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#ChernobylFrogs16 Day 5 The final big catch

The day started with the processing at the field station lab of last night treefrogs, 24 males form two localities of medium-low radioactive contamination levels. And this took from 10AM to 6PM, so I didn’t see much of Chernobyl during daytime.

After dinner, we quickly moved to an area inside the Exclusion Zone, but free from radioactivity, our internal control zone, needed to compare all the frog traits with those of frogs from contaminated areas collected during previous nights. Luckily, we arrived rather early and with plenty of daylight, so I had the opportunity to walk a bit around one abandoned village in the area. That was my first real experience of an evacuated locality within the Exclusion Zone, until now I just saw ruined houses from the car while moving between sampling localities. There were many houses falling down, in an otherwise pretty nice locality by a small river. A sad memory of the human consequences of the Chernobyl accident, 30 years ago.
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As soon as the light disappeared, and with plenty of fire-bellied toads (Bombina bombina) already calling (extremely abundant species all across the Exclusion zone), we put our waders on and entered into our first non-contaminated locality, a medium size pond in the middle of the forest. In about an hour we collected 14 male treefrogs, half of then captured by our Arabidopsis experts of the Belgian Nuclear Research Center (by now semi-expert herpetologists…).
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After a good drive on tiny bumpy roads that only our local expert, Sergey Gaschak knows, we arrived at our second non-contaminated locality, with plenty of treefrogs calling as we approached the pond. We collected our final 12 frogs for the study, not before Nele Horemans from the Belgian Center saw a grass snake (Natrix natrix) eating one of “our” treefrogs!! So, on the final day of field work, we managed to collect our greatest catch of the trip, a total of 26 male treefrogs!!

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Being the entire morning-day in the lab and moving through non-contaminated areas during the night, my accumulated radiation for the day was jut 2 microSv, for a total of 52 during the stay I the Exclussion Zone.

The plan for Day 6, my final day at Chernobyl, is to process our final catch (6 localities and 86 male Hyla arborea sampled in for days!!), prepare all the samples for later transportation via dry shippers to Sweden and France (to my colleagues of the French Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety), pack some samples to carry with me to Uppsala, and finally leave the Exclusion Zone to stay during the night in Kiev, ready for the flight back home.

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