Hello again! I promise I haven’t forgotten about you guys; it’s been difficult to update my blog with all my adventures the past couple weeks since I haven’t had access to internet!
So much happened during Week 1, I hardly know where to start! The first week was filled with fun, new experiences, friendly visits from colleagues, and a few unexpected challenges.
Day 1: Box Turtle Team
To get back into the swing of field season and brush up on some fieldwork skills, I joined the Box Turtle Team for their first day of the season out with John Rucker and the Boykin spaniels! I got my start in the WEL after going out for turtle team last summer, so it was great being back out hiking with the team and the turtle dogs.
Day 2: Move-In Day
I moved into the farmhouse that the Kane County Forest Preserve District so generously offered up for me to use for the summer! The house was rusticly beautiful and spacious, but as it had been vacant for the last couple of years, there were a few things that needed fixing up. The biggest issues were the plumbing and the lack of internet. Luckily there were showers at the Turtle Shop where I do my lab work, but the lack of internet has made it difficult to keep you guys updated!
Day 3: Lake County Visit
Since most of my experience working with turtles has been with the Eastern Box Turtle, I needed a chance to get comfortable working with Blanding’s in general before going solo with the turtles in Kane County! So on Day 3, I headed a little farther north to meet up with my Lake County counterpart, Kirsten. I got the opportunity to meet the wonderful wildlife biologists and technicians she will be working with and join them all in the field for the day. I tried out my waders for the first time and got a taste of what it’s like wading through the wetlands – and I only fell on my butt twice! Let me tell you, it’s quite the leg workout! Kirsten, having worked with Blanding’s last year, had plenty of wisdom to impart. She showed me how to find a good, dry spot to work up my turtles without drowning my equipment, and gave me some pointers for getting quality samples, as well as performing a quick and efficient physical exam.
Day 4: My first field day on my own!
Back in Kane County, I got to meet some of the people I’ll be working with this summer from the Kane County Forest Preserve District. On my first day out, we caught and sampled 8 painted turtles out in the field, 6 of them in the same trap! I had to do my best to work quickly and efficiently to limit the stress of the animals, and because this was only the first field site, so we had a lot still to get to that day.
Day 5: Dr. Laura and You Na come to my aid!
On Wednesday night, Dr. Laura Adamovicz, a veterinarian and post-doctoral researcher in the WEL, and You Na Jeon, a visiting fourth-year veterinary student on externship from the University of Wisconsin came up to stay with me to assist with field and lab work for the next two days. They arrived just in time because even though the weather was cold and rainy, we captured 10 more painted turtles and 2 juvenile Blanding’s on Thursday! Having a couple of extra sets of hands in the field helped move things along and cut our lab work time significantly.
Day 6: Flat tire and no turtles…
Friday was off to a rough start when I woke up to find that my field car had a flat tire. Turns out I had picked up a nail or screw along the way and put a leak in my tire. It was just lucky timing that this happened while Dr. Laura was visiting, so we had another field vehicle to use for the day while I tried to figure out how to get the tire replaced.
It was also day two of some cold and nasty weather, so our all our traps came up empty, save a couple of common snapping turtles. While we were a little disappointed not to find anymore painted or Blanding’s turtles, it was nice to have an afternoon off of labwork after a number of late nights this week! And it gave me the opportunity to deal with my flat tire. Since the field vehicle is a rental car, I had no spare or jack in the car and had to contact a tow service. After quite a bit of hassle and a few hours dealing with the tire shop, a few different tow services, and the car rental company, I was able to get the vehicle towed and the tire replaced!
Week 1 Highs:
- SO MANY LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
- Finding 10 turtles at one field site in one day!
- 24 total turtles captured, sampled and released this week!
- Just being outside and active rather than sitting at a desk studying is absolutely heavenly
Week 1 Lows:
- The flat tire for sure
- No internet or working shower at the farmhouse
- Forgot my sunscreen the very first day and sunburned only my lips (didn’t know that was possible) and right forearm… already working on the weirdest field season tan ever
- I’m apparently more technologically challenged than I previously realized – more than once this week, after attempting to take a video, I found I had actually just taken a burst of about 60 photos
Overall, this week was an absolute BLAST! Meeting up with Kirsten to get a taste of Blanding’s fieldwork really helped me get started and Dr. Laura answered so many questions I didn’t even know I had to better streamline my sampling in the field and subsequent sample processing back at the lab. I still can’t believe how lucky I am to be able to do this – to spend every day outside in nature, combining medicine, research, and wildlife biology to help save the world, one turtle at a time.