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23 May 2018

That’s all. Last night was our last time in the ponds collecting frogs for our #ChernobylFrogs18 campaign. And was, again, a successful night. Every single night, except the first one, we have managed to collect frogs. That’s quite remarkable. And although we have caught not as many frogs as we wanted (as always), we can say now that the trip has been extremely successful!!

We started the day in the lab, sampling our frogs from last night, the first outside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. These ten frogs are really important as they will represent our reference for individuals living in areas not affected by radiation. They are our baseline to which to compare the individuals from high, medium and low contamination areas that we collected the previous days, and the previous years since the start of the project in 2016.

It took us quite some time to process these frogs, in particular the last two ones for which we took additional samples to be used as references in our genomic and transcriptomic studies. With these frogs we have sampled already 100 individuals, about 1400 criovials, and 88 successful blood profiles with the iSTAT analyzer. This will keep us busy from quite some time, no doubt…

On the afternoon, we moved to an area of flooded meadows near Slavutych trying to catch the last frog from the campaign. This time we did not use our trusty Chinese car (“the tank”) but a legend of Chernobyl research, a car that has accumulated more than 800.000 kilometers (“the crocodile”, as Kat Raines named). That’s more than going to the moon and back!!!

Once again, we arrived with plenty of time to the field, a really nice place full of flowers and birds, and with plenty of fire-bellied toads calling in the distance. It was also time to be surrounded one more night by masses and masses of mosquitoes. But it allows us to see the area and plenty of beautiful iris!!

We walked and waited, and walked and waited… Until, with the last light of the day disappearing, we heard the first treefrog call. Not too may it seemed, not too active, but probably enough to use it as our final locality and final frogs of the year. We moved into the ponds, and indeed it was clear that we will need to move up and down, here and there, if we wanted to have some frogs… And that we did. It took us almost two hours to catch some frogs, until all calling activity stopped. That’s it, these are the last frogs of the trip.

Same as in the previous night, these frogs live in a clean area, a place that was not affected by the radioactive fallout in 1986, and will be part of our baseline, our reference to compare them with the Chernobyl frogs. Really precious frogs indeed!!!

By the way, for the people participating in our “Chernobyl Frogs Game”, how many frogs did we caught last night? What is it the grand total? Well, we will just keep a bit the suspense, until the next post, ok?

The plan for today is to sample these frogs during the day here in Slavutych, pack all our field and lab stuff, and get ready to travel back to Kiev on Friday morning for our flights back home. People here start to be really tired of the hard work and the constant fiel-lab routine every day. Time to get back and get some rest.

Have a nice day!!