In this blog I catalog my adventures in field work and teaching. Scroll down for previous entries dating back to June 2012, and come back for future ones!
|Posted by allisonfp on August 24, 2013 at 8:25 AM||comments (0)|
I’ve been back in Bali for the last 2 weeks, but not staying dry. The first weekend after the stingray incident I was back in the water off the nearby islands Lembongan and Penida. They aren’t great for finding my nudibranchs, but I always love going over there because there’s a great dive community on Lembongan. The first time I went was 2 years ago, my first weekend ever in Bali, and there happened to be a party hosted by a new company, Blue Corner Dive (BCD), that had just finished building their pool and wanted to celebrate. Since they were new the party didn’t draw a big crowd, but Sam, Abril, Sara, and I were invited because Sam had friends there from her year on Fulbright. Because of that first small party I've always felt like an insider at BCD, and every time we go back to Lembongan that is where I hang out. It’s kind of funny because I’ve never actually done a dive with them or stayed at their bungalows (those came after the pool). Anyway, there was another BCD party happening two weeks ago to celebrate the first PADI dive instructor exam to be held there, and Sam, Sara, and I scheduled our trip to coincide. Vanson (Barber Lab post doc) and Andre (IBRC) came along for the field work but didn’t linger for the party. While I didn’t find a lot of nudis, I did get a couple more samples of what I believe is an unknown species that I found last year. The best part by far was swimming with manta rays in manta bay! You would think I wouldn’t like rays after my recent trauma, but mantas are harmless. They are also huge. The ones we saw were only a couple meters across, which seemed big to me, but they can grow to 6 or 7 meters! A lot of other snorkelers were all in one place, and every time a manta came by everyone would start swimming frantically after it. I was staying still trying to take video and photos, and I almost got run over by snorkelers every time. Meanwhile Sara had found her own manta friend, and I had no idea where she was until the boat driver came and brought me and Andre over to them. It was so peaceful swimming with such a beautiful, large animal, without fear on either side. The ray was more concerned with feeding than with us, but sometimes it felt like it was intentionally hanging out with us. I think it will be the most memorable snorkel I ever did... oh wait, no, that would be the time I got stung by a stingray.
After Lembongan, Sam, Sara, Abril and I had a few more days together in Denpasar before parting ways. Then Sam went home, followed by Sara, to the surprise of her husband Paul! In this time my bad luck returned when I left my ATM card in a machine. Of course I didn’t notice until the next time I went to get cash. Thanks to loans from Sara and Abril and some deals with Veronica involving my credit card (for my upcoming trip to India) I will have enough money until I get back to the U.S., so I’m not that worried- just annoyed at myself.
After Sara left, Abril and I headed to Pemuteran in North Bali for 4 days. Pemuteran may be my favorite place in Indonesia. It is a small town with Bali’s typical combination of tourists and locals, with just one main street parallel to the beach. The atmosphere is slow and relaxed. The weather is usually warm and dry like Los Angeles instead of hot and humid like other places in the tropics. My favorite warung in Indonesia is in Pemuteran- Warung Pak Haji. They make grilled fish so good that Abril and I walked 30 minutes each way to get it. Actually the place we stayed also had amazing food, which was mostly Greek! It was kind of astounding. It was the best non-Indonesian food I had ever had inIndonesia. And of course the reefs in the area are also nice. So Pemuteran has a lot going for it. All in all it was a very pleasant trip. I got enough nudis without having to put in really long days, though I did clock my longest consecutive time in the water at 4.5 hours.
Back in Denpasar, Abril packed up and left me as well. Luckily Mark Phuong is here now, so I’m not completely lonely at our guest house, Bali Jepun. I thought I was done with the ocean for this field season, but the other night Mark asked if I could join him on a night snorkel because his buddy had a family emergency. I’ve done night dives before in large groups, but never just a night snorkel. I thought what the hell, might as well do something new while I have the opportunity. We went to Sanur, where I have snorkeled before in the day, but it was quite a different experience at night. Turns out the moon was full! We could see without our lights, but definitely needed them in order to find cone snails. Oh, did I fail to mention that our mission was to find cone snails? Which are venomous? Yeah. I was a little worried, but Mark assured me that they are pretty harmless as long as you don’t do something stupid like stuff it down your wet suit and leave it there where it has time to sting you in its incredibly slow fashion. I was still worried, not necessarily about cone snails, but about all sorts of things I knew to be in the Sanur lagoon- sea snakes, urchins, blue-ringed octopuses, scorpion fishes, stingrays... I figured with my luck I was sure to end up in the hospital again. I’ll skip the suspense- no injuries occurred. It was an interesting time, though. While we were out there I saw a couple flashes of green in the water and realized that there were some luminescent plankton there. I told Mark to turn his light off so we could play with the water in the dark for a bit. The plankton only flash when disturbed, so we had to move our hands and fins really vigorously to see them. There weren’t a lot of them- certainly not as many as when Sarah Joy and I did a night dive off Catalina Island and had an underwater rave with the plankton. It wasn’t as spectacular as the first time I saw them in Bali, when they were collected in a plankton tow, and so they were really concentrated in our water samples. We didn’t even realize they were luminescent until we discarded them in the shower and suddenly the shower floor glowed brilliant green! We turned off the lights and splashed around in the water, and it was like playing in that stuff inside of glow sticks. You know when you were a kid and you would break a glow stick and splatter the glowing stuff all over? Just like that minus the toxic chemicals, with the added magic of the light appearing only at your touch. Anyway, this time was not as exciting as that, but still really cool to see. After about a minute we resumed our search for cone snails. Mark found 2 at the border between a seagrass patch and a stretch of sand- just where he had found one previously. My job was to hand him a ziplock bag for each snail, which turned out to be kind of difficult because he had given me a stack of about a hundred bags to bring along and I had to pull out two without losing the rest to the sea. We somehow lost the second snail while Mark was securing the first one in his catch bag, because there was a bit of current and, well, it was dark. Never fear, we found it again. We continued for a bit longer, but eventually decided to head back because the combination of surge and current was getting uncomfortable and we were pretty far from shore. Looking down at the seagrass was disorienting because for some reason it wasn’t moving in sync with our bodies floating above. I think there was some delay between us and the seagrass getting moved by the same wave... or perhaps it was because the grass is attached to the ground and thus reacts differently to the pull of the wave. It’s actually making me feel a little dizzy just thinking about it. Anyway, we struggled against the various pulls of the water all the way back to shore. I crawled out of the water and up the rocks (we had left ourstuff on a jetty of sorts) and was in the clear, free of ocean menaces... and then greeted by a sea snake! Out of the water! Of course the last thing I see is something venomous. But it didn’t get me, it just slithered into the rocks and I stepped gingerly over it. I hear they can’t really bite humans anyway- they’re mouths are tiny. But still. It’s the principle of it. I attract venomous creatures, and that is that.
