31 July 2007
That evening when I was doing dishes I realized the back of my hand hurt. On closer inspection I realized that rather larger brown blisters had developed all the way across the back of my hand. They looked like an infected burn. I racked my brain to think of when I might have burned them – I would have remembered if I had spilled something hot on them wouldn’t I? Ah, yes, then I remembered the pushki. The juices of this lovely plant contain a phototoxin, which with the interaction of sunlight, can create a chemical burn on the skin. Of course! And I had been brandishing through them all day, likely breaking more then a few leaves and letting the juices flow on a bright sunny day. The other disconcerting thing about pushki is that the burn can take about 4 hours to show up so you don’t realize your mistake right away.
As the blisters were infected I popped them with a sterile needle and then used a cotton swab to press out the infected liquid and mop it up. Then I put a pad of second skin across all of the burnt areas and wrapped it with tape. I got all kinds of questions all week about what kind of a fight I got into. Now it has healed enough to take the wrappings off but it is still an angry scarry red which looks rather like something large sunk it's teeth into my hand. I'm not sure how I only burned that portion of my hand and not more. I wonder if my swim in the lake may have helped as you can escape reaction if you can wash pushki off your skin before exposing yourself to sunlight. Thankfully DOG escaped it all together, an acquaintance's dog got in the stuff the same weekend and is intense pain, suffering full body burns.
28 July 2007
Did you know that in Canada this spray is called Bear Spray and in the US it is called pepper spray and that it is illegal to take pepper spray to Canada or bear spray to the US and it’s the exact same thing? I find this odd and it’s a pain in the rear if you are doing fieldwork across borders. Oh, and that pocket on Carhardt pants that is meant for your carpenter tools? It makes a great bear spray pocket. (See pic to right.)
And for those of you who will read this and then ask me what they should do if they see a black or grizzly (brown) bear may I recommend the DVD Staying Safe in Bear Country: A Behavior-Based Approach to Reducing Risk? This DVD is put together by the International Association for Bear Research and Management, in other words: bear scientists, and is excellent. I myself watch it every spring and use it in my bear safety training classes that I teach for seasonal employees new to bear country. I mention it because of a conversation I had with a police officer in Colorado who had just learned the "Whoa Bear!" shout and was talking about it like it was a new discovery & I realized that this information is not as available to the bear encountering public as much as I would like it to be. I promptly went out and purchased a copy as a gift for all of my backpacking friends.
27 July 2007
26 July 2007
1. I have used pepper spray effectively on a charging grizzly. I have also used it effectively against a pissed off mama moose. (And for the record, there are more moose attacks then bear attacks on people and they can be more deadly.)
Mama Moose outside my window this past winter
3. I sit on a yoga ball at the office which prompts comments from my colleagues along the lines of “I see you’re on the ball today” and jokes about how my boss can’t afford chairs because grant X didn’t come through.
4. I have never had a television & my movie-going has been limited to winters when I’m not in the field and when I’ve lived in towns big enough to have movie theatres. Thus, I do terribly at all the celebrity-themed games. I can tell you the seven different sub-species of wild turkey (a random fact retained from college) but I cannot tell you who played that part in movie X and likely I will only know the name of the movie if it was also a book.
5. l live in a house that is 20x30 feet (6x9 meters). I like this house quite a lot, particularly the fact that it has running water, a relatively new luxury for me. However, in a recent conversation with my grandmother she exclaimed “Out here we call that a shack!”.
6. I caught bubonic plague (aka the Black Death, you know, the one that wiped out half of Europe once) from a prairie dog bite once. Henceforth, I have always researched the zoonoses (diseases transferable between animals and humans) of my study species because the emergency room doctor just might not be familiar with the diseases that you could get from a sea lion bite.
Steller Sea Lion Bachelors
7. I bike commute to the office no matter the season. One of my sweet but slightly confused colleagues spends the winter trying to convince me to buy a vehicle because s/he thinks it is utterly impossible that I would ride by choice even though s/he knows I own a vehicle.
8. I am a compulsive walker because I go stir crazy if I don’t go for a walk at least once a day - even if I have to pace back and forth across the bow of a ship to get it.
The Alexandra - a Russian fishing vessel I have spent considerable time on
9. My dog is named after a Filipino noodle dish because yes, he is a noodle head as you would know if you ever met him despite the fact that he is roughly the size of a juvenile black bear. And I won’t use his real name here because it’s distinctive enough that anyone who saw it and knew me would know instantly who I am.
