Today has been an interesting day.
My research group is studying the effects of water temperature on bacterial levels, and we went out to Lake Ontario beach this morning to take our data. Hayley built a fabulous contraption to take our water samples (see her post here) which we named Ricky Ricardo (because he has to have a “y” in his name to fit into our wonderfully named group – But, Why?). We arrived at the beach ready to rock and roll.
And then it started raining.
No matter, since we were armed with hoodies and hip boots and were planning on going out into the water anyway. Nothing could stop us from science!
We made our way down to the shore and found piles of muck and brown algae. The best way I could describe the scene is that it looked like someone had dumped mulch all over the shore. It was the coolest and most disgusting thing I had ever seen. Awesome!
Alas, as awesome as the algae was, the rain, cold, and grossness ended up being too overwhelming to us, and after dropping pens in the lake and not being able to label our Whirl-paks for our water samples with Sharpies in the rain, we conceded defeat and allowed Lake Ontario to win this round.
Regardless of our setbacks and complete lack of data collection today, we learned some very valuable lessons.
1.) Things will fall out of your pockets of your vest. Always.
2.) The waterproof notebooks say “write in the rain.” They lie.
3.) If you look like you’re doing science, people will ask you what you are doing. Then you can work your teacher magic and explain things to them. They will freak out when you say E. coli. But then you can explain things some more and they freak out less. Then they will take your picture. (Yeah, seriously.)
4.) Science is about testing and adapting. And testing some more. And adapting some more. Data collection follows Murphy’s Law, but sometimes you can come up with an eloquent way of outsmarting the universe in order to not cover your arms with gross algae. And sometimes you’ll get covered in algae anyway. Research gets messy.
5.) Always name your equipment. And then always pronounce its name with an accent.
6.) If there is a storm drain, you will drop something down it. RIP tape measure.
7.) Even the biggest failure can teach you something.
Beware, Lake Ontario. We shall return tomorrow.