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Today was full of all sorts of interesting developments. First – I found the sunglasses I lost somewhere around Mississippi! We stopped at McDonald’s for lunch and (klutz that I am), I dropped a french fry between the seat and the center console and when I looked down to pick it up, it was sitting on top of my sunglasses. Thanks, renegade french fry!
Anyway, the other fun developments are actually sampling related 😀
Site 10: Ashland Research Area, Missouri
Our first sampling site today was a University of Missouri research station. Not only did I spend the night in Columbia, I voluntarily set foot on Mizzou property. Forunately, Kevin Hossman (who works at the station and met us at the sampling site) was super cool 😀 We had some more trouble with the oaks having rotted centers, but I think we got samples long enough for use. We ran into bigger trouble with the extractors – the oaks are hard enough that the cores can be difficult to remove and we may or may not have bent a couple of the extractors trying to insert them into the corers. They’re still usable, but a little wonky.
Site 11: Big Springs Fish Hatchery, Iowa
This site was already the lab favorite. All the other sites are places you would expect – national forests, university research stations, etc – so a fish hatchery is clearly the oddball… The sampling went about as well as everywhere else has gone – we had a bit of trouble with sticky cores, and rotted centers. In fact, I got another core stuck inside the corer (remember, we’re already down a corer from getting a core stuck back in Arkansas). I expressed my frustration with this problem to Gary Siegwarth, the hatchery biologist. Not only did he get both cores out of the corers (although sacrificing the cores themselves was unavoidable), but he also made us a tool for removing stuck cores from the corers! He welded a narrow metal rod to a flat metal base – the rod just fits inside the corer and can be pushed down against the broad base until the core is pushed out the wider back end of the corer. Simple, efficient, ingenious! I told him this will be a staple of PaleoLab field supplies – I can’t believe such a thing didn’t already exist. Gary should totally patent it.
Gary also showed us around the hatchery. Each of the tunnel-like things pictured below holds up to 10,000 trout, which are used to stock rivers throughout Iowa. We also had a four-legged assistant – the hatchery puppy, a 9-month-old chocolate lab named Woody. Emily and I were hard pressed to not bring him home with us 😀
So, what next?
I was still debating the northern loop because of the weather. Today, I called each of the three remaining sites (the Dakotas and Nebraska) to check on the situation. All three of the station biologists assured me there was minimal (if any) snow, that all roads were clear, and that sampling would still be totally doable. So tonight, we are relaxing in Minneapolis – three hours ahead of schedule. Our plan is to power through the rest of the sites – sampling in North Dakota tomorrow, then South Dakota and Nebraska on Friday, and (barring severe tiredness) heading home Friday evening after the Nebraska sampling. We’ll get in late, but it will be worth a final 12-hour day to sleep in our own beds.
On the drive to Minneapolis, we saw a beautiful snowy sunset, and twice passed a bald eagle dining on some roadside carrion. We got a blurry picture the second time…
Also, there was a patch of snow at the hatchery site in Iowa, where some of the fall leaves had stuck and were melting. I thought they were pretty 🙂