Tag Archive: environment


Well, in the beginning, we really had no idea what we were doing. At least not as it related to surveying. We understood the basic principle but hadn’t really done it right in the field. John wanted to survey a particular stream that he had worked on for another project. Can’t say the name here so we will call it Moon Bay.

John was in a very good mood (at least for now). We parked, and proceeded to the stream to find a reach to survey that represented the “natural” system. Funny thing about Florida, there probably aren’t any truly natural systems left. It’s actually a sad thing. You go miles into the wilderness and voila’ there’s a balloon on a nylon ribbon – deflated and sad-looking – ruining the wildness – making fun of it.

Anyway, John found what he wanted and we began moving up and down the system flagging each place for survey. John has a back issue sometimes. We were ducking under a lot of trees that had fallen over the stream in the last big round of hurricanes in 2004. He began to lose his sense of humor – this same sense of humor which has us in stitches most of the time.

We finished flagging the reach and went to get the survey equipment. Kristen and I had practiced and thought we pretty much knew what to do. We set up our temporary benchmarks (we are not surveyors so it’s all temporary). We began to shoot the stream survey. John continued to lose his sense of humor. It was hot, uncomfortably messy, vine ridden and lots of ducking and climbing. I remember Kristen and I thought how awful this site was. There was so much to go through, vines, palmettos, and underbrush. This was hell!

Somewhere near the end of the reach, John checked the survey data. There was a problem. A serious problem. At some point someone had made a mistake and now the whole thing was useless basically. John was not happy. I was not happy. Kristen was not happy. This meant that, at some point, we would have to come back. The very thought of fighting this mess of vegetation was too much to bear.

It made me wonder if i could really do this. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I would never want to come and do this with just Kristen and me. This place was too wild. There were too many dangers. I wouldn’t be able to see her at some points in the survey. Would we ever get this right? It was all too much to even think about. We were mortified.

I would and will never forget this day. I was sweaty and scratched to heck. I was upset and doubted myself. I felt like I had let the team down in some way by feeling this way too. I felt that I had wasted a chance to make an impression on John and Kristen too. How could this had gone so wrong? Now, it had to be done all over again. The fear, the stress, the pain, the risk of busting the survey again…..it just seemed impossible to bear.

It was going to be hard to make myself do this again. This was horrid. I hated the way I felt – DEFEATED.

 

The creek was long. You all know that. The creek was wide. The day was passing and the water was gross and we were working hard to get the survey done without messing it up and praying we would never have to come back and redo it. Funny thing about daylight and this chapter – both have an ending.

Some of you might be disappointed that the ending is coming. Some of you might be sitting on the edge of your seats. Well, what began to happen changed, forever, the way I would look at what we did. We had completed the survey and were packing it in when I noticed that the sun was beginning to go down behind the cypress trees in the distance.

The silhouette of the black tree line against the orange ball that was the sun was both beautiful and awful. Immediately I said to John that we should hurry. John, once again sharing words of wisdom and horror, said that we were lucky we didn’t have a flashlight – that alligators were nocturnal feeders and that the eyes lined up on the banks would scare us to death. John is such a comfort.

John – Our Mentor

I wondered to myself if he meant to say that out  loud. John knows more about working in swamps than we do but he also has a story about getting bitten by a moccasin that we don’t. You see, we were chest deep in nasty water pushing the canoes filled with equipment upstream as the sunlight faded. My initial reaction was to call my husband.

Usually Scott doesn’t worry too much about me – or at least that’s how it seems. I was more worried that I would not make it whole back to the canoe launch. I was really scared. I called and told him what was going on and that if he didn’t hear from me in an hour – I just wanted to let him know that I loved him and to kiss the kids for me. I wondered, as I hung up, if he had taken me seriously. I wondered why I decided I could do this. I also wondered how much life insurance I had.

The funny thing about darkness is that it is just that. It’s dark. We all know from our childhood that very terrible things lurk in the darkness. It doesn’t matter how old you get, you still believe in some things. I believed that this was a very serious situation and that I was sincerely afraid. I tried to sound flippant and keep Kristen laughing. I knew she was walking in holes over her head. I knew that every other footstep brought an unknown bottom that might hold a fallen and rotting tree and its branches.

I knew that the darkness was coming and we weren’t going to make it back before it fell. The fear that gripped me was overwhelming. I found myself gripping the side of the canoe even harder. I began trying not to touch the bottom. I started to make funny comments in a nervous voice. I started to panic.

