Rough Times in the Field

Field work can be fun but sometimes it can get rough! I was up in Washington this week helping set up a macroinvertebrate study at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.  The first thing we did to prepare for work was to suit up with waders! Unfortunately there weren’t waders small enough for me. They did have thigh high rubber boots in my size. Matt, the person in charge of setting up the study, told me not to worry too much, that the water was pretty shallow in the lakes now, so I wasn’t too concerned.

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Before arriving I wasn’t really sure how I would be helping, I was just excited to be out working. We drove to our sites and my first job was to open and close about 3 gates. (If you have ever done field work and sit shot gun, you have probably had this job before too). We finally got to our site and Matt explained to me a little bit about what we were going to do. At one lake we were going to set up Hester-Dendy traps that would help Matt survey for aquatic macroinvertebrates at the other we would also set up the traps but we would have to set metal beams into the lake first. Although the water wasn’t too deep we still needed a boat to get us across the lake. This way we wouldn’t disturb the dirt and the macroinvertebrates.

We got the huge row boat from the back of the truck. I took the front and attempted to get it down into the lake. The tall reed canary grass obstructed my view, I missed a stepped and suddenly my foot was in a small ditch. Yikes the boat almost crushed me as I lost my balance. I finally got out of the grass and onto the muddy bank. The parts that weren’t dried up were very mucky and almost claimed my boots! The boat was finally in the water and as Matt was saying “if you feel its getting too deep just hop right in. “ As soon as he finished that sentence my left  leg sank deeply into the water. The murky lake water rolled down my thigh and filled my boot. Terrified I held onto the boat for dear life and pulled myself out.

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When I found myself in the safety of the boat, I lifted my left leg and watched as the water poured out. Matt rowed us towards the metal poles as I dropped the traps into the water. We then switched roles. I had paddled canoes and kayaks before but never a row boat. It was extremely tough to row this boat because there was spaghetti in the form of algae in the water. The oars kept getting tangled!

Matt promised the second lake would be easier to navigate through since there weren’t algae like this over there. The tricky part with this lake was that we had to install large metal poles into the lake from the boat. My job was to keep the boat stable by holding another pole in the water. It was a difficult task and at some point I let the heavy metal pole drop on my head. It hurt a bit but it didn’t leave a bump thank goodness. The poles were installed we dropped the traps in and called it a day. We returned to the maintenance facility where we cleaned the mud off the boat and after we put it away. I got intothe bee and made my way. It was an hour trip, but I made sure to stop by and get myself a sandwich and an ice coffee at one of one of my favorite spots as a treat. It was great end to a rough field day!

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Liliana Calderon
lcalde4@illinois.edu
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