Swimming and Sweating

Today my partner, Holly Funkhouser, capsized our canoe.


Fortunately, the only thing she injured was her dignity. Even more fortunately, I was not in the canoe when it happened. All’s well that ends well.

Her spill into the river marks an important day in our research. Today was the last day of fieldwork. Today we recovered all of our crab traps and loaded them into the van to bring them back to the lab. Upon returning, we began the arduous task of cleaning the traps in preparation for storage. We had to employ a power washer to remove the brown, slimy gunk that accumulates on anything that sits in the river for too long.

It’s a bittersweet day. On one hand, I won’t miss the sweltering heat, being slathered in sulfurous mud, and the battery of crab pinches and jellyfish stings. I will miss starting every day on the river, canoeing with a friend, and the excitement of finding turtles. Henceforth my research will take place primarily in the Keck Lab, and will consist of data compilation and analysis.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of this part. I’ve taken statistics, I know how to code in R, but I have never liked playing around with numbers as much as I have playing around with animals. It’s a necessary evil, however. We wouldn’t learn too much if we didn’t use math to understand it.

The good news, nay, great news is this. Professor Chambers gave me the green light to convert an unused 55 gallon aquarium into a tidal wetlands microcosm! I reconstructed a riverbank from the area I worked inside this tank, including land and brackish water. It is filled with the ubiquitous Spartina alterniflora (corded marshgrass) of course, and inoculated with the microorganisms which inhabit the riverbed. The addition of a grow lamp has seen the tank flourishing!


  1. ahbradford says:

    Such is the life of a scientist. Glorious days outside followed by not-so-glorious days inside crunching numbers and combing through data. Like you, I find this part tough, but it all makes it worth it when you realize something cool after all your review. Hopefully you’ll have a “eureka” moment!

    Have you thought of adding sea monkeys to your aquarium? I was bitterly disappointed in my childhood when I found out they didn’t actually look like monkeys, but now I think they’re pretty cool.

  2. Wow that seems like a really fun time as a researcher. I would definitely willing to go out and do a field research like that! This kind of research means that you get to get a natural tan as well as be a nerdy scientist. Oh now I really hope that I can do a similar project that allows me to go out and catch things. But your professional attitude is also great, that you didn’t forget about your data and work on your aquarium. I guess it is always more fun when collecting data and actually doing the field research than the data cleaning and analyzing, but the laters will give us the answer to our original questions. Good luck with your research!