With that I officially close my Indonesian field season of 2013. I’m actually posting this from Singapore, on my way to India to visit my friend Veronica. Wish me luck!
|Posted by allisonfp on August 14, 2013 at 11:00 PM||comments (0)|
Disclaimer: if you came across this because you have just been stung by a stingray in Indonesia and you need to know what to do, don't waste time reading my rambling blog post. The answer is, see a doctor. Preferably one who has x-ray or ultrasound capabilities. If you're curious about my particular case, read on!
When I left off I was lying on the boat deck clutching my leg, mentally trying to contain the stingray venom in my ankle as we headed towards a small village on Rinca Island in Komodo National Park. I didn’t let the boat guys tie a tourniquet because I am afraid of them and would rather deal with the pain of the venom than accidentally lose a limb. I got the fact that they were trying to physically contain the venom, but more important in my mind was the blood that wouldn’t get to my foot. I guess they are ok if not too tight, but I didn’t really trust these guys to do it. I wasn’t bleeding a lot, but I could feel the venom spreading from the wound. I tried to lay still until we got to the village, but the pain made me squirm. There’s no getting comfortable when you’ve been injected with venom.
We finally got to the village, but the tide was low so we couldn’t get to shore. We tied up at the end of a long, rickety pier that looked pretty treacherous even for someone that could walk properly. The ranger made his way to shore and found the local doctor, but she was unwilling to come out to the boat. We had to somehow get me to her house. Out of nowhere the boat hand appeared with this floating raft made of styrofoam chunks wrapped together with some kind of netting. He said he could use a pole to bring me ashore on the raft, and with lack of a better option I carefully climbed down to it. He slowly poled me to shore and then left me there as we waited for my next mode of transport- a wooden wheelbarrow-style cart. They couldn’t bring it out on the sand so I had to get up and walk up to it, but I was doing ok. By now about 20 children had gathered to watch the action play out. I think I was the most exciting thing to come to town in months. I sat down in the cart and some dude carted me through the narrow wooden/dirt streets of town, all the while surrounded by kids that were getting so close we almost ran them over. We stopped between two houses and I was told to sit down on a low platform right there on the side of the pathway. Now I was surrounded by the children AND their entire families. Sara was at my side again, and she was on the phone with Abril, who on the other end was looking up online what the proper treatment was. First, as we knew, is hot water, so as soon as I sat down I asked for hot water. We started to wash off the cut with the water, and a woman showed up with a medical kit and took over. At some point I got really overwhelmed by all the faces staring at me, and I made an announcement in Indonesian that I would like them all to go home because I didn’t like to be looked at. No movement. No response. Just faces staring. So I gave up on diplomacy, yelled in annoyance/pain, and covered my head with Sara’s sorong. Meanwhile the doctor was also trying to strap a tourniquet on my leg, but I told her it was hurting me, so she grudgingly took it off. Then she pulled out a syringe and a vial of something, so I told her roughly in Indonesian that I needed to know what it was before she injected it. She pulled out some razors as well and said it was lidocaine... I could see where this was going, but Abril had said over the phone that you have to try to get the venom out, and my wound had stopped bleeding, so I figured cutting it open again was the proper treatment. I just covered my head again and let her do her thing. After the lidocaine shots I really couldn’t feel what was happening, and I didn’t want to see it because it would probably make me faint. Sara kept saying things like, “You really can’t feel this?” so I gathered it was kind of gruesome. I could feel the woman squeezing my leg, but there was no pain. Sara told me later that the she had cut open the wound and squeezed out a bunch of the venom, and with it a lot of blood. The venom turns thick in your blood, so it is kind of gelatinous when it comes out. She also used the razor to “explore” the wound a little, since stingray barbs can leave pieces behind. She squirted plenty of iodine in and around the wound to clean it out. She finished by taping a square of gauze to the wound and giving me an antibiotic shot in the butt. I requested going inside away from my audience for that one. Actually I ended up not in her house but the neighbor’s house because we were right outside it and I thought it was hers, but the woman who lived there was very nice, and her daughters were pretty excited that they got to keep staring at me. The house was a very basic wooden structure divided into several rooms, and they let me lie down on a wooden platform with a cushion on it, which may have been a sleeping place. The kids outside could still watch me through cracks between the boards of the wall. I got the shot quickly, then lay down for a little bit. The doctor gave me a pack of amoxicillin to ward off infection and a basic anti-inflammatory for the swelling and pain.
