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20 May 2018

An unusual night, very unusual night.. Weather forecast was bad, cold and probably rainy night, with no big hopes for catching more frogs in our last night inside Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. But… we ended up catching 11 new frogs in just twenty inmutes, in a locality visited last year, with plenty of time for photos, enjoy the landscape and taking it easy…

During the day, we worked pretty fast at the lab, finishing the last six frogs that remained from the previous day, and collecting all the samples from the seven individuals collected in clean area the previous night. Still, this take us the entire morning, with behavioral and coloration tests and the fourteen vials of different kind collected for each individual.

All blood analyses worked well, and we even had the possibility of running a few in duplicate to test the repetibility of the measures obtained with the iSTAT. Anyway, we finished just in time for lunch, once again prepared by Zenja, the best food (by far) we have had in Chernobyl. No more sampling to day, good food and a (finally) free afternoon ahead were the perfect excuse for opening the bottle of Alsatian white wine brought here by Jean-Marc. Excellent!!

We enjoyed a relaxed afternoon taking advantage of our WiFi connection at the hotel for keeping up with the family, the work outside here, and the world. Also for talking about our #ChernobylFrogs18 work in our Twitter accounts @pabloburraco, @bioecologie and @GOrizaola. Check there for more photos and comments!!

We also had time to properly store our data in our web repository, something essential when doing fieldwork, for a proper accountability of the work, and to avoid loosing data for unwanted reasons. So, we uploaded all the photos we have taken to our data during these days. Safety is an important part of Science, and not just the personal one.

After the usual early dinner, it was time for more fieldwork. Our last night inside Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, our last chance to add more frogs from the Zone for our study. Weather was supposed to be windy and cold with some possibilities of rain, not the best combination for catching frogs. Soon we realized that, although cold, the afternoon was not that bad, actually pretty nice.

We visited first a marsh area in the south side of the Exclusion Zone, a new locality for us, just to see that it was completely dry after the unusual warm weather of the spring. Anyway, light was perfect and we had plenty of time for taking photos, even Sergey took the camera out!!!

With that light and time before sunset, we had also the chance of taking a group photo (thanks again to Jean-Marc, our “official photographer “). Below, left to right, Jean-Marc, Zenja, me, Sergey and Pablo, the #ChernobylFrogs18 dream team!!

After this, and the removal of another tree from the middle of the road with a chainsaw, and the car stacked for a minute into the remains of trees, we arrived at a new location, the same location Sergey, Zenja, Pablo and I visited the first night last year. It was cold already, but as soon as we opened the car doors treefrog calls can be heard everywhere. No doubt that we were going to catch frogs, even more since we just needed a few. The idea was catching 8, but I quickly suggested 10 🙂 At the end, we managed to catch 11 new individuals in just twenty minutes, easy. Our total for the trip is now on 90, pretty, pretty good. Jean-Marc even took his camera to the field, so we have now these photos we never have, photos of fieldwork action. Pretty cool!!! In summary, a great, easy, really enjoyable night!!!

The plan for today is going quick to the lab, try to work as fast as possible sampling these 11 frogs, pack all our field and lab stuff, and try to be ready around lunchtime to leave the Exclusion Zone. Our goal now is to move outside the Zone, to Slavutych, a city created after the accident of the nuclear power plant to serve as home to people working in different jobs in the Zone. It’s a 45 minutes drive through Belarus (if no incidences at the border pass), but we can’t go that way due to the bureaucratic complexities of being three foreigners with a lot of weird scientific stuff (dry shipper, blood analyzer, samples, some chemicals…). Too complicated. So, it will take us four hours (!!!), driving back to Kiev and up again. Once in Slavutych, we will have three more nights for collecting frogs in areas never affected by radioactive contamination, essential to be used as references in many of our studies, particularly the genomic ones. If the weather is not too bad (cold forecasted) and we don’t arrive too late, we may try to go to the field tonight near Slavutych, if not we will have Tuesday and Wednesday ights for this. Let’s see how it goes in this new area!!

Working in clean areas only add the usual 3 microSv to our accumulated dose, for a total of 46 for the entire trip.