It’s pretty obvious that we made it back. It’s probably not as obvious what followed us back to the launch. I can’t say when I noticed it. I only know that it is here, with me now as I write this chapter. It has been with me ever since that first survey. It seeps into the room when I am otherwise occupied. It takes me over some days.

It’s what followed us back to the launch that day that I miss the most sometimes sitting here at the kitchen counter writing. It’s that notion that anything could have happened and didn’t. It’s the feeling that you escaped, and cheated death. It’s knowing that there are two people who you don’t have to ask to watch out for you. It’s a part of me that is slowly dying. A part of my soul that is starving. A corner of my heart that is crumbling slowly and rotting.

Here, on this Halloween night, it’s what scares me more than the ghouls and monsters. It scares me even more that the fear of the things I couldn’t see as that sun went down behind the tree line. I can’t face my fear of it.

That I might lose the Team! Forever! Does that ever scare you?

Photo by Monica Molina of a kayaker on the river.

Photo by Monica Molina of a kayaker on the river.

The Chicks with Ticks will be present at the Speak up for Silver Springs and Florida’s Water event on June 23 10-4 at Silver River State Park. We will be representing Amec at booth 20!

Here’s your chance to meet us and see just how nerdy we really are while supporting an amazing event. Florida’s springs, and waters in general, are suffering. Help us preserve the future of Florida’s water and nature’s beauty by attending this super event at an amazing State Park.

http://www.floridastateparks.org/silverriver/

You can get details regarding the park at the above link.

Photo by Charlene Knight of the calm water of Silver River.

Photo by Charlene Knight of the calm water of Silver River.

 

Taunting us from outside our window...

Jacque and I were moping around the office the other day, wondering why we were more unmotivated than usual. And then it hit us: we had spring fever, a BAD case of it. Not only had we been stuck working on projects that required us to be in the office rather than in the beloved field, but we had also just pushed our clocks forward giving us an extra hour of daylight. Yet here we were, trapped in the artificial light of the office. So we decided to do something about it. We vowed that the next day we would spend our lunch hour (also known as “Lunchingtons”) actually going OUTSIDE.

Murky waters

What a novel idea. Our office does, afterall, sit right on the shore of Lake Bently, a little lake that we had completely taken for granted as it stared at us through our office windows for YEARS now.  While its water is more green than blue and its shoreline is highly developed with storm water drains jutting out every few hundred feet (it has a high LDI for any limnology nerds out there), it is home to birds, gators, fish, and even otters! So why not call it our home as well, at least for an hour?

Happy Jacque!

The excitement of our looming adventure got us through the morning grind, and at noon on the dot we grabbed our lunch (that Jacque had deliciously prepared) and our craigslist-purchased kayaks and off we slid into the murky waters. Within moments we were in another world. Just yards away stood our office building, staring back at us with its mirrored windows, hiding the sterile lights and jealous faces of our co-workers (actually, they probably just thought we were crazy). We paddled happily towards wood ducks and pelicans and ibises and limpkins and cormorants and ospreys and turtles and cypress trees and butterflies. We soaked up the sun and felt the breeze on our faces.

We returned to our offices 59 minutes later, refreshed and more than a little stinky. But we didn’t care. We had cured spring fever, at least for an hour. Do you have any tricks for curing spring fever? CWT would love to hear about it!

Just when you think you have everything under control, something goes terribly awry! At least it seems that way when you have the kind of field day we had day before yesterday. We were set to perform three macroinvertebrate samplings in an unknown small system and it sounded like the perfect day for us bug nerds! NOT!!!

It looks like a nice place. I won’t go into the details about what the little stream looks like for fear of breaching the wonderful relationship we have with our client….suffice it to say that…it isn’t pristine. We discussed ahead of time the fact that we would probably find icky bugs too….it is in a transitional state of development. Our job is to come in, evaluate in great detail the state of the system, make recommendations, oversee enhancement, monitor recovery, and later – enjoy that fact that we helped make it better.

We don’t expect drinkable water, park-like conditions, or fluffy conditions. We expect a certain amount of ickiness! We began our collection. Once I began fishing around,WITH MY BARE HANDS. So, without further adieu….