I was feeling pretty good at that point. The lidocaine had worked wonders. We hung out a little bit longer so I could rest, and we chatted a bit with the family there. They had a very cute baby who they let us hold, though I’m really not great with babies, so everyone was laughing at me as it tried to feed from me. Somehow I’ve grown up without babies. I was a youngest child surrounded by older neighbors, cows and corn fields. My younger cousins were all born hundreds or thousands of miles away. So there weren’t a lot of people around handing me babies. Even now, I have never lived in the same town as a friend with a baby. As a result I have managed to reach the age of 27 only having held 1 or 2 babies in my life. I’m just telling you this so that when you have a baby and I want to get to know him or her, you will understand my fear and hesitation. It’s not the baby, it’s me!
When we had our fill of baby love (and it was clear that she really needed to actually feed) we said our goodbyes and headed back to the boat. I could walk, but slowly, so there was plenty of time for me to gather a following of children. Sara and I got back on the makeshift raft and were poled back to the boat. The kids followed on the rickety dock the whole way. As we went, we could see that there was quite a bit of Porites coral in this little harbor, and it would be a shame to be here without sampling. So I said I was fine to wait on the boat while Sara snorkeled. She got 4 nudis! And a bunch of snails, of course. The kids watched her for a bit, then got distracted by the arrival of a local ferry on the other side of the dock. One kid actually fell through the planks at some point, splashing into the water below, but he was fine.
We headed back to town in time to see the sun setting over the sea and islands as we went. My ankle was aching, but I felt pretty secure about the treatment I had received. It was really difficult to walk so I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be snorkeling any time soon, but I figured I would heal and be fine.
Then I read the wikipedia page on stingray injury. Among other things that made me feel ill, it said that pieces of the stingray barb are often left inside, causing prolonged envenomation. I was feeling something that felt a lot like prolonged envenomation in my ankle. Sara suggested I call the divers alert network (DAN) which provides assistance for dive related emergencies. She said they have doctors on call who could advise me. I rang them up and they got the DAN wheels rolling. My communication with them was fraught with confusion and miscommunication. When I finally spoke to a doctor he told me that I would probably need surgery and had to get to a good hospital ASAP. I later found out that he was under the impression there was definitely a stingray barb still stuck in my ankle. I clarified, but either way they still wanted to get me to a hospital, possibly by helicopter since all commercial flights were booked. Being an international emergency assistance provider, their first instinct was Singapore. That’s near Indonesia,right? Or, there was a possibile hospital in Jakarta if Singapore wasn’t going to work. My jaw dropped on the phone and I silently made all kinds of noises/faces of protest to Sara in the room with me. When they were done speaking I said calmly, “Thank you. Is there possibly a hospital inBali? That’s much closer and I have a place to stay there already.” Luckily it was a possibility. Next time they called back, I had the state of mind to ask that they actually try looking into the local hospital in Labuan Bajo rather than skipping straight to medevac. If they didn’t make me an appointment there I figured I would just go on my own.
I found out the next day that the local hospital has neither an x-ray machine nor an ultrasound, and would therefore be useless in determining whether any bit of stingray was stuck inside me. There was one private practice with an x-ray machine, but the office wouldn’t be open until evening. Then we discovered the office didn’t have electricity that day. Finally I just gave in to whatever DAN thought was best, and hoped that it involved Bali. Luckily I had a great excuse NOT to be evacuated to Singapore, which was that my passport was currently at the Indian Consulate General’s office in Bali. As a result I got a call from the American embassy in Bali reassuring me that if I did indeed need to be evacuated out of the country, they would get my passport for me. I thanked them but said I’m sure it would not be necessary. I got many other calls that day- must have been about 10 different people trying to help me. Meanwhile I felt relatively ok and was could walk to and from the hotel pool if I wanted. At one point I got a call saying the medevac was arranged for that evening, but I requested it be pushed to the following morning because Sara was out in the field and we would have to process samples that night. I was a little worried about the pain and swelling, and I was willing to go to a hospital, but I wanted us to get as much work done as we could before we left. We had been planning to stay for 2 weeks, and had only been there 4 days.
Sara got about 10 more nudis for me that day, and a bunch more snails, but we had to accept the fact that we were leaving without getting what we came for. We hadn’t even seen the Komodo Dragon! However, the medevac was pretty exciting. In the morning a doctor and medevac coordinator showed up 40 minutes earlier than planned. I actually made them wait while I finished packing, because I am never ready for anything more than 5 minutes before I absolutely need to be. Before leaving they briefly assessed my condition, and I think they were shocked at how fine I was. I was a little embarrassed. Then they had to wait again while we checked out of the hotel. I think usually they are taking people from one hospital to another, not from a hotel. We got a ride in a normal car (not an ambulance as initially promised) to the airport. Let me rephrase. We got a ride to the airplane. Yup, an entire passenger plane was chartered for this purpose, and we got to drive right up to it. It was just like Entourage. I hobbled up the stairs and to my stretcher without even having to go through security! Best way to export samples, in my mind. For the record, one of the many calls from the previous day had been about whether I wanted to sit or lie down on the plane, and I actually did say I would prefer a stretcher to a regular seat. I mean, wouldn’t anyone? Regardless of whether you were injured? Lying down on a plane is like flying first class! But seriously, my ankle was pretty swollen and I wanted to keep it elevated. So they strapped me in to the stretcher (don’t worry, Sara has photos) and we took off.
Flying while lying horizontal was pretty great, until an hour later when I really had to pee and had to awkwardly ask for help off of the stretcher. After that I sat in a normal seat. The flight to Bali was only about 80 minutes. As we descended to Bali through a lot of turbulence, I couldn’t help but think how terrible it would be if we all died in a plane crash, all in this extravagant effort to get me to a hospital. I was more relieved than usual when we landed. At Bali we really were met at the plane by an ambulance, which was great, because I hate the Denpasar airport. Also it was nice to continue lying down. I was taken to Bali International Medical Center (BIMC), where I was unloaded on the stretcher and brought into the ER. About 5 minutes later it was determined that I am fine. I was more annoyed than relieved. I asked about the possibility of there being something left inside, and the doctors said if so there would probably be some sign of infection or rejection of the foreign body. Just to be sure, they took an x-ray and an ultrasound, and I felt slightly validated in having allowed DAN to abort my field trip. It was confirmed that no foreign body was hiding in my ankle. The most useful thing tha tcame out of this visit was that I was given antibiotics that are better able to kill marine bacteria (vibramycin as opposed to amoxicillin).
Pak Ngurah Mahardika, our sponsor at Udayana University, came to meet us at the hospital to make sure I was ok, and then he gave us a ride home. The ordeal was over, and I was depressed about the trip being cut short. Actually, the next day I was told that DAN would send me back to Flores if necessary, but I turned them down. I was overwhelmed by the prospect of planning the rest of the trip while recovering, especially because it was the biggest holiday week in Indonesia (probably the world), celebrating the end of Ramadan. I put Flores behind me, and that was that. It turned out for the best, because later that week we went to Lembongan Island, near Bali, and I got some samples from a possible new species! And now I am in Pemuteran collecting much-needed samples from North Bali. My wound still hurts and I can tell it will be a while before it’s fully healed, but I really don’t have time to wait weeks for it to close up before getting in the water. Sorry Mom. Only a few more days of field work and then I will stay dry!
That’s the entire story! I’d like to thank Sara for all her help and for being the best field buddy one could ask for this summer. And thank you to the anonymous stingray, everyone in that tiny village, and DAN for the adventure.
|Posted by allisonfp on August 12, 2013 at 4:30 AM||comments (0)|
As I hinted in my last post, Sara and I have had a tough few weeks with the non-gastropod animal kingdom. Now I have the pleasure of telling our crazy tales all at once! It will probably be the most interesting post I ever do, so get excited.
We arrived at Lorenso’s Cottages in Bunaken just in time for dinner on July 22nd and went to bed early. In the morning we went in search of internet, since we needed to get some information about the local park office for our permit. Our search was fruitless, although we did find an adorable kitten that we cooed over for about 10 minutes before turning back. Ok, not relevant to my point about bad luck with animals, but it was soooooo cute. We got back to Lorenso’s around 10 and planned to go straight into the water. I started to unpack my stuff and lay it out. My dive booties were the last thing out of my bag. When everything was out on the porch I put on my wetsuit, then my right bootie, then my left bootie... at which point I screamed and threw my left bootie away from me. I had felt something cut me, something big, and it hurt more than any animal-inflicted injury I’d ever had. Sara was on the phone with her husband, finally, but she ran out to the porch when she heard me scream, and seeing me rocking back and forth in pain she cut her phone call short. I told her what had happened and she picked up my bootie and started whacking it on the steps. A little ant fell out, and she said, “It’s just an ant!” I showed her my bleeding toe and insisted that I felt some kind of legitimate animal (no offense to ants) hiding in the end of my boot. I thought maybe a crab had pinched me, though it was already hurting more than a crab pinch should. Sara hit the boot on the steps again as hard as she could, and as she swung her hand up to hit again, something big and squirming flew out of the boot and towards me. Luckily it went past me and hit the wall of the porch, but it started scurrying towards the entrance to our bungalow, snapping its jaws. It was a 6 inch long red centipede. I started yelling, and Sara jumped over, grabbed a nearby umbrella, and heroically stabbed the centipede with the pointy end. She jabbed and jabbed until its head was hanging off and it was no longer moving. Meanwhile I was writhing in pain and remembering that centipedes have venomous bites, but I had no idea how bad. When the creature was sufficiently dead Sara called Paul (our advisor) to ask if he had any experience with centipede bites, and he didn’t, but he suggested we ask the locals for treatment advice, as well as the standard soaking in hot water to deactivate the venom. Lea, the manager at Lorenso’s, came over and told me she recognized the centipede, and it would hurt for a few hours but then be fine. This was good news, but did nothing to stop the terrible pain, so I asked her for hot water and followed her over to the main common area. All the staff started discussing in rapid Indonesian different ideas to bring me relief. Their first solution was the sap of a local plant, which I gladly accepted, but when the hot water arrived it washed off immediately. The pain was spreading from my toe up my foot, and I was spontaneously bursting into tears every ten minutes or so. Sara texted my mom to call me, but there wasn’t much she could do from a distance, and I wasn’t in a great state for talking. After a while in the hot water I allowed Lea to spread a mixture of kerosene and salt on my wound, which was supposed to help in some way, I don’t know how. It didn’t. Next on deck was a mashed banana mixture, but I decided that it felt much better to numb my foot with hot water or ice water, so I never got to the banana. Another woman said we should cut up the centipede and put THAT on my foot, which was met by Sara with an emphatic no. Instead I requested some ice and took ibuprofen, loratidine (mom’s suggestion), and a largebeer (Sara’s suggestion). I spent the next hour sitting at the table drinking beer, smoking a cigarette (a rare occurrence), and trying not to think about the pain, but I couldn't even focus on a book. Eventually the combination of antihistamine and alcohol hit me and I decided I was done with the soaking and needed to lie down. I stayed in bed another 3 hours (lunch was brought to me there) until miraculously, the pain had diminished to a small ache and minor swelling. What did I do next? Got in the water and collected 13 nudibranchs.
