My time working the visitors center this past weekend wasn’t very exciting. I’m scheduled to have Sunday through Tuesday off, and I took advantage of Sunday and Monday to take care of chores and errands. Pretty boring, except my visit to Mr. Smith for some more homegrown tomatoes. It’s always interesting to go to his place. He was looking a little more disheveled than usual, although I noted that this was the first time I had ever seen him wearing something on the upper half of his torso. With temps only rising into the 50’s, he actually had a fleece jacket draped over his shoulders. I was astounded.
He did ask me if I thought he needed a haircut. Well, I’ve always thought he looked like the Wild Man from Borneo, but he was a little more wild looking than usual, so I said, “That wouldn’t be a bad idea.” Wish I had gotten a picture of him. I did wonder though if he puts on a regular pair of pants and a shirt when he goes to town. Guess I’ll never know.
Today was another scheduled day off, but then I heard Gina, the bio-tech brown shirt, needed help with water testing of several lakes. What a choice… a day off or another adventure. I’m sure you know what I chose.
Bridget and I got outfitted in life vests and hip waders, and we were off! How about that fashion statement?It was a chilly morning, and I later wished I had at least worn my wind breaker over my sweatshirt. I’m not as tough of a Minnesotan as I used to be.
First up for testing was Waboose Lake. Gina backed the boat into the lake, and Bridget held onto the rope so the boat wouldn’t float away. As oldest on this three woman team, I felt it was best if I documented our adventure and supervised the unloading and loading of the boat.
Things went well until Bridget slipped and fell down. By golly, she didn’t let go of that rope though!
Once she regained her decorum, we successfully made it out onto the lake to do our testing. Bridget did the recording.
Gina did the driving of the boat, while I manned the anchor and helped with the water samples. That’s a GPS in her hand to find the exact location of the deepest spot in each of the five lakes we surveyed today. It was a surprise to me to find out that the deepest of the lakes was only 16 feet deep, and one of the lakes only had a depth of 7 feet at its deepest point.
After tying the anchor off, Gina would insert a two meter long PVC tube into the water to get a water sample. When the tube filled up, she would cap the top, pull it up almost to the surface, then cap the bottom with one of those rubber sink stoppers. I would hold a brown glass jar to receive the water and catch it in the rocking boat. That first sample is used to swish around in the jar and dump out. Then another sample is put into the brown jar.
The second sample is then put into two different small bottles. Bottle one receives a dose of cyanide (I think) to kill any bacteria, and the second one is just capped untreated. Then a third sample is taken to just fill the brown glass jar. All of these samples are put into an iced cooler to take to the lab for analysis.
Then a Sonde monitoring device (costing $10,000) is immersed into the water at several different depths to measure water temperature, ph, and turbidity among other things. Bridget recorded all of those readings.
Lastly, Gina lowers a Secchi which is essentially a white metal circle with a measuring tape attached to it. As she lowers the disk, she watches to see how far down into the water she can see it for water clarity, and then sends it to the bottom to record the depth of the lake. With global warming, acid rain, and everything else, I’m sure these readings help analyze the health of our northern lakes and effect management policies. All of these procedures were done at each of the five lakes we visited today.
This was our departure point to get onto Upper Egg Lake, and I was especially excited to travel through the bed of wild rice to finally see this plant up close. All that green surrounding the lily pads is wild rice.
As we made our way through it, I bent over some stalks to try to get a picture. It’s not the best as my little point and shoot focused on the oars instead of the rice stalks, but I hope you’ll get the idea. The Ashinabe, Chippewa, Ojibwa, will soon be coming to the refuge to harvest some of this rice in their traditional manner. I’m hoping I’ll be able to witness this traditional custom. As Gina paddled through the rice, I had a feeling of great reverence for the importance of this food source for wildlife and our native peoples.
What a glorious time I had finally getting out on Waboose, Upper Egg, Lost, South Tamarac, and Pine Lakes today. In between taking samples, the three of us had quite a discussion about involving volunteers in more than just mundane tasks. Gina gets it. She enjoys having volunteers help her with this task. We may be older and a bit slower, but we have experience and a good work ethic. Can you imagine doing all the unloading and loading of the boat, sample taking, recording, etc.. by yourself? I’m sure we were a help today.
I wish more brown shirts understood that experiences like today are what volunteers remember from their stays at the various refuges. Today, along with brown pelican banding at Pea Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, or helping to trap and band cranes at Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge, or doing salinity testing in an air boat on Anahuac Refuge are the things that are etched into my memory bank. I could name several more. We willingly give of our time, but cherish those once in a lifetime experiences. There is really no one experience working in a VC or doing office work or mowing that stands out in my memory. Enough said…
Well, I certainly have babbled on this evening in what surely must be my wordiest post. Sorry about that, but I have one more thing to remember from today. Pine Lake was the last lake we did testing on today, and as we headed out from the launch I saw the green rope that is used to hold onto the boat on launch slide into the water. I shouted to stop the engine so it wouldn’t get caught in the prop. (I had forgotten that it was securely tied to the front of the boat.) Bridget flopped down to grab it, and for the second time today I got to see her:
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy