Please be advised, this is going to be the most unexciting post to date. Put a pillow next to your head and tuck a towel into your shirt because you’re going to be nodding off and drooling in no time. I spent most of the day finishing Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. It was getting waaaay too exciting to justifiably put down. I finally finished the book at about 3 pm. Then I decided to test out my new rod by ineptly fishing Yellowstone Lake. Oh, I’m so glad no one saw me. My new fishing pole blew up during maiden cast. I had fishing line all over myself and the surrounding rocks. It seems that I’d forgotten how to fish. Eventually, I got the hang of it. Fishing from the shore of Yellowstone Lake is lovely but not really advisable if you want to catch something other than rocks. I had to wade through the water several times because my lure got stuck on the bottom and required some tough love to free it. So after my unsuccessful fishing attempt, my wet butt went to the Lake Lodge to eat a really overpriced, yet delicious, dinner and use the internet until 12:30 am. Yup, that was a whole lotta internet. I paid $11.95 for 24 hours of internet so I intended to make good on every last second. I started my Holistic Life Coaching certification so I had to download of bunch of PDF’s for that; I made reservations for a cabin at the Lake Lodge and some campsites for the 4th of July weekend; I caught up on FB and email; and I began updating my blog. My pictures took forever to upload into WordPress because the connection speed was fairly slow and also because I’ve been taking high-resolution photos. I probably should dial back the resolution a bit but who knows, maybe I’ll want to make big ass posters out of a few of them someday. Who the heck knows? I finally found the car in the pitch-black parking lot and returned to a very dark and creepy dorm. I started reading the first few pages of Hart’s Hope by Orson Scott Card. I love his other books so I’m looking forward to this one. It’s relatively short so I should be through it in no time. I’m seriously eating books for breakfast out here in Yellowstone! I’m a reading machine!
Training Day: 4
Today I woke up feeling very off due to the very vivid dream I had. Dreams here are so real, detailed, and colorful and they really stick with you. I’ve been trying to write them down, just for the heck of it. It seemed like a little fairy or greedy goblin was following me around and moving all of my stuff today. I lost pens, sunglasses, field equipment and just when it seemed like I was going to lose my temper everything lost would miraculously appear again. It felt like I was the butt of some unseen cosmic joke all day.
We navigated to some off-trail wetlands to do some practice amphibian surveys. Thankfully, the data collection process has been refined since 2006, when we were the guinea pigs for this entire amphibian monitoring program. Things have gotten more streamlined and the low quality or just plain dangerous sites have been dropped. It still doesn’t mean that any of this is going to be a breeze. Data collection is still a pain and young tadpoles are hard to differentiate sometimes–as Andrew and I learned today. We were stumped many times but luckily Deb, our crew leader, is here for a few days to help us. The last site we went to already had another herpetology crew there collecting chytrid fungus swabs from the bellies and legs of adult spotted frogs. They said that about 60 to 70% of the frogs they’ve swabbed in the Park have the fungus (which basically suffocates them by causing hyperkeratosis of their permeable skin). Thankfully, in Yellowstone, they haven’t been dying off in the numbers that researchers once feared they would; however, that doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods (no pun intended). The team was able to buy their own PCR machine and run DNA samples right from their field office which has increased efficiency and detection. (Just as an aside, the field crew consisted of three very handsome young men and one lovely young woman. It was nice to socialized with people around my age and not have it be awkward. I guess having something like frogs in common helps more than one would expect. Needless to say, I hope to run into them again.) They caught and released about 15 adult spotted frogs in this particular wetland and the frogs were so worn out from the whole ordeal that all 15 of them just floated, with their little legs splayed out, on the surface of the water. It was kinda cute.
They also mentioned that the guy we’ll be working with next week, Andy, is developing a DNA test that can detect the presence of amphibians in a wetland–down to each individual species. So all you would have to do is collect a water sample or swab and it would tell you what amphibians are there, their abundance, and even what species had recently visited the wetland. This sounds cool but it may eventually put us out of a job. Andrew made a good point though: it may not account for wading animals traveling from one wetland to another carrying DNA on their feet and such. We shall see.
Later that night we went to the rustic employee pub which offers $2.95 microbrews, delicious pizza, hard rock/heavy metal music, billiards and best yet, no shutter-bug tourists. It’s heaven. We spent a few hours there voraciously eating, drinking, and catching up. Deb made the mistake of asking me how a biologist becomes a soap maker for a living and that opened up a whole can of worms that she wasn’t expecting. There is no simple, quick way for me to explain that. I highly value conciseness but I just can’t seem to do my story justice by making it short and sweet. Seemingly a lifetime later, after I was done giving them an overview of my life from 2006 to today, it was obvious from the looks on their faces that I had tired them out. So it was back to the dorm to read my addicting book. I’m blowing through the second book in Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy like it’s nobody’s business! I can’t put it down!