Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day 18

It’s the day after the 4th of July so everything seemed to be running slow. I met a friend out at the local YMCA for a swim to get the morning going but even then I seemed to move slowly through the water. Even so, the weather has been so oppressively hot with thick humidity that the warmer than average water still felt cool and refreshing. According to the National Weather Service today’s temperatures were the hottest recorded temperatures in Chicago. I wouldn’t be inclined to differ.

My morning at the Indiana Dunes USGS office started off late. When I arrived the team hadn’t been out yet and they had a look as warn as I felt. We went out as a team into the Miller Woods in search of Karner Blue Butterflies to capture for genomic testing. I have to admit, it was fun to wonder around the woods almost as children in search of treasure. The team was joined by a ranger who has been doing this work for some time. Using an eastern swallowtail butterfly as an example, he showed us how to take the sample for genetic testing without injuring the test subject. It was a difficult procedure complicated by the tiny, delicate nature of the test subject. Everyone watched with baited breath hoping that a poorly times sneeze or unavoidable twitch wouldn’t spell the crumpled fate of the tiny butterfly. Instead, Randy handled the task with ease as though it had been orchestrated by a micro-surgeon.  Each of the 3 women on the team took a turn capturing a sample subject and giving their hand a try at the micro-surgery under the instruction of our team expert.  Although not all were successful in gathering the sample required for genomic testing, no butterflies were injured in the process.  

In the heat of the afternoon the team had given up the search for our illusive treasure and had begun to pack in for the trip back to headquarters when one of Randy ‘s team members came in with a hopeful smile and a net of treasure.  Randy and Ralph looked it over and confirmed the loot was genuine treasure. Randy swiftly moved into action and mechanically began the steps of processing the tiny karner blue butterfly. Ralph joked, only 29 more! It was supposed to be the practice that 30 karners would be sampled at each site. Randy finished collecting the genomic testing process and scampered back into the woods to release it at the location where it had been captured. Just as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. We had baked out in the sun for hours for a moment that had lasted a maximum of sixty seconds to collect data that would link generations and potentially entire populations of butterflies. I would say it was well worth the wait.

The ride back to HQ was quiet. Everyone fought to stay away and most lost. When we returned, everyone paused for fresh ice water, a slice of Ralph’s homemade bread, and a hunk of watermelon chilled from its stay in the refrigerator. Before I knew it, everyone was up and at it again, working on the karner mating cages in the small green house attached to HQ.  I had been taping interviews throughout the day out in the field and I finished up with Noel Pavlovic.

Tanya asked for an extension and tomorrow I’ll work on the data collection footage that I missed today. I enjoyed the time out in the field today, especially since we went to a location pretty much exactly where I was stationed last year. I enjoyed being there again for a new purpose.

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