Finally, we are in Ukraine, ready for the start of our field work campaign in Chernobyl.
Early on Sunday, we flew from Asturias to Barcelona, and then took a second flight to Kiev, where we landed on the afternoon. No problems this time with our equipment, everything arrived, nothing lost in transit (as in previous years), nothing retained by customs. So, after getting some Ukrainian cash and SIM cards for our phones, we headed to our clasic first stop, the Boryspil Airport Hotel. First step completed.
Today is when everything starts. Our colleague, Sergey Gaschak will pick up us at the hotel in the morning and we will drive directly to the Exclusion Zone. We will have time to settle at our hostel in Chernobyl city, and prepare some things in the lab. All ready for the first night of frog catching. The weather looks perfect, sunny and earm, ideal for all the warm-loving species that are our objective. The plan for tonight is to go to the Azbuchyn lake, an area close to the nuclear power plant that we have visited every year since 2016. This area of marshes close to the Prypiat River is full of amphibians.
Our goal is to catch around 30 waterfrogs (Pelophylax esculentus + P. lessonae) for our study on genomic change and mutation accumulation using the old samples collected in 1987-1990 tat we have in the lab thanks to Glib Mazepa and Spartak Litvinchuck. Later in the lab, during the morning, we will identify the species (something tricky in this hybrid group) and took a sample for the analyses. On top of that, we would like to capture about 5 fire-bellied toads (Bombina bombina) for similar analyses, since we also have old samples from this species. And, finally, we would try to catch 10-20 Eastern treefrogs (Hyla orientalis) for a small test of color variation/plasticity to complement the coloration analyses we have done on previous years.
A pretty ambitious plan, with lot of sampling from multiple species, but we know that these species are pretty abundant in this place, so let’s see…
First of all, going for breakfast in our Kiev Zhotel and wait for Sergey for the 2-3 hour trip to the Exclusion Zone. Entry checking and let’s everything starts!!
With our Ukrainian SIM cards we will be able to send “live” pictures from the field through Twitter, so keep an eye there st the hashtag #ChernobylFrogs19. Let’s wait for what the night brings us!!