12 March 2009

We say Farewell to Three of our Team Members

08 March 2009 -- Composed from the back of my F250 truck

Image: The jug up to Cliff Cave. Michael is leading and Kyle is the belay. Credit: John Cassidy.

Tama, Ty and I went to River Styx Cave for the morning. Ty's objective was to pull microclimate data, opportunistic collecting and deploying traps. Tama and I split up in the cave and searched for arthropods. This is a massive cave (with over 3000 foot of passage). Based upon our baseline work in this cave, I am tentatively suggesting that life in this cave will be restricted to around the entrance. I also deployed 16 volcano traps. We are testing a new sampling technique for this cave. Because this cave is prestine and lacks a friable strata, we had to come up with an alternative for deploying traps. The volcano traps seem to be the best way to do this. We'll see how this goes.

Image: The volcano traps (aka Madonna Cone traps) deployed in River Styx Cave. Image: Kyle Voyles.

Once we were done with this cave, I deployed the Anabat in the entrance and we hiked back to base camp.

Image: Deploying the Madonna Cone traps in River Styx Cave. Credit: Ty Spatta.

We learned another valuable lesson about fieldwork. Alcohol (as well as water) and electronics don’t mix. Tama accidentally broke a specimen vial filled with alcohol in a bag that contained a hand-held radio. From now on, standard operating procedures will dictate that we will not mix water/ alcohol vials with electronics. If these are contained within the same bag, all electronics will have to be in waterproof bags and/ or pelican cases.

Image: Just one of the thousands of "pretties" from River Styx Cave. Credit: Ty Spatta.

Kyle led Michael and John Cassidy up to Cliff Cave. This involves jugging 60 ft up a rope to get to the entrance. They met their objectives for the day. They mapped the cave, and deployed pitfall traps and searched for arthropods.

Image: Tama posing for a photo between hunting for cave bugs. Credit: Ty Spatta.

Once the team was done, Michael and the Cassidy’s departed and returned to civilization. They were very helpful and greatly assisted in the success of this project thus far. They have been a lot of fun in the field.

Kyle, Ty and I were out of food. So, the core team hiked back to the truck. We went through all of the gear and identified everything that was no longer needed in the field. We packed up all our non-essential gear and hiked it out. We made good time getting out of the canyon.

Image: Kyle and I discussing the day. Credit: Ty Spatta.

I was really looking forward to the climb up the big spine to get back to the trucks. I asked the team if they minded if I plowed forward, and I hiked the spine fast. I treated it as a meditation and with 50 lbs on my back I made really good time. It felt great to breath hard, feel the heart beating fast and the blood coursing through my veins. However, if felt even better to wash my hair and sponge down. Four days without a shower and living in very dusty conditions can often leave a lot to be desired.

Image: Rather old bat skeleton from River Styx Cave.

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