We took a quick trip up to our field site in Northwest Illinois to sample ornate box turtles this week, meeting up with the turtle dogs and having super successful sample collection day with 55 turtles! Getting to interact with an amazing conglomeration of biologists and researchers for the betterment of box turtle conservation is an incredible experience. To make this even better, Maris and I are having a blast learning and navigating everything that field season can throw at us!

In honor of everything that makes fieldwork interesting, here is:

11 Things During Field Season That Just Make Sense

  1. Getting to the field site half an hour late on the first field day with students because you forgot all the gloves and had to turn around to go get them. Biosecurity is important!
  2. Sliding down a hill because your flagging tape rolled to the bottom of the ravine and we do not litter in this household.
  3. Threatening to throw the data iPad off of buildings or into the ocean at least 11 times during a hike because you’ve been unsuccessfully trying to enter in the capture time for the last 5 minutes. We love the ability to use technology to enhance our field work and make data collection efficient, but technology does not always love us.
  4. When the hemocytometers are 11% off still and you have 3 minutes left to load a new one before you have to start all over. Hemocytometers are an important way to evaluate white blood cell populations in reptiles and also a great way to loose $500 when you drop them on the floor.
  5. Arriving at the field site IN THE PRAIRIE to biggest and smelliest dead carp you’ve ever seen in your life, next to an equally smelly dead raccoon.
  6. Wearing a pastel pink sweatshirt on the day every turtle has impeccable aim, and the poop that you’re covered in still smells better than that carp.
  7. Eating 20 piece nuggets from McDonalds as your only meal of the day because your field site is in the middle of nowhere, and you aren’t sure if you’re sick from the McDonalds or that smelly carp.
  8. Getting your kneecaps taken out by the turtle dogs because they are way too excited finding turtles to watch where they’re going.
  9. The realization you forgot to put the lid on the centrifuge set to the background music of all your PCV tubes shattering. PCV (Packed Cell Volume) is an evaluation of the proportion of a blood sample made of red blood cells. It is a very straight forward diagnostic test, but the glass tubes the blood goes in are delicate!
  10. Losing a GPS at a field site and having it returned the next year as a piece of barely identifiable charcoal by the parks department after a prescribed burn. Taking GPS locations of capture sites for our turtles are important because box turtles are partial to their specific home ranges and will wander great distances to return to them.
  11. The high of successfully pulling blood from a 30 gram baby turtle being immediately erased by an angry adult box turtle biting your finger and refusing to let go. The data obtained from blood sampling is an incredibly important and useful tool to characterize the health of box turtle populations, but playing tug-of-war to get your finger back from an angry turtle who did not appreciate his vet visit is not a recommended fieldwork activity.