Thursday, July 23, 2009

3 Day Weekend Commencing!

Yesterday and today passed like a blur! Hard to believe I've been in Hawaii for a month and a half now... crazy. Only one month more, and I still feel like there's so much to do!

Wednesday was a lab day, as always, but this week I ended up sorting the Berlese funnels rather than the insects from the Malaise traps. Berlese funnels work by placing litter (leaves, branches, etc… from the forest floor) onto a wire mesh inside the cloth frame. It’s then placed beneath a lightbult, which dries out the litter and causes all the little bugs to dry up and fall through the mesh, where they’re caught in a vial with ethanol. Then this vial is removed and we can see what kind of bugs were inside the litter, and by extension the forest floor!

There’s 3 major steps to working with the Berlese funnels:
1. Removed the two-week-old vials from the funnel and put the contents into scintillation vials (see photo). Label everything! And then remove the litter into a paper bag.
2. Move last week’s samples from the right side of the frame to the left side. First remove the vial, then pick up the funnel and sift through the dirt to break up any chunks of litter that are still wet. These should be exposed for the 2nd week of drying. Make sure to catch all the little dirt bits that fall through the mesh, and then replace them into the funnel before moving it to the right side of the frame. Then replace the vial, adding more ethanol if you have a really juicy sample.
3. Place the new litter samples into the recently emptied funnels. Label the funnel, the vial, and the litter itself by leaving in its identification tag. Make sure all the lightbulbs are functioning!

So that’s what I did for about 5 hours, and then spent the next couple hours weighing the leaves and branches from the branch clipping samples. When Devin and Tad arrived, we sorted through their branch clippings and were done for the day!

I went to the beach after work and it was really pretty out. There are some crazy people who like to swim even when the water is rough. Good for them!

Today, Jake and I spent about 4 hours collecting rat tunnel tracking cards. It was pretty uneventful, although we were driving a Ford 250, which is the largest truck I’ve ever been in. I could barely get into the car, it was so tall! Totally unnecessary for our work, but we needed a car so we took what we could get.

Then we spent about 5 hours separating branches and leaves. Not too exciting, but I put my iPod on shuffle and was really impressed with the playlist that resulted. That’s the nice thing about having a small mp3 player – I have to carefully choose what goes on it, so I like all the songs!

Now I’m going to watch Watchmen. Should be fun, I’ve heard really good things about it! And no work tomorrow since we’ve already put in a solid 40 hours this week. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my day off... maybe just have a leisurely day at the beach! Word on the street is that there’s a ziplining place north of Hilo, so I hope to check that out at some point.

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