Sunday, August 12, 2007

walk in the woods

This morning, I have a strong sense of deja-vu. Probably because I'm sitting at a table in the Staff House at Blodgett Forest, drinking tea and watching the squirrels play. And getting ready for Day 2 of setup for the field campaign. This is where I spent most of graduate school. It's eerily similar: an unknown and relatively unfinished, very expensive instrument that I feel completely unqualified to run, on the top of a tower in the middle of ponderosa pine forest. But this time I feel a lot less confused, and whether or not I'm qualified to make the decisions, I'm more willing to make them. And I'm surrounded by an absolutely fabulous group of other people - grad students, post-docs and PIs from all over the country. Everyone is willing to help everyone else out (the way of atmospheric chemistry, I think), and I'm pretty excited about the next six weeks!

It is a beautiful moment of silence though - the first person up in my house (possibly the station, though I doubt that - foresters are early risers), and as the sun rises, the quality of the light in the trees has steadily shifted to more and more spots on the forest floor.So I am enjoying this brief respite before the insanity of a field campaigns starts up again. It seems perfect for me to maintain the patience required to deal with the station's internet. (slower than most places in the Ukraine. And that's saying a lot.)

We arrived in on Friday - greeted at the rental car place by the irony of two chemists out to study air pollution being asked if we wanted to upgrade our compact to an SUV. No we did not. Did we want the SUV for no extra charge, then? No. Well, actually, it's the only car you can get, so here are the keys to the SUV. Oh, the shame... When we arrived, we discovered that our SUV was actually one of the smaller ones that people were forced to get from the rental car agencies. At least now we're all car pooling and hauling equipment with them,so it's *slightly* more justified.

But on the drive up (as we sat in Friday afternoon Sacramento traffic), we briefly heard on the radio one of the most ridiculous songs I've ever heard - the Black Eyed Peas singing over and over "I got it from my momma - I got it from my momma". That kept us amused for most of the drive out to Blodgett. I was pretty excited when I heard it again yesterday afternoon in one of the field site to field station transits. Especially when I found out that the next line was something along the lines "so hot it's like a sauna". Absolutely ridiculous.

Yesterday, we took our safety training (learned how to use the radios to communicate with the logging company that owns the land our field site is on, heard about the dangers of hanta virus and lyme disease and all that good stuff - though I don't know if I buy the 'best way to remove a tick is to pull it straight out - I wouldn't want to leave any in - but hopefully I won't have to deal with that one!). We started moving our equipment out to the site, which was a challenge. Then we tried to set up our inlet. I learned that trying to arrange ~70 feet of copper tubing is perhaps more challenging that initially thought.

Yesterday's drama was centered around the top of the tower - and the fact that the floor slats slip and slide. (don't worry mom, we'll be careful. we even took a safety video about scaffolding and learned all sorts of useful tidbits like 'don't work on metal scaffolding during electrical storms' and 'if in doubt, ask a Competent Person'). And literally have the texture of a cheese grater. Needless to say, I didn't think about this when I was sitting down arranging our equipment, and slid over to grab a wrench. And tore a massive hole in the back of my (only pair) of shorts. Bring on the duct tape.