Monday, 14 April 2014

From a small pond to the heavens

Whilst Pete and Scott have been trying out the elemental analyser in the lab the spring sunshine lures me back out into the field. Here is a perfect example of how field work stretches the imagination and challenges what is possible. The little ponds at Hauxley were dug out in 1994 to start off experiments tracking the changes to their wildlife over the years. I had not planned that the monitoring would last twenty years but it has. Better still the documented history of the ponds has been a boon for the new work exploring carbon capture: we are able to check the past hydrology and plant data from each pond to explore how those changes might influence carbon levels in the sediments. Neat. Meanwhile, overhead the last of the winter geese gather, stacking up in squadrons, circle to let stragglers catch up with the security and economy of the flying Vs. They will be off soon, a little piece of the Druridge Bay ecosystem unplugging itself and migrating to new lands. They will be carrying energy, microbes, maybe even the occasional plant seed or insect egg with them. Part of the Hauxley experiment will have gone away, not that the geese use the pond field much; it is the haunt of crows and teenage heron. If all the geese did choose to land in the pond field and bathe, graze and poo in the ponds the habitats would be much impacted. The experiment would have been changed, but perhaps in more intersting ways. The pond experiment is therefore not so neat. I cannot radio-control skeins of geese to migrate where I want them to, land them in a field of my choosing or slough off old feathers, seeds and eggs under my control. Field work has that unpredictable thread running through it, part of the appeal for me. Along with the wheeling geese and strengthening sun.

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