9 May 2017
Finally, the cold weather has stopped us here in Chernobyl. Temperature dropped to just 1C during the night, and barely raised above 10C during the day. That’s a “lethal” combination for treefrogs breeding activity. So, at Sergey’s suggestion, we stayed at our hotel rooms tonight. And for Sergey not going to the field, the situation has to very bad, I can tell you. So, no frogs, and no new sampling localities to add to our project for now. Forecast is quite similar for Wednesday, starting to improve probably on Thursday and more probably near the weekend. This is my first night without frogs in Chernobyl, but this type of problems are completely normal (although unwanted) when you do fieldwork. And that’s why this year I planned the Chernobyl campaign for 8 nights, instead of the four of last year. We have lost one, probably two with next night. Let’s see if weather clears soon…
Anyway, the day was far for relaxed for us here. We woke up after just 5 hours of sleep and after the traditional “Chernobyl breakfast” of three fried eggs, plus pancakes (people that has passed by here know well what I am talking about…), we started with our lab work. First day in a field lab is always quite a busy day. We first set up all our material in two different tables, one with the photo equipment for colorimetric analyses, and a larger one for processing the frogs and obtain all the different tissue samples we want for our studies (blood, liver, different muscles, sperm, gut…). We have a pretty good space to work here, what I call as a joke our “pop-up” lab in Chernobyl. For a week only, like a circus arriving in town!!
We still don’t have our dry shipper with us (should arrive today… maybe), but thanks to Sergey and his colleagues we have two big tanks of liquid nitrogen for us. So, no problem for quickly freeze and store all our samples, quite a luxury in the field.
Getting all the samples we want (and we want quite many) it’s a really time-consuming process. Full processing of the 24 frogs took us from 10AM to 18AM. Of course, first days are always slow days until you acquire a work routine. Anyway, I think that Pablo and I have now a very fast (well relatively fast) way of working together. Each of us in in charge of a different task, so we can do all the work in a quick, coordinated way. Being the first day we also did some silly mistakes, like taking half of the photos for the color studies in JPEG format instead of RAW. Luckily we realize this, and since the frogs were still not processed, it was possible to do it all over again. Just one of the ways in which you can loose time in the lab, and an example of how focuses and careful you need to be when collecting data in the field.
At least, staying at the hotel tonight provided us with the opportunity of having a good rest and recover for a long night of field work. It also allows me to have a long an amazing phone call from a Spanish science journalist very interested in our work here. So, expect a great report soon 😉 This is one of the luxuries of having wifi in Chernobyl!!
Not going to the field tonight, and not having more frogs, means that we will not have much to do tomorrow. Nothing to do in the lab. So, probably, we will go to Kiev (2hour drive) and try to “rescue” our dry shipper from the airport. It looks like this can be the faster way for having it with us. Looking at the weather forecast, it looks like that we are going to have two very inactive days here (at least). So, looking forward to an improvement of the weather and more frogs!!
Being in the lab all day long means no new wildlife to had to our list, and not a big change in radiation accumulation: total of 4 microSv for the trip now, again normal, standard, background levels.