Next day: spent the morning on the mainland getting yet another letter from yet another office, business as usual, and the afternoon collecting. Successful day!
Next day: We hired Lorenso’s boat to check out some other sites around the island. We didn’t collect much, but we did find some possible locations for automated reef monitoring system (ARMS) deployment by the IBRC next year. We circled the island and made it back before lunch time. The tide was low, so we had to walk through the seagrass and mangroves to get back to our bungalow. I was wearing my booties (hesitantly) but Sara no longer has booties because hers were stolen earlier this summer by a fisherman in Bali. For field work she uses little socks and full-foot fins, so she was walking (gingerly) in her socks. Suddenly she yelled out, yanked her foot out of the shallow water, and pulled off her sock. She had stepped on a tiny urchin- so small we never saw it in the sand. There were little hair-like spikes sticking out of her foot, and larger pieces already embedded under her skin, and she was in a lot of pain. Now it was my turn to help. I scrambled to get my forceps out of my catch bag to try to remove the spines, but before I could do anything our boat driver (Albi) started brushing her foot with his hand, breaking off the tiny pieces sticking out. Sara was yelling “OOOOWW what are you doing?” and I tried to show him the forceps, but it was too late. Then he grabbed a chocolate chip seastar (please Google image search this now) and started whacking her foot with it! Again Sara was yelling “AAAAH stop what are you doing??” and all Albi would say was “tidak apa-apa, tidak apa-apa” which means “no problem, no problem.” We were like, um, no, this still feels like a problem. I told Sara I had heard that hitting the urchin spines was some kind of remedy, but the sea star was definitely not the right object to use, because it also was rather spiky! So we stopped Albi with the sea star and instead he helped her back to our bungalow. We were trying to figure out how to get the spines out, and called Paul again because his son had stepped on an urchin once. He verified that hitting the spines to break them up was the accepted local solution to stop the pain, and that there wasn’t much hope in getting them out. By that time Albi has brought Lorenso over, and he convinced Sara that this happens all the time and hitting her foot with an empty Coke bottle would make the pain go away. So she braced herself on the chair and let him do it. Turns out it didn’t hurt that much, and he was right. She was able to walk over to lunch, and by the time we were done eating it was fine. In fact we were laughing a bit at how unlucky we had been with our feet!
We went back into the water that afternoon... and our bad luck continued. Actually we got a lot of samples, but Sara lost her forceps and I got stung on the lip by a jellyfish. I screamed and threw off my mask and snorkel, flailing. Luckily the water was shallow enough for me to stand up and collect myself. I never saw what stung me, but I rinsed out my snorkel and decided to call it a day because my lip was swelling and quite painful. I had to swim over to Sara and then make our way back to shore, so it was a little while before I could treat it, but I was laughing when I got back to Lorenso’s and had to ask yet again for a remedy- vinegar this time. Vinegar deactivates the nematocysts and stops the stinging, and then I just had to wait for the swelling to go down. My lip felt huge, but really I just looked like I had gotten a lip-puffing injection. It was almost cute... almost.
With that, we moved on from Bunaken and left our bad luck behind us (or so we thought). We came back to Bali and bought our flights to Labuan Bajo, Flores, with the intention of exploring the island and surrounding waters for 2 weeks. We were especially excited to go to Komodo National Park and see the Komodo Dragons! Of course I was nervous that one was going to bite me, though I knew it was really unlikely. My parents were kind of nervous too. It was my birthday the day we flew out there, and when I talked to them on the phone that night my Dad asked, “So, what animal bites do you have to be worried about over the next week?” and I laughed and said "Just the Komodo Dragon," but I wasn’t serious. We were required to have a national park ranger accompany us for our research, and I knew the ranger would keep us safe from the dragons. Anyway, we had a lot of work to do before we got to see them.
It took time to make arrangements, but 2 days after arriving we headed out on a boat for the day. It was a really slow boat, and it took us almost 2 hours to get to our first site within the park boundaries. We stopped at a shallow sand bar about a meter deep in between a bunch of islands that was covered in seagrass and surrounded by coral. Seemed like a good place to find nudibranchs, but in reality there were not enough small pieces of coral. Instead of having a gradual transition between coral and seagrass with a lot of small corals, there were stretches of empty-looking white sand between the coral and the seagrass. We snorkeled around for a bit and Sara got a bunch of samples, but I only found one nudi. I was getting a bit cold and bored of that spot, so I headed back to the boat. There were some cool fish around, so I didn’t get right in- I snorkeled until Sara was back also. Then I approached the boat, heading for a tire that was hanging on the side, because there was no ladder. I grabbed on to the tire, contemplating the best way to get in, and paused for a second with my feet (still in booties and fins) on the white sand below. And in that second something attacked my ankle. I screamed out (again) and jumped/swam away from the boat and whatever had attacked me, fearing that whatever it was had clamped it’s jaws around my ankle and would still be there when I looked. It wasn’t. However, I was bleeding, and the pain spreading away from my wound told me that I had yet again been injected with venom. I peeled away my bootie and there was a small puncture wound between my ankle and my Achilles’ tendon, and my blood was diffusing into the seawater. Sara and I quickly deduced that it was a stingray hiding in the sand, though we never saw it. The ranger and the boat drivers helped me back into the boat and I curled up on the deck, sobbing. It was like the centipede all over again, but with more venom and blood. The ranger suggested we go back to the hospital, but that didn't seem totally necessary and I couldn’t stand the pain for the 2 hour boat ride back, so Sara asked if we could go to a village we had passed not too far away. They thought there might be a medic there, but there was no guarantee. I didn’t really care, I just wanted to find someone who had treated this before, and it seemed likely that in a small island town with people going in and out of the water daily, someone would know what to do.
