This post was created by Allison Lutz and edited by Chris Grant. Allison is a 2015 graduate of the Juniata Biology department. She is a co-author on one peer-reviewed journal publication and is lead author on a second, recently submitted publication from her senior thesis. Allison was recently accepted into a graduate program at Georgia Southern University set to begin this fall.
On the Road Again
Anticipation for the arrival of summer and ensuing field work on the Marcellus project had been building up to this week. We left for the first site at 8:00 in the morning and arrived at the top of the trail around 10:30. The first hike was down a trail and then across a log bridge through a verdant field of green ferns. We crossed a few smaller tributaries to Stone Run along the way to the exact sampling point. The hike went well and didn’t take much longer than 30 minutes. We then set up our equipment and started electrofishing the stream, however, as we are preparing to sample the stream we could hear the ominous sounds of thunder all around us-but we were spared a thorough soaking. We finished electrofishing and started to process fish but we realized we forgot anesthetic in the van…so I proceeded to hike back to the van to pick it up. Once I returned we processed all of the fish and everything went well considering a few new tasks when processing fish this year. We first anesthetized fish to take pictures for a morphometric component (which uses a computer software to measure parts of the fish for further analysis), then we collected the blood of the fish for later determination of endocrine disrupting contaminants, then a small piece of liver was collected for an RNA component, and finally a fin clip was taken for an ongoing population genetics component of the Marcellus project. The process requires a lot of hands and careful attention to what is going on at all times but it’s really fun to be a part of this process.
We then packed up for our hike out, and Brandon went down to the stream to release the fish we did not keep back to the stream. In the process, he knocked over a dead tree, and a small resident was forced out of his home, it was a flying squirrel! It posed for pictures and then we were on our way to the next stream.
We arrived at Coldstream and dark clouds were starting to roll in behind us, but we decided to head down to the site despite the moderate length hike to the stream. We made it down the hill and into the small hemlock forest that surrounds Coldstream, but we were not spared from the thunderstorm this time. We continued on to the sample point but it was pouring at that point so we could not begin electrofishing due to the danger of electrical shock from the electrofishing backpack (not to mention the danger of getting struck by lightning). We initially waited for enough breaks in the thunder to collect macroinvertebrates (which can be done in the rain) but every time we went to put on our waders the thunder decided to announce itself. We waited it out and eventually the rain slowed down (and the thunder stopped) enough for a quick photograph of the drenched researchers and then we began sampling.
We finished collecting fish and brought them back to process them under a makeshift rain coat tent strung across overhanging branches, which proved enough to keep out a lot of the rain. Even though we got soaked we still had a great time; nothing beats a day in the field even if it ends with everyone getting rained on. I hope you all stay tuned for the next blog post!