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#ChernobylFrogs16 Chernobyl Recap: the People

This is going to be the last post (at least for now) about the field work I did in Chernobyl in order to examine the effects of chronic exposure to radiation on the genetics, physiology and development of treefrogs (Hyla arborea). So, I will use it as a way to say thanks to all the people that has helped me in the preparation of the study and during the field work.

As I said before, the funding for this work comes from a large EU-funded project on radioecology, the COMET project (COordination and iMplementation of a pan-Europe instrumenT for radioecology). So, thanks to everyone involved in the project logistics!!

Probably, the most crucial person involved in this project was Sergey Gaschak, director of scientific research activities at the Chornobyl Centre for Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and Radioecology, Ukraine. I said at the beginning of the trip that I was sure to be in the best hands, due the vast experience of Sergey with Chernobyl’s wildlife, but little I knew how good these hands are!! Sergey arrived to the Chernobyl area a few months after the accident in the Nuclear Power Plant, working first as a liquidator with the Soviet Army, then doing research on farm animals, and for ca. the last 20 years studying the wildlife of the Zone. His knowledge about the animals of the Zone, and about the Zone itself is just amazing. He even say “sorry” when we hit a bit hard a bump on a tiny abandoned road in the middle of nowhere because he did not remember that bump!! A project like this one would have been impossible without the help and collaboration of Sergey…

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During my stay in Chernobyl, I also had the pleasure to meet Nele Horemans and Robin Nauts, researchers from the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN), which were there to sample Arabidopsis plants for their radioecology studies. Not only they did their intensive fieldwork during the day, but were also happy to go with us during the long nights of frog capture. Even during the last night, Robin managed to be the person that captured the most treefrogs!! That was an intensive training in field herpetology for them. And they are now on their way to Fukushima (Japan) to continue their studies on the radiation effects of plants. Their help, advice and company during field work were invaluable. Thanks and good luck!!

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While organizing the trip, I was lucky enough to count with the help of Jean-Marc Bonzom from the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), which previously conducted research on the radiation effects on the Japanese treefrog (Hyla japonica) in Fukushima. He is also going to be in charge of the epigenetic studies of the Chernobyl treefrogs. His guidance and advice were immensely helpful when processing the frogs. Merci beaucoup, Jean-Marc!!

Big thanks also to my colleagues from the Stockholm University, Clare Bradshaw and Karolina Stark. Clare coordinates the Swedish part of the project, and has been dealing with the crazy bureaucracy and logistics of bringing the frozen samples from Ukraine (we are still there…), and always open to help me with everything. And, of course, big big thanks to Karolina that designed the first steps of the this project and was the person that involved my in all this, without Karolina I would have never think about doing research in Chernobyl. Tack så mycket!!

It has been a great fun to write all these posts, especially after seeing how many people were interested in the project. So far, the posts have received more than 300 views here and many comments in Twitter @GOrizaola. I hope I was able to tell how is to be doing fieldwork in an area as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Thanks everyone for reading!! More news, with the results of our studies, will come in the future!!

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