Peepin’ the Peepers!

This week team Z started at Fond du Lac learning how to use fish as a proxy for water quality. We suited up in waders, equipt with nets, and walked through some thick vegetation to get to our survey sites in Fond du Lac streams. We employed the technique called electroshocking to stun fish, identify and mark their occurrence, and allow them to recover downstream. I noticed that many streams are dominated by one species of fish and usually they are species that are tolerant to many and even poor conditions in streams, generalists. Species like Brook Trout are good indicators of clean, unpolluted waters. We saw some Brook Trout in a couple streams that we surveyed!

Me holding a 10 in Brook Trout in a beautiful stream that we sampled.

The second half of the week was spent in the lab and research farm. We pulled out our peepers this week and had fun extracting the pore water samples. Our experience at the farm caught the attention of local news outlets and we were featured in videos and articles.

At the research farm the day that the media came. I’m extracting water samples using a syringe, poking through a bag filled with nitrogen with the peepers to keep the sample anoxic. Gage is coordinating the sample tubes, Matt is weighing samples and retrieving peepers, and Arianna is taking pH measurements.

Back in the lab we used a spectrophotometer to measure the amount of sulfide and iron in our samples and collected additional data with our samples.

Matt and I using the spectrophotometer.

This coming week we will do data entry and analyze the peeper data!

Week 4 and the 4th!

During this short week, I got to help with aspects of Arianna, Gage, and Matt’s projects while I wait to remove the peepers that I need for my data next week. I learned a lot about the methods that my lab partners are using and their cool projects. For instance, sharpie ink and organic matter will vaporize in a nearly 500°C oven!

Helping Gage set up rhizotrons by coating binder clips with Flex Seal ®. Highly recommend. #notsponsored

During the long weekend I worked on some writing including my abstract and SACNAS application. I got to discover a little bit more of the area, watched some movies, and spent some time in nature. Can’t wait for data collection next week!

Rocky beach on Lake Superior!

First Week in the Field with Goats and Snails!

Most of the week was spent at Fond du Lac where we got Ojibwe history lessons, an understanding of the contemporary environmental issues that affect the tribe, and got our feet wet in the field helping with invasive species removal!

I learned that over 1000 years ago the brothers and sisters of my Lenni-Lenape ancestors traveled westward to escape the prophesied threat of the white race, preserve heir culture, and to find the place where food grew up out of the water, manoomin. The Anishinaabeg people stopped 7 times to settle over their journey. Their 6th stop was here, on Spirit Island, where they first found manoomin. The people who settled here 100s of years ago are now the Ojibwe and I’m honored to learn about their culture, traditional food, and how they continue to care for their beautiful land.
One of the land management practices that the tribe is experimenting with is to use goats as a means to remove invasive plant species like buckthorn, a tough woody plant that outcompetes native plant species. We got to see the goats do what they do best, EAT EVERYTHING, and learn how these practices are a work in progress and require trial and error.
Another invasive is Chinese mystery snails which have a air tight operculum which prevents desiccation for up to 5 days making them a very robust species and tough species to eradicate. However, the tribe’s goal is not to eradicate the species from their waters, instead they want to achieve balance. Collecting them is the best way to reduce their numbers and impact on these lakes. We ended up collecting about 25 lbs of snails in a couple hours in an area that had been picked through 2 times prior! The impacts of these snails are still not well understood… I guess they live up to their name.

Beyond the Rhizons: Week 2

This week the Zaaga’igan team and I have become familiar with some methods and processes in the lab and have solidified our research questions. I will be focusing on how sulfates and iron affect algal blooms in water in which manoomin (wild rice) grows. To measure the chemical composition of the water, we take water samples using devices called peepers and rhizons. Peepers are plastic chambers that have 4 wells that capture water through filter paper. 3 of the wells are placed in the sediment and 1 is in the surface water of the experimental tanks at the research farm. Rhizons are similar to straws in that they suck up pore water (water in between sediment grains) into vacuumed glass bottles which create negative pressure.

This week this member of the columbidae family has caused a lot of controversy and has split the team up. Matt thinks this is an albino pigeon but I argue that it is a released white dove which is a rock pigeon bred to be leucistic. There is a big difference obviously. Are you on team Tori or Matt??

For fun this week the lab went to a trendy taco arcade, had a bonfire with many dogs, and played trivia at Pizza Luce! It was a lot of fun and a great way to end the week!

This week has been a little tough for me personally. After almost a decade of chronic kidney failure, my dad received a call from Mayo Clinic on Sunday saying that they were offering him a kidney from someone who recently passed in New York. They had to operate the next day. I was nervous all of Monday morning and afternoon but got news that his surgery was successful and the kidney began functioning after a few hours. It felt like things were finally changing. I told my dad that I felt good about about everything as my intuition is usually right. But the risk of rejection is still high.

Yesterday I got a call from Mayo that my dad had internal bleeding, he was in pain, and his kidney stopped functioning. They did an emergency operation which was successful in removing the hematoma. Today his kidney began functioning again… I really hope that he doesn’t lose his second chance. I’m still optimistic about it but it will continue to be on my mind for the next couple weeks during his recovery.

Hello, Goodbye Montana

It’s amazing to think that just a week ago I was in Okoboji Iowa where I spent a month getting to know new people and building stronger connections with many familiar faces. I had an amazing time there, on the “Iowa Great Lakes”, but I remember thinking about and feeling how comfortable I was. Few times in my life have I left Iowa, a banal locus of comfort and contentment. I was excited to travel over 1,000 miles to a unfamiliar land of bears, cougars, and mountain goats!

I was greeted at the airport with this sign. Looking out the window, I saw the mountains in the distance like a old movie set. I excitedly took pictures not knowing how beautiful the park was going to be.
This is the first group photo we took entering the park. We didn’t know each other’s names yet. I was also having an allergy attack, a nose bleed, and has half deaf from the plane :D.

Evening field trip to Goat’s Lick. There were beautiful views and got to watch mountain goats with their kids climb the rocky terrain.

Waking up early to go fishing with new friends! This was the first time I have fished since I was in elementary school.
The end of our trip. After spending a week with each other we began to understand why each of us are here, our unique qualities, and formed inside jokes. There is a huge difference between the picture we took in front of this sign at the beginning and end of the week! (Check out the park ranger in the back ready to shoo us off).

I had amazing time experiencing the beauty of the park and getting to know everybody! We are all from different places and have different backgrounds, but we are all here for a reason and have more in common than not. I really appreciated this introduction to the next couple of months! I am excited for everything to come. I can’t wait to be reunited with everyone again!