The fIrst leg of our trip to collect more samples of treefrogs living inside Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in order to understand a bit better the effects of the chronic exposure to low dose ionizing radiation in wildlife it’s done. I am now at Boryspil Airport hotel, in the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine. But, no good news, our precious dry shipper has not arrive, or at least it is not here with me. All the rest of equipment arrive without problems, but the “special luggage” dry shipper did not appear at all. And the personal at the Kiev airport were totally unable to tell me where it is, if still in Sweden, or somewhere here, or where. This is a rather important (and quite expensive) piece of equipment. It will help us to travel back with the samples. Not having it will not prevent us from work, since we have other containers and liquid nitrogen in Chernobyl, but… Let’s see if they found it quickly and we can get it here before going tomorrow to Chernobyl, or they can send it there before the end of next week. 

At the time I am writing this, Pablo Burraco, the other member of the team ( plus with our local colleague Sergey Gaschak), is waiting in Frankfurt Airport for his connecting flight to Kiev. Pablo will arrive here in a few hours, after midnight (with our wading boots!!).

The logistics of this kind of work are simply crazy. As you can imagine, the amount of paperwork needed in order to enter into the Exclusion Zone, moving there “freely” during night time in order to catch the frogs, and get out with our sample are monumental. That, on top of the normal collection and export permits… But working in an area as Chernobyl, in which there is no option for buying anything, and the nearest “store” can be at an hour drive is also a challenge of preparation. Every single piece of equipment needed, from vials, to scissors, to marking pens has to came with us. And, so, I flew with ca. 20 kilos of material (excluding the 25 kg of dry shipper + protective case). The list includes 1500 2ml cryovials, 200 50ml Falcon tubes, 600 nitrile gloves, 40 plastic container to hold the captured frogs in the lab, 50 ziplock bags for keeping the captured frogs in the field, 6 different types of scissors, four types of tweezers, 2 scalpels with their pack of blades, 4 cutting boards, 300 cotton swabs for microbiome sampling, 1000 heparinized micro tubes, 250 glass slides, one glass staining bucket, a caliper, two headlamps plus batteries for the field, a foto camera, tripod, color checker and two table lamps for colorimetric work, a GoPro camera (hopefully there will be time for using it in the field), and the two dosimeters for measuring both real time dose rate and total radiation dose accumulated by Pablo and me during the stay in the Zone.

Tomorrow, a member of the International Radioecology Laboratory will pick up us at the hotel and we will head up to Chernobyl during the morning, meeting Sergey there. We will stay inside the Exclusion Zone until the end of next week, working and sleeping there (yes, there are several places in which you can sleep inside the Exclusion Zone!!). If the weather behaves, there will be time for our first sampling night tomorrow. More than any, it’s the weather the thing that worries me the most right now… After a week of absolutely perfect conditions for treefrog breeding activity (sun, more than 20C during the day and ca. 10C during the night), the forecast now is of cloudy, at times rainy, and cold weather (as low as 2C during the night). Let’s see if this stays, and how much this will affect frog activity and our chances of catching them… And let’s see what happens with our dry shipper… Fingers crossed!!

As always, you can have more info about our work in Twitter @GOrizaola, @pabloburraco and following #ChernobylFrogs17. And, if you have any question about of work in Chernobyl, we are more than happy to answer!!