Mar 29, 2005
|Ahh.... Now about my Field camp!
What an amazing five days! I met so many of my classmates and professors on a completely different level. We collected data for four different research projects and when not working, we did a lot of playing.
When we met on campus we were separated into seven groups of ten that would be our core group for the next five days. We all loaded into our given Kambi (van) and headed off. George was my designated group leader, I didn't know it at the time but I really lucked out in being placed in his group (though his driving was rather questionable). What a terrific leader!!!!! We arrived at our camp at the Geelbek Environmental Center in the West Coast National Park on Wednesday the 23 of March. The center was beautiful, George got us to there early so we could have our choice of sleeping arrangements. We each picked out our beds and got settled in. Turns out the camp used to be a stable, and we were basically staying in what used to be the stalls, not a bad place to be a horse. There were several bunks in each room, and it definitely had the 6th grade science camp feel.
Wednesday night we just hung out and had a nice dinner, we had an early start the next morning so we got to bed at a reasonable time.
Our first day of data collection was for a research project on the effects of wave action on the rocky shores. This project is basically looking at weather all rocky shores constitute just one type of habitat, or if there are different types of rocky shore, all of which need conservation. So, we got up at about 6:00 had breakfast and headed for Cape Columbine. We looked at several transects and quantified species percent cover for all of the organisms present. We then took a sub-sample of each species in order to find their relative biomass. So, the questions we are looking at for this project are:
1. Is "habitat" diversity a useful way of going about selecting areas for conservation?
2. Do measures of the properties of individual species (cover, density, and biomass) differ among grades of wave action and, if so, how does this help distinguish "habitats"?
3. Do properties of communities (total biomass, richness and diversity) also help in this way?
4. Are there sufficiently different communities recognizable on rocky shores? Should we insist they be divided up into different "habitats" when considering conservation needs?
So, that was the first day. It was a really great bonding experience in that we really had to watch out for each other as the waves came crashing down on us as we took our samples. We all ended up pretty wet and cold so George broke out the chocolate and we were easily appeased. We had lunch on the beach and spent the rest of the day hanging out at the camp playing Frisbee and enjoying the sunshine.
The next day of data collection was for the conservation of the fish in the West Coast National Park. We looked at the following questions:
1. Where and when do the fish spawn?
2. At what rate do the fish grow?
3. At what age are the fish sexually mature?
4. Are any of these species hermaphrodites?
5. What is the rate of fishing-induced mortality of fish?
6. Is the no-fishing zone in the lagoon sufficient protection for fish stocks against intense exploitation?
Basically, we went out onto the lagoon on a beautiful day and fished in areas where people are not allowed to fish. It was a great project not only because the findings might be really important, but after we were through dissecting our specimens we got to eat them. This project kept our whole camp very well fed! I didn't actually catch any bony fish, but I did catch four juvenile shy sharks.
Saturday's data collection was for the Langebaan NaGISA Seagrass Survey. This projects aim was to contribute a data set from South Africa to the global NaGISA project, the aim of which is to compare sea-grass communities on a global scale. On addition we were looking at how sea-grass affects the structure of the community and how the apparent decline in sea-grass abundance is impacting the Langebaan system. The sampling site was at Klein Oosterwaal beach, also a great site for lunch! After the collection, we went back to the camp to undertake the tedious task of separating and identifying the many many organisms found in our five transects of the areas. What a lot of work that was!!!
Sunday's data collection was for a project in quantifying marine debris. This was basically a glorified beach clean up. The beach was beautiful!! We are looking at the following questions:
1. How does the distribution of meso-debris vary in relation to small scale beach structure?
2. How does the distribution of macro- and meso-debris vary along the entire length of the beach?
3. Compared with historical data, has there been
a) A decrease in the incidence of grocery bags on the beach, now that they are no longer as freely available as previously? This aspect tests the efficiency of the plastic bag legislation.
b) A decrease in bottle and other large containers compared with lids (small items often overlooked in beach clean-ups)? This aspect tests the efficacy of beach clean-ups.
All of the data collection went really well, and I learned a great deal due to the vast amounts of knowledge stored in good ol' George's head. That man knows so much!!! He was really fantastic, constantly feeding us chocolate and fascinating bits of wisdom. We were so spoiled. We really mastered the art of eating way too much and napping just about anywhere our heads could land.
The nights at the camp were really great. Each group took turns cooking the meals; we certainly did not go hungry!! The night my group cooked...well lets just say the rest of the students missed out on a wild party in the kitchen. Every night after dinner we had a speaker who talk of their given research, and then...the merrymaking began. There was lots of card playing and a beverages consumed. The campfire talks lasted well into the nights. We talked politics, biology, future plans, and of course the jokes flowed. I laughed a lot and made some really wonderful friends. The rest of this semester is going to be phenomenal.