This post is getting so long that I will save the full description of the treatment for stingray envenomation until next time. I leave our heroines chugging slowly across the sea towards a tiny village, unsure of what would happen next.
|Posted by allisonfp on August 6, 2013 at 3:20 AM||comments (0)|
From July 18-27 Sara and I traveled to Northern Sulawesi to collect samples from Lembeh Strait and Bunaken National Park. In Lembeh we met up with fellow Barber Lab members Samantha (Sam) Cheng and Tyler McCraney at Lembeh Resort. We arrived at the Manado airport late at night on the 18th, but a representative from Lembeh Resort was there waiting for us with a car to make the 90 minute drive across the northeast arm of Sulawesi. The resort is on Lembeh Island, the near-shore island whose existence creates the Lembeh Strait, which is famous for its unique and diverse marine life.
There are moments during my research when I stop and wonder, “How did I get here?” Waking up at Lembeh Resort was one of those moments. It’s no field station, that’s for sure. It’s a real dive resort, complete with delicious meals, knowledgeable dive staff, and plenty of hangers and racks and hooks to dry our things (seriously lacking anywhere that doesn’t cater to divers). We are so grateful to them for accommodating our strange needs as researchers, because we certainly are not their typical guests. For example, we use the minibar to freeze gastropods, not as a source of beverages. As for the field work, to find my nudibranchs I usually need to find habitat that is different than what divers want, because they only live on a few common genera of coral. Nudibranchs in general are a favorite of Lembeh drivers, and there are plenty to find there. I found a few interesting and photogenic species which I posted to my tumblr blog. Unfortunately people rarely see my Phestilla nudibranchs because you have to overturn corals to find them, which is generally considered to be a terrible thing to do. I would never encourage other people to go hunting for them, but I think the impact of my own searching is minimal. I always put corals back in place after looking underneath, and I don’t really cover a large area in my searching, since at a good reef it takes so long to look at all the coral.
Lembeh was very fruitful for Sara right off the bat. Her snails are more abundant and easier to spot than my nudis, so she got tens of them on the first day. I had trouble finding a good spot to collect, but did get about 10 over the first 2 days. Then on our last afternoon there I swam a little bit away from the resort to an area that I was told had seagrass. I have learned that where there is seagrass situated between the reef and shore, there are often small pieces of Porites, and underneath them, Phestilla minor and sibogae. And just as expected, it was the perfect place for me to look. It killed me to find it in the last hours of our visit, so when I got back to the resort (samples in tow) I was relieved when Sara suggested we stay an extra night to have time to process samples, and the resort was able to accommodate us. Sam and Tyler were already planning to stay until the next day, and they were scheduled to give presentations to the guests that night. So we were able to be there for them and fit another morning of collecting in.
From Lembeh Sara and I went directly to the harbor in Manado to meet our boat to Lorenso Cottages on Bunaken Island. This is the same place I stayed with Sam, Hayley, and Abril last year. The collecting there was just as good as last year, though I failed to find the new nudibranch on Pavona coral again. As for interactions with other animals, I think we’ve taken so many snails and nudibranchs that our animal karma came back to “bite” us... more about that in the next post!
|Posted by allisonfp on July 20, 2013 at 5:10 AM||comments (1)|
Wow, I’ve been in Indonesia for almost a month now- about time for a blog entry! The thing is, this month has mostly been business as usual in Bali, and I don’t want to bore my regular readers. However, I will briefly describe my trip to Western Sumatra, because it was a new place for me. Sara and I spent 8 days there in late June/early July. Yet again we found the people of Sumatra to be unbelievably kind and helpful. We flew into Padang with a plan to spend 3 days at Cubadak Island, but we were still looking for additional field sites in that area. Unfortunately coral is not that easy to access from Padang, and we needed help. First we had to go to the local forestry office to talk about exporting our samples to Bali, and from there we bounced around Padang until we ended up at the marine protected areas office that actually goes in the field. We made a tentative plan to go out with them to the small islands off the coast after we got back from Cubadak, and left it at that.
From Padang, Cubadak Island is an hour and a half drive south followed by a 15 minute boat ride out of a small fishing village. We stayed at a dive resort, which always feels a bit ridiculous, but maximizes productivity because we can walk out the door and straight into the water every day. I cannot tell you how many times we in the Barber Lab have wished we had an actual marine field station, but that wouldn’t really be practical either, because we could never figure out geographic patterns of divergence if we only sampled from one site. Sigh, evolutionary biologist problems. Anyway, I was happy with the house reef at Paradiso Resort. I found plenty of my nudibranchs, although not living on many coral species- only 1 or 2. Sara couldn’t find her snails there, which was really strange, but we had better luck collecting at other nearby reefs when the dive boat took us out. All in all a productive visit, though we really wished we had found the branching corals that we wanted.
