Tag Archive: scientist


You think my tractor’s sexy?

Wide open spaces.

Wide open spaces.

That’s right, it’s official, I am now a farmer! You thought, ” Jacque, what the hell are you doing farming? I thought you were a scientist.” Well, I’m here to tell you – you can’t farm without science…and mud, and cows, and grass, and fertilizer (fancy name for cow poo), and TRACTORS!!

Rolling Rolls

Rolling Rolls

I have spent some hefty time sitting on a Rollmaster harvester on our sod farm near the Myakka river. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to ride and operate the harvester which rolls up the sod. Sitting behind a diesel tractor all day isn’t my idea of a glam job – but it sure as heck had me smiling. So, I have come to the simple conclusion that….drum roll please…..KRISTEN WAS ALWAYS RIGHT – WE SHOULD BE FARMERS!!!

It’s such a green and simple life, fraught with weather watching, cow chasing, muddy boots, pump fixin, rain gauging, cow patty avoiding, and

Farmer Jack

Farmer Jack

sweet smelling grass! The most interesting thing is – all that GREEN brings in a lot of GREEN! Green side up and

Trucking along...

Trucking along…

payday is Friday kind of green.

I thought all you kids out there would want to see how a girl farmer works…and what a sod farm looks like. So, without any further adieu…..For Fun Friday – Here’s Farming….

 

Repost – Ancient Landscapes

Once connected by an ancient land bridge to the deserts of the southwest, the Lake Wales Ridges State Forest boasts some similar species that were later trapped in this area when the ice receded. The wave action and shallow waters created a most unusual landform which is still visible today from the air.

Hiking out of the scrub and into the cypress dome was quite surprising.

What you will find on the ground is equally interesting. In the midst of shallow grassy marshes, there are two cypress domes. I know – that’s crazy right – cypress domes don’t belong on the ridge. Well, they are there. And they are gorgeous. Of course they differ from the swampy cypress domes in that they rely on water travelling underground through seepage rather than flowing over the surface.

Just standing in the middle of the dome after hiking through scrub habitat dominated by white sand and scrub oaks – sharp things and arid conditions – I looked around in total wonder at the soft ferns and mucky loam I was standing on. This seemed to me to be a very unique kind of forest. I felt lucky to be taking photos while my field partner Kevin rejoiced in the beauty as well.

It’s not hard to admit that we feel fortunate to be able to see these places. Truth is, everyone can as they are part of the Lake Wales Walk In Water WMP and are totally publicly accessible. You can even bring your horses and camp! IMGP0082  http://www.floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/lake_wales_ridge.html

As always, these areas are home to some very special plants and animals. Even the soil can’t be disturbed. Please enjoy with your eyes and take no prisoners!

IMGP0092
The transition from upland scrub to cypress dome!

 

  That’s right! That’s a mouthful isn’t it? Well, what we do can be summed up in this amazingly complex word OR we can bring it home by reminding everyone about their childhood.

Remember the sandbox and water hose days? You sat in your summer clothes dirty or sandy using the flow of the waterhose to make paths in the sand or dirt. You dug moats on the beach for the waves to fill to protect your castle. You splashed in puddles and connected them by digging runs from one to the other to see what would happen.

You practiced fluvial geomorphology. That’s right. Every kids in the world who moved sand or dirt with water had it going on!

If you want to extend it – think of how everything is connected. Without water (hydro) you have no stream or river. In that water are so many things. It includes chemistry (very fancy and complex science), flora (plants like little algae), and fauna (animals). These things make up the BIO part of our descriptive title. 

Fluvial is of the river or stream. Geo is of the earth. Morphology is the study of changes.

There you have it…HYDRO-BIO-FLUVIAL-GEO-MORPHOLOGY

The science of how water changes the earth and what things exist in that water. It does so fancy – so use the fancy word to impress your friends and family. But know this – some time in your life, you were probably practicing a very special science!

So, a reminder that no matter how old you are, or where you live, you can be a scientist.

So get out there – AND GO ANYWHERE YOU CRAZY MAD SCIENTIST.  

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.

 

You know, my daughter’s name is Allison. She loves to hear all about my Chicks with Ticks adventures. She especially likes it when I relate an exciting story and later she and I share a similar experience. I am proud to hear that she wants to grow up to work with animals and possibly wildlife in particular. She likes to get dirty, but appreciates bright nail polish. She is the epitome of who and what Chicks with Ticks stand for.

This is Allison – The first Official Young Chick with Ticks

I thought it would be interesting to interview her and ask a nine-year old young lady what she thought being a Chick with Ticks was all about and how she felt about me blogging while she swims in the pool at the hotel on our Venice, Florida vacation.

I was pleasantly surprised, a little taken aback, and somewhat humbled by her responses. What I thought would be a cute filler about my daughter turned into an eye-opening exchange that made what I do here much more than just “filler”.

I first asked her what she thought of being a CWT. She quickly did a backflip in the pool and answered that she thought it was cool that you can be funny and naturee. She remarked that it is cool that you can be any age to be like naturee and do outdoorsy stuff. You love that you can be any age and be a scientists.

I asked her what her wildest adventure was. She recalls going to Tennessee to visit my parents last year. She liked that we hiked the waterfalls as a family. She remembers hanging over the ledges and the forest being so beautiful. Her other favorite was caving. She has a friend Rhiannon, and together they create fairytale places in the Withlacoochee forest while we hike and find lime caves to explore.

I asked her who is a Chick with Ticks. She tells me she gets dirty. She doesn’t care what other people think of the outdoorsy things she does. She takes risks and does things that others don’t understand the reason for. Chicks with Ticks are beautiful because they care about our earth. Being a daredevil and taking risks is exciting and makes them amazing – “Like You!” She said to me.

She says she thinks it’s really cool because other people wouldn’t think of making a blog and giving it out to the world. She thinks it’s cool that we share adventures with people who may not be so brave. “Maybe you will inspire others to go out and do amazing adventures some day.”

Off on an adventure…..Allison heads into the forest.

I guess this wasn’t just filler….and, Allison, I hope that one day I inspire even one person to go out and have an adventure. Even if I never hear about it – it will be amazing.

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!

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.

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.

Pristine Creek - by Allison Levine

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.

Transformation

You stand by the edge of the water, it mimics the answers you seek

Only fingers beneath the glass surface lurk the things that inhabit the creek

Fragrant Lily - Oak Beach

So you wade in just up to your kneecap praying warmth shares her blanket of wet

but  your skin tingles white in the moonlight as you lay deeper just to forget

So the stream washes gone all the tear stains and the sand scrubs away all the sins

and your gills flutter pink with the current as you wiggle to test your new fins.

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