Every week we do two shorebird surveys on the Blanca Wetlands and I can say this is easily my favorite part of my job. What better way to spend the morning than driving around gorgeous country looking at all of the shorebird species that are migrating in! The shorebirds rely on macro invertebrate species as their main food source, so we need to make sure that each pond has a high enough abundance to support the birds’ diet. This is why every spring and fall during migration we conduct surveys on three fresh water ponds and three salt water ponds to see what kind of critters are present in each one. Last week and this coming week will be our busiest time because we are trying to hammer out all six surveys before the shorebirds move on! These surveys are not easy because we have to take samples at eight different points along each pond as well as a zoo-plankton sample in the middle of each pond. We get muddy, sweaty, and have to protect each other so the swarms of deer flies and mosquitoes don’t carry our bodies away but other than that the long, hard days are so rewarding. I find it so much fun to see what kind of things are found in each pond and some of the bugs look like little aliens.
It is important to know which species are in each pond because some are indicator species of the quality of the water, meaning if the pH or dissolved oxygen of the pond changes, then some species will disappear. I love how the shorebird surveys relate to the macro invertebrate surveys and both of those relate to the water quality surveys. Everything is interconnected and it is very satisfying to see immediate results on what we are studying. It will be interesting to see how these trends change or stay consistent over the next few years.