Research aside, we met some interesting people from all over the world at Paradiso. Perhaps the most interesting were a group of young men plus one woman who were about to embark on a trans-Indian Ocean sail. The boat owner had already sailed from New Zealand to West Sumatra, and was planning a circum-global trip with different friends and acquaintances on different legs of the journey. If you think my life is crazy, you should talk to these people.The owner is a former competitive body-boarder from New Zealand. The woman had already spent the last few years working on various yachts, and had crossed the Atlantic multiple times. There were a couple of Australian guys who had worked diving for oysters that would be used to grow pearls, and they had some crazy stories about all their time underwater. The fifth member of the group was also Australian but had just come from South Africa and Greece. I think my crew of grad students traveling around Southeast Asia is pretty tame in comparison...at least we’re doing it all for work.
After 3 and a half days at Cubadak we headed back to Padang, still with only a tentative plan for continuing field work. One day was spent planning with the marine conservation folks and getting squid samples to bring back for Sam, thanks to our new friend Febri! Then we spent the 4th of July on a fruitless expedition. The idea was to catch a ride on a fisheries department boat that was going out to an island far offshore to pick up a tv crew that had been there overnight (still unclear why) and snorkel while they finished up their work and loaded their gear on the boat. We drove down to the harbor at 4:30 am, and sat around until sunrise while the captain fixed the boat engine. Finally we left, but barely 10 minutes later we stopped in the shelter of a nearby island because the waves were too big for the boat to handle. Since the waves showed no sign of disappearing, the boat captain decided to head back to shore, but not to our original harbor- to a nearby river harbor. There we parked with the intention of waiting out the waves. This didn’t sound like a solid plan to Sara and me, but we were doped up on Dramamine and more concerned with sleeping than making logical decisions. When I was finally awake enough to think, I was pretty confused, because in my experience on a windy day the waves pretty much stay big, and waiting for hours on end for them to get smaller didn’t seem like a good use of our time. However, we really didn’t have much else to do, so we stayed on the boat and got into a great conversation about Islam and evolution with Febri. We had a similar discussion with Rita a week later. We discussed how evolution is taught in schools, and learned that in Indonesia it is usually presented the same way some American teachers, especially in the South, present it- as something they have to mention but they don’t believe. As a result we were able to tell Febri a lot about evolution and natural selection that he hadn’t heard in school, and I learned a lot about the Koran and how it influences life. We reached a stopping point, and by this time it was around noon so Sara showed the other guys a surf report online (using her iPhone of course!) and they were reasonably convinced that the weather was not going to improve. We headed back to the hotel, let down but releived to be off the boat. Unfortunately the boat captain and assistant still had to wait it out just in case, because the tv crew was waiting for a ride out on the island. We’re pretty sure they had to stay an extra night on the island, and missed their flight out of Padang.
After that misadventure, we spent our last day in Padang shopping for oleh-oleh (souvenirs) and getting our sample transit permit. One thing I’ve failed to mention so far is that Sara was terribly sick with bronchitis and a sinus infection throughout most of this, but she was such a trooper that it barely affected our plans. She hasn’t quite fully recovered (just heard her blow her nose and cough from the next bed over), and now I’m also suffering from sinus problems, but we’re surviving! We are actually in Northern Sulawesi now with Sam and Tyler, but that’s a story for another day. Thanks for reading!
|Posted by allisonfp on June 28, 2013 at 11:45 AM||comments (0)|
I have started a tumblr blog specifically for posting photos from the field, especially of nudibranchs. Due to space limitations, posting photos on this website has gotten more difficult. I will still write updates here about interesting things that happen in the field, but please also check out my photos at http://nudibooty.tumblr.com/
|Posted by allisonfp on March 5, 2013 at 6:15 PM||comments (0)|
As I originally said, this blog is for sharing adventures in teaching as well as field work. Teaching has been fairly tame up until this past weekend, when our teaching staff took about 30 students out to Nevada to look for fossils. This was their first peek at the life of a field biologist, which I believe everyone should experience at least once in their life.
First, some context. I am a TA for GE70, a general education cluster course called Evolution of the Cosmos and Life. For more information about the cluster course program at UCLA, see the website here. The fall quarter focused on cosmology, astronomy, and geology, and this quarter focuses on the evolution of life. All of our students are freshmen, mostly non-science majors looking to get some science credits out of the way. This annual trip introduces the students to some interesting fossil sites where geologists and paleontologists have learned about past life in North America. All of the sites we visited were marine sedimentary rock, demonstrating that this region was once covered by ocean.
We left mid-afternoon on Friday in attempt to beat the traffic from the weekly mass exodus from the city, but as any Los Angeles resident knows, that is impossible. So it took us about 4 hours to get to our dinner stop in Barstow. One of our goals for the drive out was to get in some stargazing, because we were unable to fit in a propoer field trip last quarter when we learned about the cosmos. We took the infamous Zzyzx Rd exit before Baker, and pulled over in the Mojave desert to look up at the night sky. The view was incredible- thousands more stars than we can see in Los Angeles, and maybe even better than my view growing up in upstate New York. Dr. James Larkin pointed out the Milky Way, the ecliptic (the plane of the solar system, and the path across which we see the sun move), Jupiter, and various constellations. We had a long hunt for a satellite- unusually long, given that they are constantly passing overhead. I saw a few "falling stars," which are always nice. I put that in quotations because they are not actually stars but meteroids burning up in the Earth's atmosphere. Finally Dr. Tony Friscia (course coordinator and trip leader extraordinaire) found one, and then one of our students found another a few minutes later. With that success we moved on to our destination for the night: Primm, Nevada.