This Photo is for Shock Value Only

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU SEE LEECHES

  1. Make squealy noises – doesn’t affect the leeches behavior but it certainly gets out some of the squigglies!
  2. Perform a mental check on tucked in-ness…did you tuck in pant legs, shirt, etc…?
  3. Revisit why you do this for a living.
  4. Pretend that you will know when a leech latches onto you  and starts sucking your blood (which will not happen – they first spit out an anesthesia so you will not know until TOO LATE)
  5. Pretend that it won’t happen to you….ha ha ha ha ha….ha ha ha
  6. Immediately think of all the horror movies you have seen about leeches!
  7. Notice how small and hard to see they really are! Have you just never noticed them before?
  8. Make squealy noises again – hey man – they are creepy.
  9. Remember that you wore short socks and short boots…..ha ha ha – you should have seen the look on Jessica’s face!!! PRICELESS
  10. Make sure you do a thorough leech check….those suckers (ha ha) can be so small!

    Lurking Leeches

Finally, remember to check twice,  also, check this out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leech for really gross and entertaining information about leeches. Like – they have two suckers, some won’t feed on blood, if taken off incorrectly, they can vomit their grossness into your bloodstream…and more fun facts!

You all know by now that ticks are nasty little buggers. They hang stealthily (it is so a word) on the tips of leaves waiting for warm-blooded hard workers like me and you to wander close enough that they can sink their nasty little claws onto you. Once aboard, they creep their nasty little way into the darkest reaches of your warm sweaty body where they  nibble until they find a juicy bit – then they sink their vicious head into your skin and begin to feast on your blood (yeah – I could lie but that’s what they do).

Some of you are concerned that I am a tick hater – that I am biased against these little fellas and am only helping give them a bad rap and making it hard for those who are FOR ticks. I don’t care! Ticks care nothing for their reputation or my opinion or they would dine politely on something other than my ass!

I thought it would be helpful to list a few good ways I have learned to remove them:

  1. While holding a beer in one hand, heat a needle with a lighter and pierce the tick while spewing some comforting  bull crap to the victim. This piercing will cause the tick to remove head and later die. The victim will be traumatized forever unless said victim is our puppy Bella who could care less if you rub her belly.

    Nasty Little Buggers.....

  2. If you cannot find a needle, skip the piercing and go straight for burning it. Hold the lighter close enough to heat and scare it out – be careful not to singe or totally burn up the victim – if the burning up of victim occurs – refer to first aid manual.
  3. Carefully grab the tick firmly and gently twist while pulling softly. This will cause it to release its jaws and you can pull it out safely – unless of course the victim is freaking out because they don’t think that is a very good way and are wiggling.
  4. Various viscous fluids can be used to smother, choke or otherwise make the damn thing let loose (oil, vaseline, rubbing alcohol, fingernail polish) This all sounds great but takes a long time – you might as well-knit the darned thing a sweater!
  5. Tick Remover tool….sounds good right – ha ha – you try that one!

Whatever method you use, the victim will be grossed out, uncomfortable, and probably not happy. Be prepared with candy if under 21 or beer if over….if the victim has four legs just feed or pet it. Ticks suck….REALLY!

(((This is for entertainment purposes only – please don’t inundate me with proper tick removal methods. That is no fun)))

(((And “YES” that is a close up of a tick – don’t you hate them worse now....)))

Sing in the car!

As you probably know by now, Chicks with Ticks work in some pretty remote locations, which means that we spend ALOT of time driving around. We’ve found that a great way to kill time when stuck in the truck (hopefully not this kind of stuck) is to sing our hearts out! It took a few weeks of working together before Jacque and I felt comfortable singing in front of eachother, but I remember the first time it happened — we were driving down some podunk highway 5ish years ago after an exhausting day in the field, and Fergie’s “I Hope You Know” came on. As the song reached the chorus, Jacque just belted out with the most beautiful voice. I know she gets embarassed, but she is an amazing singer! I’m not by any stretch of the imagination, but I sing along anyways (though Jacque usually turns the volume up – coincidence?). Singing your heart out is a great way to 1) release stress after a long day, 2) pump yourself up in the morning, or 3) not have to talk to your traveling companion.. because let’s be honest, sometimes you just plain run out of stuff to talk about (unless you are Jacque).

So what’s on the CWT’s playlist these days? WARNING: DO NOT JUDGE. Our genres of choice tend to be country (very fitting for driving through the middle of nowhere) and pop since they are the best for singing along to. We listen to a wide variety of artists from Carrie Underwood to Beyonce, from Michael Jackson to Rascall Flatts, from Lady Antebellum to Madonna. And sadly we’ve even been known to subject some of our clients to our musical preferences (sorry about the Lady Gaga, Gene) or to sing our own crazy made-up songs in the woods (no one can hear us, right?)!

