Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Two days in the life of a Scientist

These past two days I have been the “unpaid field crew” for my husband as he travels to Louisiana in search of oil affected sites.  His National Science Foundation grant is to study the effects of the oil and dispersants on populations of Louisiana Irises.  SO…..we have come down to search out possible field sites.

Yesterday, we left Athens, GA at 5am and headed South.  When we reached Mississippi, Michael wanted to check out a site that one of his students had found several years ago.  So, we left the main highway and started driving along a small road looking for Irises.  We found some and Michael got out of the truck to check them out.  After a few minutes, he called me and said for me to drive the truck down the road to meet him.  WRONG……the truck wouldn’t start!!! 

Thankfully, we had a GPS with us and were able to look for auto repair shops in the area.  The first one that we called said that they didn’t do road service, but that they weren’t busy at the moment and he would send someone out to jump off the battery in case that was the problem.  Thankfully, that was the only thing wrong, so after 1-1/2 hours we were back on the road again.

Our next stop was to travel south along a tiny road that led onto Lake Pontchartrain.   Michael said “lets not go any further because there aren’t any Irises here”, and almost immediately I saw a big clump.  As we went further, we found several more stands along this quarter of a mile section of road.  These aren’t necessarily good for the oil work, but it gave us a chance to learn how to use the new GPS/Data Collection equipment.

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While we were on the road, an officer from the Louisiana Wildlife Service drove by and he stopped and talked for a while.  He suggested that we visit the National Wildlife office and told us how to get there.  He also suggested a couple of other sites that we should visit.  Next stop was to the National office where we met a very nice officer who requested a written proposal that could be given to the head person. ….we will see if anything comes out of this contact.

On Wednesday, we headed to the Breton Sound Staging Area which is a huge operation for keeping the oil out of the marshes.  There were Marines, Coast Guard, Local Troopers and hundreds of civilians moving around the post.  We went inside to get a visitor’s badge and were told that I would have to change into long pants before I could enter the area, so we had to drive back about 25 miles to a Walmart so that I could buy a pair of jeans.  

When we returned, we were told that all of the “Big Bosses” were in a "hurricane-preparedness” meeting and we would have to wait.  As we sat there, a woman named Lenore introduced herself and said that she had property not far from this area and that we could possibly use it as a site.  Also, she got us in to see the “Colonel” who is the Deputy Director of the site.  He got straight to the point and we fairly quickly decided that the areas that he was commanding were not the best places to transplant the Irises.  However, he did take us into the command center and showed us some photos of the area.   I am very much the “technophile" and I loved seeing all of the computers, streaming satellite images and other paraphernalia.

The funniest event of the day was that the Colonel was telling us about the “toothpick” cleaning where they use a stream of water to force the oil back out of the marshes.  After  he said “toothpick” several times, one of the techies said “you mean WATERpik”.  Is it really good to question a Colonel…..they may never find the body in all of that marsh land!!!!

As we were leaving, Lenore told us that she could give us the name of the man that owned the property as well.  Michael talked to him and now we are meeting him in the morning!!!!    Who knows what tomorrow will bring!!!

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