Monday, July 19, 2010

More than just berries

This week, I finally fulfilled my duties as a true biological technician and conducted work all by myself. Kathy and Eric conducted baywater sampling out on the boat each day, which meant all the normal activities that must be completed each week were left to me. In addition to mosquito trapping and marsh sampling, I ate my heart out calibrating equipment and creating dilutions in the lab. I also had to drive to Cambridge (about 1.5 hour drive each way) to drop off samples at a University of Maryland lab.

Working diligently in the lab, processing the catch from mosquito trapping.
Mosquitoes in the state I prefer them in: dead.

Sorting the mosquitoes by species.
So the mosquito trapping is divided up in between 3 parts: the fan, which is what I'm attaching to the tree branch (above), the battery, and the cooler. This fan is powered by a battery that I'm setting up (below). Beside the branch containing the fan (not pictured), I also set up a water cooler containing dry ice. I make sure to open the drinking spout of the cooler so that the dry ice seeps out of the opening. The mosquitoes are then attracted by the cool air, unsuspectingly fly over near the cooler, and are then "sucked" into the trap by the fan. Underneath the fan is a bag that empties out into a plastic cup - perfect for catching bugs.After setting up the traps every Monday afternoon, I then check them the following morning on Tuesday.
This weekend, Kathy and I have enjoyed lazy mornings sleeping in, sipping much missed Starbucks coffee, and painting shells. On Saturday, we visited the town of Chincoteague (finally, after having driven through it each Monday when we conduct our beachwater survey) and explored its many charming used bookstores, coffee shops, and art boutiques. We also indulged in homemade ice cream waffle cones at the local creamery. Afterwards, we stopped at the Chincoteague NWR headquarters and learned all there is to know about its birds, the endangered Delmarva squirrel, and the Assateague lighthouse.

This weekend, we have also dabbled in the culinary arts, cooking Chicken parmigiana, banana bread, sweet potato fries, banana and chocolate chip pancakes (mouth-watering), and ham, spinach, and cheese quiche.
On Friday evening, Kathy and I combed the beach for more shells to paint. While walking back to the car at dusk, we spotted this (what I think) juvenile Common Loon at the top of the beach, near the dunes. It looked very out of place (being that loons frequent freshwater lakes) and should have been with its brethen in the upper reaches of Canada and Alaska at this point in the summer. Of course, I was very worried for its well-being. We realized that it must have been injured, as it didn't fly off when we approached it. Very pitifully, it scooted down the beach (upon our coaxing) with its legs (designed for swimming, not walking) and reached the surf. I was glad it was in the water, as it's a more familiar environment for them (albeit salt water). Unfortunately, I don't think that little loon will make it - but I was excited nonetheless to see one of my favorite birds! (something I wouldn't have expected, being in Maryland)

Sunday evening, we went berry picking on the island, in the hopes of gathering enough to make a couple of pies. We discovered that there are several patches of blackberry, high bush blueberry, and black cherry in the scrub bordering the oceanside dunes. In preparation for the mosquitoes and flies, we wore our bug suits and doused ourselves in 30% deet bug spray. Suited up with buckets in tow, we disappeared into the mosquito-ridden jungle of overgrown vines, scrub oaks, phragmites (an invasive that runs rampant all over the island), and wax myrtle.

After picking berries and swatting flies away for about an hour or so, we headed back to the car. Not even five seconds after sitting down in the car seat, we both simultaneously happened to look down to find thousands of tiny red things crawling all over our legs. I immediately shouted, “Get out of the car!” and jumped out of the vehicle. Upon closer inspection, I realized that these nearly microscopic creepy crawlies were ticks, crawling on every inch of our bugsuits (and underneath them). We both feverishly attempted to brush them off, but ticks have an uncanny ability to stick to anything they attach themselves to.

Being close to the beach, we decided to walk down the dunes and dunk ourselves in the water. Hoping that salt water would do the trick, we waded out into the surf, completely clothed and covered head to toe in our bug suits – amidst several confused
(and frightened) stares. Sadly enough, this would be the first time both Kathy and I have gone into the ocean this summer – only this time, with all our clothes on (socks and all).

After about 40 minutes of ensuring total submersion, we headed back up the dunes and drove home. Upon arrival, we both ran to our bathrooms, stripped down, and took a shower. At this point, I had placed the faucet at an unbearably hot temperature – so hot I could only stick a body part underneath the stream for a few seconds before feeling as if I were getting second-degree burns. I had put the water at this temperature in hopes it would kill the ticks. To continue the tick killing spree regimen, I scrubbed my body down with every kind of shower toiletry to my name. I’m pretty sure I succeeded in removing the outermost layer of skin. After washing my skin raw, I dried off, lotioned up, and got dressed. Unfortunately (and unbelievably enough), my obsessive paranoic efforts were to no avail. Once Kathy got out of the shower, we both did a tick check on each other’s backs and Kathy found two ticks still chilling on my lower back. Regrettably, such an experience has guaranteed unnecessary paranoia. Whenever Kathy and I get an itch, we’ll be worried it’s a tick trying to give us Lyme disease.
And to top it off: we didn't even find enough blackberries to make a full pie. We'll have to make a combination of mini pies...

However, this is definitely an experience to tell the grandkids.

On to other news: this coming week marks a 3-day work week (YES!), as we’re road-trippin’ it to Kathy’s house just outside of Roanoke, VA. We plan on stopping in historic Williamsburg, the cities of Richmond and Charlottesville, home of Jefferson’s Monticello. A music festival, water-skiing on a lake, and a much sought after day of hiking will also be included within the weekend festivities.

More details are soon to follow!

1 comment:

Brian said...

Very cool seeing you in a professional, wildlife role. You are doing some cool stuff. No doubt you could shoot for the moon and make it! Thanks for taking the time to write and letting us all enjoy keep up with you.