Dry Hollow and Powerline

The second three day trip into Gulf Mountain. My small patch of poison ivy rash is getting larger and I’ve covered it with gauze pads and a bandanna. I am wearing my long sleeve rashguard (for kayaking) from now on. No more poison ivy or bug bites! I’m also wearing my kayaking hat with the large bill and flap that covers my neck. No more ticks in my hair!

We immediately got to work after we dropped off the camping gear. Today’s sampling is a stream named Powerline. (I don’t know how some of these streams get their names). Three pool/riffles are to be sampled. And then we have to go back and finish the one that got rained out on the previous trip. Oh damn. We forgot the 5 gallon bucket. We improvise and use a flow-thru which will not protect the fish from the electro-shocker so the person carrying the flow-thru has to stay well behind the group. There are five of us today. With the experience of the first trip, the hours today should be less than the previous trip.

These are long pools and riffles, a couple are nearly 60 meters in length.  We are falling into a rhythm and the work goes smoothly. And then it happens. The battery goes dead in the electro-shocker. Did we bring another battery. Nope. Left it in the truck. Someone bushwacks back to the vehicles and gets a battery.

I’m getting my stream-legs and don’t fall down as much. I’m much more comfortable wearing more clothing, but my waders are leaking. Ha ha. I love field work!

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Ticks and poison ivy

Our third day of sampling was cut short due to weather. I came home with ticks, poison ivy, bruised knees and more mosquito/gnats bites that were possible to count. Yea field work!

The days were long (15 hours) and the work slow. We had to carry the nets and equipment a good distance. It was just a quarter mile or so between sample sites but that’s a long hike when you are carrying a seine net and trying not to damage it when bushwacking around the stream. We try not to walk in the stream itself as that disturbs the fish populations that are being sampled. We are learning how to properly set up the block nets so that the fish won’t have any escape routes. The grad students are cautious when identifying fish and since we catch upwards of a hundred fish, this process takes a good deal of time.

Getting back to camp, sitting in a chair and being fed a hot meal is well earned. I don’t know how the grad students do this. They get up earlier than us to cook breakfast and then at the end of a long day of sampling they have to cook us dinner. This trip has two grad students but after this there will be a single grad student to do this work. By the end of the trip I see that all of us undergrads pitch in to help with breakfast and dinner.

It’s a good group of people that I’m working with on this project.

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Summer Job!

I landed a summer job in the lab of one of my favorite professors. I’ll be working on the long term research project conducting population studies of the streams flowing through the Arkansas Ozark mountains.

The first three day camping trip up to Gulf Mountain is for the former grad student in charge to hand off the project to the current grad student in charge.The work is grueling, monotonousness, hilarious, surprising, and best of all… outdoors.

Equipment List:

2 30 foot seine net

2 15 foot seine nets

1 50 seine net

Camping gear for six

Three days worth of food: two breakfasts and two dinners. Remind everyone to bring their own lunches.

Backpack electro-shocker

Extra batteries, battery chargers

Dip nets


Field note book


Datalogger for pH, temp, turbidity,

Data sheets for fish, data sheets for habitat assessment

Flow thrus

5 gallon bucket

Clip boards and pencils

Bug spray and sunscreen

This is not an exhaustive list but you can get an idea of what goes into this type of field work. We arrive at a site, use dice to select which pool/riffle combination will be sampled. We bushwacked out to the first stream carrying the backpack shocker, 4 seine nets. dip nets, and all the peripheral gear needed to take the data. The former grad student began instruction. We all were experienced is some sampling but non of us were familiar with this particular project.

The sampling technique we will be using involving setting up block nets at each end of the pool and another block net at the top of the riffle (riffles sampled are up stream from the pool).  Three researchers walk through the stream while the grad students electro-shocks. Fish are scooped up via dip nets and placed in a bucket. Three passes are made in each pool and each riffle. Then the fish are identified down to species, weighed, length measured and then returned to the pool. The process is repeated for the riffle and then all the nets are taken down and all the gear moved to the next riffle/pool that was randomly selected by dice roll. The habitat of each pool/riffle is also assessed. We measure length, width, depth in addition to substrate and cover composition along three transects within the pool and riffle.  This data is recorded on data sheets.