10. I have lived in 6 different countries (in alphabetical order: Canada, Germany, Ghana, Mexico, Russia, USA) and on the sovereign Navajo Nation. I have lived someplace where -60F (-51C) was a normal winter time temperature (ColdPlace). I have lived someplace where 130F (54.5C) was a normal summer time temperature (HotPlace). When I was living in ColdPlace I looked up HotPlace in an atlas to discover that the coldest temperature ever recorded in HotPlace was the hottest temperature ever recorded in ColdPlace!
Sleeping sea otter - 'Go away, I'm sleeping!'
25 July 2007
24 July 2007
This weekend my heart stood in my throat as I watched 4 bald eagles swoop down mercilessly on two baby merganser chicks (they're a type of duck) on the tidal flats. The mergansers were running so fast their bodies barely touched the water. I didn’t get in the way but I was rooting for those chicks. Get away they did, to my relief. I’m not usually such a bleeding heart about the natural way of things, but I couldn’t help myself this time. It’s just that I know those eagles have been gorging on rotten salmon carcasses and the leftovers from the fish processing and they weren’t really hungry and those poor little birds were too young to fly away yet. It is my belief that those eagles were just playing – they were fat and feeling lazy but there’s nothing like some small thing running to trigger their predator reaction.
23 July 2007
Despite the wetness, we were rewarded at the end of our survey with our last two sites being quite close up to this massive calving glacier. The boom of ice calving off it in chunks reverberated through the landscape creating distinctive wakes. It is awe inspiring to be in the presence of a calving glacier in the absence of human made sounds. It is humbling to watch geology in action. Chunks of ice larger than our boat crashed down & we kept our eye out for nearby icebergs – these have a tendency to roll and we didn’t want one rolling over on top of us. After we pulled up the last of the equipment we stood rain soaked on the deck, watching the glacier calve amongst the harbor seals hauled out on bergs and sea otters floating along past, tucked up in sleep.
20 July 2007
19 July 2007
I’m doing my best to corrupt my niece into really looking at and exploring the world around her and I must say she follows my lead admirably. We spent hours near the docks watching the boat hands clean salmon & halibut. We looked at birds and listened to the cry of the murres (sea birds) nesting on the cliffs and the roar of sea lions on a bachelor haul out. We watched a sea otter groom itself and she asked me to repeat why sea otters have such fine fur (because they don’t have blubber like all those other marine mammals and it’s the only thing between them and the ocean). We picked up shells and rocks and sticks on our walks. On one walk she asked “Why do we have to be quiet?” and she learned that on the contrary, when in bear and moose country it’s best not to be quiet so you don’t surprise one. So every walk we took you could hear her cheerfully announce “Hi Bears! Hi Mooses!”. She got her first chance to look through binoculars (they’re so much fun when you look through the wrong end!) and peered at seaweed through a magnifying glass. She’s smart, she knows that there are no penguins in the north and that I’ve never lived in an igloo and that I don’t have to worry about polar bears roaming the streets. Which is a lot more then some of her fellow country persons know if my last trip “Outside” (i.e. Outside of Alaska) is any indication.
18 July 2007
Needless to say it did not help my cause that we had in this time, two emergency visits to the vet, that I broke up (maybe?) with the guy I was seeing, that the weather cleared last minute and I had to go fly aerial surveys at uncomfortable hours of the day, that my supervisor announced that I was getting an intern the very day she was arriving, the fact that we have a new family member (CAT, the kitten who followed my niece home), nor the fact that I was worrying about our Russian field crew’s ability to leave the field as scheduled due to the volcanic eruption I posted about yesterday.
I know, you thought I had just started this blog and then I had already abandoned it.
17 July 2007
09 July 2007
I have a clock in my bathroom that symbolizes this for me. It was a gift from a politician from the year I was an exchange student in Germany my 11th grade year in school. This clock is both a reminder of a life changing experience in my life and of the most important lesson I learned while on exchange: that differences can be enriching, can widen the mind, and that the way we are used to doing things is not necessarily the “right” way. Why? Because it runs the other way around. Did you know that clockwise did not always mean turning to the right or east? Before clocks were standardized, the clocks in Bavaria (Germany) went the other way around and the numbers ran the opposite of what we are used to. My clock is just such a clock. Don’t tell the Bavarians that it runs backwards, it just runs a different way. Having this clock reminds me too, that sometimes it is good to look at things from a different direction, to stretch ourselves in a way that wouldn’t have occurred to us, to get off the well beaten path.