Sunday, September 19, 2010

Field work funday!

Over the summer I pretty much had the freedom to conduct field work whenever I wanted with the only limiting factor being weather, which was pretty pleasant and cooperative.  However, since school started up in August I have been limited to conducting field work on weekends and holidays (best labor day ever!).  I don't really mind being out on the water every weekend but I do feel for my crew, having to wake up at 6 am on Sundays isn't easy when you are an undergrad.

With that being said we were off to the field today bright and early!  I, of course, stupidly stayed out until one last night and miraculously was able to wake up at 5 to get things ready (all this while still trying to recover from the debauchery of a week in Pittsburgh).  Once everyone assembled we headed up to Columbia NC to pick up the boat and then made our way to Gum Neck NC to launch in the Alligator River.  The purpose of this trip was to collect water samples from the Alligator, Scuppernong and Roanoke Rivers.  We have been collecting monthly water samples from and upstream and downstream location from these three rivers (plus the Chowan and Perquimans Rivers) since June, and we will continue collecting through October.  We are doing this to examine the elemental composition of the water and compare this to the elemental composition of river herring otoliths.  Presumably the elemental composition of the water should be similar to that of the otolith.  If there are differences in the elemental composition of the water in each river we may be able to classify juvenile river herring to their natal river using the elemental composition of their otoliths.  

We got out onto the Alligator River pretty early, but the wind was already howling, and the waves were building, as they tend to do on a large river like the Alligator.  We were able to brave the conditions and collect our samples, however most of our equipment decided to crap out.  First our YSI (used for recording temperature, dissolved oxygen, and salinity etc.), then our GPS batteries died, and finally a hole burst in our filtering tube (this was easily fixed).  This was the first time things have really gone wrong during my field work, and I should feel lucky because these are relatively minor situations and much worse could have happened. 

Work in the Scuppernong and Roanoke Rivers went fairly smooth.  I would have liked to have been able to record salinity and dissolved oxygen from the rivers though, because we did observe some blue crabs pretty far up in the Scuppernong River, and there was a bass tournament in the Roanoke River so I think it would have been interesting to have some water quality data while that was going on.  Also, I saw my first NC black bear which was very exciting!  I haven't seen a black bear in the wild in probably 10-15 years despite spending a lot of time in the Adirondack Mountains.

Sadly I only have one more month of field work left.

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