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24 May 2018

Our last day of work in Ukraine for this season. After almost two weeks working here, it was time for us to finish sampling the last frogs and pack all our equipment. We are ready now for going back to Kiev and to our research centers in Sweden and France. All the samples collected here. Together with the ones collected in 2016 and 2017, they will keep us busy for a very long time.

During the morning, we worked in the lab as usual, sampling the 9 frogs collected the previous night in a clean locality close to Slavutych. We used one of these frogs for a full sampling of tissues with the idea of joining the two from last day as references for our genomic and transcriptomic studies. We also run our last blood samples on our analyzer, for a total of about 100 samples during the campaign, including some in duplicate to test the reliability of the machine. This has been something new for this year, and something that has worked incredibly well!!

Everything was finished for lunchtime. All frogs sampled, all material clean, all vials stored in our dry shipper full of liquid nitrogen for now. Back from lunch, it was time to carefully pack all our sampling material, the camera, iSTAT, boxes of non freeze samples (sperm, bone for skeletochronology) and blood smears for immunological studies. Some of these things will go with Pablo and me back to Uppsala, and some with Jean-Marc to France, together with the shipper. In a few days, Jean-Marc will travel with quite a few of these frozen samples to Uppsala, so we can start to work with them quickly.

Everything was ready pretty soon. It was also time to announce the winner of our “Chernobyl Frogs 2018: The Game”. It has been funny, especially during the last days, to see how close or far people was for the real number of frogs. Many, including ourselves, were too optimistic suggesting numbers well over 150 frogs… At the end, the total number of frogs collected in the trip was 109. And the winner, Claire Keeley, predicting 107, really, really close!! Also very close were Martina Ferraguti (104) and Rafael Gutierrez (103), with just a bit too few, and Jesús Orizaola (117) and Katja Guschanski (117), with just a bit too many. Well done everyone!! And thanks for participating!! The photo will be going to Claire very soon!!

Time to leave the Slavutych lab for the last time. Tomorrow we will pass by here to put all this material in our van, and drive to Kiev-Boryspol airport. Jean-Marc will be the first one departing at 5:30 PM, then it will be time for Pablo and me to fly to Sweden at 8:30 PM. The idea is to leave Slavutych with plenty of time, we have ahead bumpy roads, possible traffic jams, airport bureaucracy for exporting the samples, and we need to be ready for the usual complications with our dry shipper (hopefully not as many as last year). Luckily, we will have people from the Chornobyl Center helping us with the paperwork. Fingers crossed for good trips for us, and our samples!! One more day here, the last of our work in Ukraine. Time to get back home with the family, and back to the working routines. Tomorrow, last daily dispatch from the field!!