So we want to know – Do you sing in your car or, even better, in the woods? Share your favorite songs with us! Here are some of ours:

Unknown depth of water.

It’s no big surprise that we work in and around water almost every day. We stay wet and muddy most of the time and, quite frankly, we prefer it that way. Why, just last week we spent two days on a river and opted out of waders just so we could feel the rush of flowing water again after an office confinement of some weeks. So, it’s not out of the ordinary for us to walk into the wilds and up to some water and need to get in.

We care about each other. It’s just a factor (that’s a joke for some who know Reggie). It makes the days better and the dangers less creepy. It also makes safety a critical thought in everything we do. Now, some might say, “Jacque, I have never really heard much talk of safety.” Well, that’s just a damn lie. We talk about safety every day in some shape, form or fashion and some days, we talk about it at every turn.

Now what we call safety talk may sound a little different to another Chick or Hick with Ticks (Yeah – we are gonna have to just go ahead and make the men a part of the club now – they are starting to whine!). We might say, “Entering and unknown depth of water,” and laugh out loud. That’s code for – I am entering water and I have no idea what’s in there or how deep – watch my back, be ready to jump on something creepy and stop me if you see something I don’t.

I can’t stress enough the need for a stick! You just STICK IT IN!! It helps you know how deep (up to a point) and if there’s something creeping. It lets us know about the mud or muck we might step into and how deep or dangerous it might be. If the water is deeper than the yard stick – well hell – you might reconsider walking to another spot to try to get in.

We talk about how the temperature affects animals and what we need to look out for. We talk about wind storms and thunderstorms, lightning and insects. We talk about scratches and eye protection. We talk about who is looking where and if you have my back or I yours. We talk about the times things went wrong and what we would do to prevent that from happening. We talk about people who broke our rules and almost suffered serious consequences. We talk about snakes and snakeboots, machetes, knives, and blood.

Something may lurk in pools.

The one thing we can never escape (and thank goodness for that) is an unknown depth of water. That means that we are probably somewhere wild. Somewhere that has secrets lurking in each pool that plays host to things large and small that could hurt us but probably won’t. It means we might see something rare and wonderful. It means we might make it through one more adventure together without anything happening that would make us hurt or scared.

There are times when the hurt and scares happen anyway. Oh, nothing major, maybe a scratch while trying to avoid a strange-looking log or deep hole. Maybe you were listening to some strange sound in the distance and forgot to watch your footing. You know then that you need to focus. There is something exciting in stepping into the wilds and making your way through to the banks of a hidden stream. You look upstream and down and see what you can. You brace yourself for the next step into an unknown depth of water.

If you thought hard hats were just for construction workers, you thought wrong! Chicks with Ticks have also been known to sport them from time to time (along with our snake boots and waders). “Why?” you might ask. Because sometimes we just plain have to. Simple as that. Some of the places we work require everyone on the property to wear a hard hat for protection against overhead hazards. No exceptions. Not even for geeky ecologists collecting data out in the middle of the woods! For awhile this perplexed us, because what kind of overhead hazards could we possibly come across in the freaking woods?? Well, it turns out there are more than you might think…. and if they exist, Jacque or I have probably encountered them! Here are some examples of pesky overhead hazards:
1) Tree limbs – I swear they just appear out of nowhere and WHACK you right in the head! And trust me, it HURTS. Hard hats definitely lesson the blow, and therefore are the #1 reason to wear a hard hat in the woods.
2) Spider webs – Have you ever walked straight into a spider web? We have, and it’s gross. Usually if you’re wearing a hard hat the stickiness (and the creepy crawly living on it) will end up there rather than all over your face.
3) Spiders, grasshoppers, ticks, etc. - While related to #2, these get their own hazard category. Think of it this way… would you rather have these things in your hair or on your hard hat? I think the answer is pretty simple.
4) Survey rods gone wild – Some field partners have been known to drop long metal rods and WHACK (see #1 above)!
5) Trips and falls – It’s a jungle out there, and even though we are careful, we do sometimes trip. Like falling off a bike with a helmet on, it’s always safer to trip over a root with a hard hat on!
6) Bird poop – Bombs away! Look out below! Does this really need an explanation?
7) Sunburns – This might be stretching it…
8) Cold weather – I know this isn’t technically an overhead hazard, but hard hats are nice for keeping your head warm on cold days (like today.. brrrrrr).
Needless to say, we have grown to embrace wearing our hard hats in the woods!
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