22 May 2018

Our first day outside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone was our chance for collecting frogs from areas never contaminated by the nuclear accident in 1986. And sure we did. During the night, we managed to collect 10 more frogs in a clean area East of Slavutych. This puts our total, with one last night remaining, in 100 frogs collected from 7 different localities. Really, really, good results!!

During the day, with no frogs to work with at the lab, we set up all our things in our new lab for this part of the trip, the Radioecology Laboratory of the Chornobyl Centre. We organized all our tubes, dry shipper, cameras, and sampling material in our new space, ready and waiting for new frogs. This lab is really great, an amazing facility with plenty of space for doing our work.

We also used our time to visit several locations that look promising for having treefrogs South of Slavutych, in clean areas, with no radioactive contamination. We had a look at two different places, both really nice meadows with no human activity either, full of grassland birds and good conditions for having frogs, even one with a small beaver dam. We will return here today on our last day of frogging in Ukraine!!

During the night, together again with Sergey and Zenja, and the trusty Chinese 4×4 car, we moved to the East-Southeast of Slavutych trying to find treefrogs in areas never affected by the radioactive fallout. After driving for about 1h30, we arrived a two promising places, with plenty of water. That much water that we had to abandon one since we were not able to continue with our car.

We moved to a second location just to realize that I had forgot our head lamps in the lab, a disaster. Thanks to my spare headlamp and one from Jean-Marc we finally managed to have some light for looking for frogs, although not that much. Next, I saw that one of the waders we had had a hole in one leg, 100% guaranteed to get wet. Following the good recommendation of Sergey, and since the night was not cold, it was time for me to remove socks and trousers, saving them dry for later. It was my first experience of frogging with waders and underwear… Oh, well.

Fire-bellied toads were calling in big numbers, always a positive sign for finding treefrogs. After a long wait, surrounded by mosquitoes, the first treefrogs started to call all across a big flooded area, with some bushes and reeds. It was time to get into work. At the end, weather turned a bit colder than expected and frogs called for a short time. Anyway, we managed to catch 10 new frogs. I even caught two with my horrible, low-power, headlamp and leaking waders, pretty happy with that.

These frogs are really special for us. They will help us to compare them with the ones collected inside the Exclusion Zone, to use them as a reference of frogs living in areas never contaminated with radiation. Even more, a few of them will be used as the references for our genomic and transcriptomic studies. Really, really important, these clean frogs!!

This was also the last night that we had Sergey with us in the field for this time. He has to move back to the Exclusion Zone for more studies there, this time with birds. As always, it is a unique experience to share fieldwork with someone with the experience and knowledge of Sergey. Always and honor.

Our plan for today is to sample these frogs during the morning, and go to the field with Zenja. We will work again in totally clean areas, trying to increase our sampling size (and localities) of this kind of environment. This will be our last night of frog catching for the trip in Ukraine. So far, we have collected 100 frogs. How many we will catch today? What would be the grand total and the winner(s) of our game? Just a few hours to know!! Wish us luck!!