Mad Scientists

by ashley.

Picture 6am on the marsh.  The sky begins to brighten, mosquitoes begin their whining, early birds get their worms, and muddy scientists climb out of a ditch, eager to greet the next round of replacement labor, a hot breakfast, and a highly pressurized shower after a night of canoe sampling.

And so it began.  The July madness that David has been hinting about since May hit like a hurricane.  The week began innocuously enough, with Dr. Fleeger’s arrival from oil soaked Louisiana.  He appeared, however, in the calm before the storm of 24 hour sampling that turned Marshview into a hotbed of planning and processing.

Friday and Saturday were devoted to becoming one with the Sweeney confluence, or what the less poetic among us would call “sitting in a canoe taking water samples every half hour”.  There was syringing involved.  As well as some napping.  Fortunately neither occurred at the same time. (Though a filter bottle may or may not have overfilled as a result of some previously undiagnosed narcolepsy.)

Monday morning started with a shock after a snail cake brushed a bit too close to reality during an unplanned session in the oven.  Megan didn’t seem to mind her melted birthday cake, though the firemen may have minded the early morning call.

The rest of the week can be compared to a runaway amphipod – it only accelerated after its initial Friday scare.  All I can say is, whoever is foolhardy enough to challenge the marsh better be prepared for a barrage of filtering, fetching samples, feeding the tank, schlepping batteries and autosamplers, acid washing, filtering, sampling, crushing phosphate, and did I mention filtering?

Fresh fish Jo and Amanda from Boston University joined biogeochemists Kate and Sarah in getting their fill of ungodly early morning field work and late night lab work for the rest of the season, and preferably for the rest of their careers.  They could be seen shuffling weary eyed from the marsh to the trailer and back out again, pushing to do almost inhuman amounts of work.  The trailer proved to be a godsend, becoming the estuarine filtration center of Marshview and most likely the state of Massachusetts.

As if nutrient challenges were not enough, another series of late night/early morning flume netting rode in on the spring tides.  Ariella and Erik got their first tastes of the irreplaceable sensation that is nighttime marsh swimming.  Sam and I underwent the singular experience of being hopelessly lost in densely foggy Nelson.  It was, euphemistically speaking, an exciting lesson in the importance of orienteering skills.  Meaghan and Austin worked hard to remove the flume nets after the night’s catch was collected and measured by Imogene.

Dr. Fleeger, Imogene, Meghan, and Ashley caught 1000 Philoscia, 160 Melampus, and 180 Orchestia to start a mesocosm experiment.  The marsh proved fruitful and petri dishes were assembled in the barn, ready for critters to start chowing down on some dead Spartina patens.

The algae team continued to investigate the mysterious abundance of algae in the dark mosquito ditches.  They also studied pond algae and counted diatoms like old pros.

The plant people wandered the marsh looking for crack.  They were successful.

And that, friends, was a week in the life of the TIDE project.


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