began running data collections of three different ponds, one at a time. Cecilia and I were in the physical data group, so what we had to do for each pond was measure the circumference, fifteen points of depth, and the exact location of the ponds. The dip net group and the water quality group also finished, and we drove back to the CNSC to have lunch.

Having gained some more energy from the delicious lunch, we went back out into the fields hoping to collect data from the very first pond we went to in the morning where the polar bear was spotted. On the way there, we saw another polar bear, or maybe the same one, far in the distance lying on some rocks in the water. We stopped and tried to identify that it was in fact a polar bear and photographed a couple blurry but exciting photos of the bear. We turned the car around and went to a different location not very far and examined three more ponds. Many frogs, fish, and tadpoles were found in the morning ponds and also in these later ponds. I held one large one for a few seconds when Ben threw it on my data notebook, and it was very cold and wet, but still cute. We left that area and tried to find the polar bear again because it was seen by another group closer to the coast; however, he or she seemed to be hiding behind some huge rocks, and we had no luck in seeing the bear. Back at the study center, we are doing the lab work from our collected data, like water filtering, which is a pretty tedious process, and sorting out specimens from the wetlands. Dinner is about to begin, and we all have worked up an appetite from the rewarding and hardworking day.
See you soon, Dora