Freshwater Ecology 3/4

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More pictures of this day can be seen on my Flickr page.

Wednesday: Weerribben

Today we started off with a programme! Our teachers had written it on a white board after breakfast. It announced the boat trip and the assignments we were going to do. Yay, boats! The programme also advised not to get lost. Okay. (We did get maps and later it turned out we all stayed together as well). Meanwhile, Wichard had put all the stuff we needed on the tables inside (the weather was still so nice we had every meal outside). It was a lot of stuff. We needed to do 10 experiments at all of the 10 stops along the way, but eventually we turned it into a sort of efficient routine, while we also still switched so we all got to do every experiment. Huub went with us, in our boat. That didn’t help much, but we had fun and later he did explain a few things to us.

The ten experiments included: taking a water sample (to check the oxygen in it later), taking samples home of phytoplankton and zooplankton and check the water temperature, pH and transparency. We also needed to record cardinal direction, the local plant life and macro fauna (creatures in the water as well as insects near it). The boats turned out to be electric ones. Sjors mainly steered ours. Some stops were easier than others. Mainly because at some places there were more mosquitos and we quickly learned that being on the move gives them less of a chance. They still won. At the end of the day, the amount and size of the bites on our arms and legs suggested we were in the jungle somewhere. It was like having a dozen extra boobs in weird places.

Huub concluded I was tasty and I should rub myself with gagel to make that less so. He made it sound like he was some sort of witch doctor (although he clearly stated he had been a cowboy in a previous life), but if I had had the chance to reach that plant, I probably would’ve tried. There were many nice creatures too though! Not in the least the lovely German Shepherd we saw on another passing boat. We also spotted a water spider and another frog. In one of our samples I also saw a cute little fish. On the shores we found a couple of nice bugs and even – which our teachers had hoped for – a tick. They figured many people don’t really know what they look like, but since I have pets, I’m afraid I am well aware.

There was also a stop near a café for lunch, where I sat down near the shore with Sharinda and we ended up philosophising. We were also joined by one of the girls who turned out to be very religious and we landed on that subject. With all due respect, I find it very hard to understand why people can’t see already that religion should stay out of biology classes. It’s a serious point, but we were also still enjoying the sunshine and I was very pleased with my water shoes. When we got home after returning the boats, I had jumped in the water again with these shoes and I was thankful for this alternative to the way-too-hot showers. There wasn’t much time for a break though, but nobody seemed to mind.

Microscopes and laptops were placed in between all the water samples and the plants we had collected earlier. Sjors and I had taken the lead for our group’s presentation yesterday. Today that was up to Ciska and Marjolein as Sjors and I were responsible for dinner, together with Karen and Sharinda. The girls were still busy with their group, so Sjors and I went to the supermarket with Wichard and we had decided upon renting a barbecue. This had been a nice interruption, but after dinner we went straight back to work again. After most of the results had been processed, Sjors and I helped to formulate a conclusion. The amount of plankton tells you something about the quality of the water and we also tested for minerals to see if it was nutrient rich or not.

Huub had thought we would find different outcomes for the different locations, but personally I wasn’t surprised we didn’t, as the water is all connected. You would expect this water to be nutrient poor and to have a low pH because it relies on water from rain. We also saw veenmos, which usually doesn’t grow in nutrient rich areas (said Wichard). Plants overall usually grow best near water that’s something in between nutrient poor and rich. You usually find more fauna in nutrient poor waters (except for those few who prefer rich waters). We found macro fauna (mosquito larvae) that will live in both kinds of water, but also libellen, that prefer the poorer waters. In conclusion, our water was something in between. People pump extra water in to make sure a decrease won’t lower the land. This water (which comes from cities) makes it more nutrient rich.

The presentations weren’t over before 11 that evening, but at least they didn’t last until 10am, like the syllabus had said(!) I left my copy of it out of my bag, to dry off. It needed to last one more day. Bedtime gradually changed from ‘reasonably on time’ to ‘not before 1am’, which was good as we ended up having the best conversations at these moments. Before I went to sleep, I quickly tweeted a sign of life and summarised this day as: 1) Long boat trip. 2) Doing all kinds of tests. 3) Cooked for twenty. 4) Prepping our talk. 5) Still feel like floating…


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