We all jump in…. learning as we go. Falling in the stream. Dropping fish. Improvising when we discover a forgotten piece of equipment. It’s going to be a great summer!

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Science data online

I found this article this morning discussing the research into the effects of pesticides on amphibians. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130501132058.htm This led me to google “Proximity to agriculture is correlated with pesticide tolerance: Evidence for the evolution of amphibian resistance to modern pesticides.” in search of one paper mentioned in the article. I found the paper at Wiley.com but I also found a website from which I could download the actual data (in excel files) upon which the authors based their papers. https://datadryad.org/resource/doi:10.5061/dryad.sj5b6?show=full. What a find! I had no idea that this resource was available. I do not know whether the datadryad site is part of wiley but I’m sure someone out in cyberspace will be able to tell me. 

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The Women of Science

Yesterday was in inspirational day. I participated in Girls of Promise on campus. (UCA) I was nervous going in, (as spending an entire day with a crowd of 8th grade girls is a little intimidating) having been assigned as a team leader, Go Team Jane Goodall!  I quickly got over my nerves and settled into trading stories with a group of nine amazing, talented, intelligent, composed, and funny girls from around the state of Arkansas. We had a great time exploring eSTEM topics; economics, science, technology, engineering and math. We spent the day making slime, studying water fleas with a microscope, programming a computer and learning how to pay for college. 

I was surprised (okay, not really surprised) that several of the women both the speakers and break-out session instructors are, in their respective workplaces, the sole woman in the office. Granted these women were the top in their fields, many owning the company, but I thought the numbers were approaching equality. No, seriously. I thought that out in the business world the numbers of women vs men employees were approaching equality. This is the second time this month that I have been reminded of these disappointing statistics.

Recently I went to a retirement ceremony. Two long time friends retired from the police department. It was great to hear the old stories, hug friends that I haven’t seen in years. Yet something felt wrong. A little off kilter. As the ceremony progressed I noticed that it was white guys. White guys giving the speeches. White guys retiring. White guys presenting gifts. White guys telling the stories. I looked around the standing-room-only crowd and counted four white women, two black men, two black women police officers. I went to school after leaving the ceremony and realized that I now spend my time in a world with equal number of women and men. At all levels of employment. I believed that the world would be different by now. I really believed that there would be many more women working as police officers. The PD hasn’t hired a women in four years. What is up with that?

I wonder what the world of business will be like for those girls who attended the conference? Will it be easier for them? Will they have more opportunities than I did? I thought I had a great many opportunities. I did have a great many opportunities. So much more than my Mother or Grandmothers. Was I just naive in thinking that there would be equal numbers of women doing every kind of job? It’s what I expected when I was 12. It’s what I expected when I graduated high school but America wasn’t there yet.  It’s what I expected when I became a police officer but America wasn’t there yet.


America isn’t there yet.

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Women in science

It was exciting and a little dismaying both at the same time. I just read an entry on the blog Antarctic Quest about women comprising 50% of this expedition to Antarctica. If you are unfamiliar with this I’ve included the link. This blog chronicles both the scientists and the film makers covering the summer expedition. Both crews, according to the post, are 50% women. It is great to see that women are rising in both fields. I am disappointed that we still have to discuss this.

When I was 12 the first female patrol officer went on duty in California. It was a big deal. The year that I turned 12 was 1972.


Forty years ago. I refuse to be discouraged. It may well be that we still have to work at getting women into “traditionally male” fields but the backlash has been tempered by time.  Here I am world. Traditionally male career field number two…watch out…here I come.

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Happiness is ;

Seeing a flock of birds on a temporary wetland in the middle of January.

On the drive into school this morning I passed a farm field that is underwater anytime we receive significant rains here in central Arkansas. There were two flock of birds. They may have been a species of gull however they were too far away to identify and I was driving in morning freeway traffic. It is heartening to see that in the midst of the turmoil of climate change, the winter migration of a flock. To see that they are able to find a suitable habitat in which to set down, rest, and feed before moving on made me smile. I have made a couple of assumptions here. I don’t know if this is in fact a migratory flock. I really have no idea what species. But I do know that this temporary wetland is providing food and shelter to innumerable species of plant and animal life that may, just for a short space of time in a small space of land, combat climate change.

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