Sea of complexity

by Britta Voss
Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter C: condensation, coffee, chutney, contrafibularities, and clogged filters.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that field research is dictated by Murphy’s Law. No matter how well [you think] you’ve prepared, reality will do its best to throw a wrench in things. This is why we spent the better part of the last two days tinkering with malfunctioning batteries, in line at the customer service counter of Canadian Tire, rescuing chemicals from waste disposal, and on the phone with customs brokers. Fortunately, despite the fact that none of the supplies we shipped for our sampling have arrived yet, our collaborators at UFV were ready and eager to provide their time and supplies to get some science done this morning. We got to watch new and seasoned members of the time series team try out the recently expanded sampling procedure at Fort Langley. Working together like a well-oiled machine, the students split into teams, leading each other in a variety of new and familiar techniques. Over the past year and a half, small groups of students have visited Fort Langley monthly to weekly to collect samples for nutrient and major ion concentrations and strontium isotopes. We can’t overestimate the value of the dataset that this has generated; the temporal resolution and sustained presence of this work is unprecedented and would not be possible without the commitment and enthusiasm of the UFV students and their faculty mentors. This year’s hydrograph is very different from last year’s, so we can’t wait to see what these samples will reveal the second time around!


With a little luck, today we will be able to get going on our tributary sampling and will end the day at the mouth of the Fraser Canyon. And with even more luck, our first encounter with frigid waters will be on the banks of the river, rather than under the shower faucet at the hotel (although I am interested in opportunities to earn honorary Greenland Points). Our fate may rest equally tenuously in the gloved hands of certain athletes vying for a chance at the Stanley Cup. If the Bruins win Friday’s playoff game, pitting Boston against Vancouver in the final next week, we may soon need to hide our Massachusetts roots when meeting locals in B.C. Perhaps science can be a force for unity in a world torn apart by professional sports.

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