Primm is an interesting place- not scientifically, but culturally. It is a tiny town that only exists because it is the first parcel of land over the state border, and therefore the nearest place where SoCal residents can go to a Nevada casino. There are 3 hotel/casinos there: Buffalo Bill's, Whiskey Pete's, and the Primm Valley Resort. We stayed at Whiskey Pete's. It was a bit bizarre being in a casino in the middle of the desert with a bunch of underage students, trying not to think about what they might be up to, but the teaching staff managed to have a good time.
The next morning we drove past Las Vegas and then west into the hills to our first fossil stop, Mountain Spring. Here we looked for fossils from reefs in the mid-Paleozoic era. By climbing uphill and looking at fossils along the way, we were able to see how life in this area changed over time. The lower part of the hill spans the Devonian period, when a major extinction took place, after which the community changed from being dominated by sponge-like stromatoporids to rugose corals, brachiopods, and crinoids. The climb was treacherous, with no path to follow as we navigated through loose rock and cacti, but the view was worth it and our students felt very triumphant, as you can see in the photo below.
After descending (even more treacherous) we went back to town for lunch before setting out for our next destination, Emigrant Pass, which is actually back over the California border. The drive involved a lot of yucca, joshua trees, and interesting geological features such as these red rock layers:
Emigrant Pass has much older sediment, from the early Paleozoic- the Cambrian period. Trilobites (the New York state fossil!) dominate there, but we also found stromatolites and oncolites. Trilobite heads were incredibly easy to find in the shale once we found the right wash to look in. Collectively we must have found at least 100!
Pockets and bags full of fossils, we made our way back to Nevada and drove north to Beatty, with a quick pit stop in Pahrump. I got a high five from a nice woman in Pahrump who was really happy for all of us UCLA students, out and about learning stuff. It's always nice to see that the general public supports education (in spirit as well as financially).
On the surface, Beatty is practically a ghost town, supported mostly by tourists passing through on their way to Vegas or Death Valley. However, any town that has legitimate saloons and wild burros has more to it than meets the eye. That night I and some of the other TAs discovered the true character of Beatty by going out on the town. We had our choice of 4 places all within two blocks. The Beatty Club was closed and looked like it had been so for about 10 years. KC's Outpost looked more like a diner than a bar. The Sourdough Saloon looked like the most popular place, but didn't have half as much character as its neighbor, the Happy Burro. That was where we chose to go, and it was an excellent choice. The decor, food, drinks, clientele, and bartender all perfectly exemplified rural American life.
Sunday morning we got an early start to get breakfast and hit the road, but of course with 40 people and 6 vehicles to fuel up, that actually took about 2 hours. We only had to drive about 10 minutes to our third fossil site, Meikeljohn Peak. This site was also from the early Paleozoic, but the Ordivician period, which came after the Cambrian. The peak is a large mud mound which is considered a biohern- a large reef-like structure which housed a diversity of organisms. We aren't sure how it formed, but now it holds a variety of fossils such as ammonites, nautiloids, snails, and brachiopods. At least half of the class climbed all the way to the top of the mound and beyond to nearby peaks, but some of us (pictured below) found a nice spot at the base of the mound to sit and enjoy the view. The climb was steeper than the previous day, but had fewer cacti, so it was a little easier.
From there we drove west to Death Valley, where we played on the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. These dunes have piled up from years of wind blowing through the valley.
The adventurous took turns rolling down the dunes, some more gracefully than others:
While the smarter people just hung out in the shade, knowing that humans are not well-adapted to this habitat:
And of course we couldn't leave without a tribute to UCLA:
The drive back was stunning as well, perhaps more so for our van (Vanerozoic for life!) because we took a "scenic detour." It was worth it when we saw a Bighorn Sheep with a baby!
After that it was all snoozing and car games. Thanks everyone for a great weekend, and I'm looking forward to more trips next quarter!
|Posted by allisonfp on September 3, 2012 at 11:15 AM||comments (1)|
Sorry for my lapse in blogging. Since the trip to Sulawesi, I have mostly been doing lab work in Bali, which is not very interesting. I did make one more trip to Lembongan with Sam and Hayley, but it was unsuccessful and we all came home sniffling and sneezing. After that Sam headed back to LA, and Hayley, Abril, and I took it easy in Bali. Then last week Rita returned from Java, and she and I went on a quick trip around Bali to collect her corals. We spent 2 nights in Pemuteran, and I got 10 nudibranchs snorkeling the first day, then did 2 dives the second day. Then we drove to Amed and did one dive that night and two the next morning (and got 1 more nudi) before returning to Denpasar. So it was a whirlwind trip, but reminded me how much I love north Bali. Next year I hope to spend more time in Amed, which I had never been to before. We stayed at an amazing little place called Rumah Adi that was basically an apartment with all the amenities one could want for only $25 a night.
Tomorrow I start my long trek back to Los Angeles. First I have a short flight to Singapore, and then I am stuck there on an 18 hour "layover." Luckily my baggage will be checked all the way through- at least it was on my way over. So I plan to take the train or bus into the city and explore a bit and meet up with my friend Rob for dinner. Then I'll return to the airport to curl up on a cushion for the night. Hopefully I will have time to try the Slide at terminal 3! For more info: http://www.changiairport.com/at-changi/entertainment-lifestyle/the-slide-t3 ; Actually I think that's the first thing I'll do.
My next post will be from Los Angeles or from Hawaii! Thanks for reading.
|Posted by allisonfp on August 14, 2012 at 10:40 PM||comments (1)|
Our trip to Bunaken turned out to be very fruitful for me! I collected over 40 samples, including one species I had not previously collected that lives on Pavona corals. I also got a couple dives in, and speared my first fish! It was one of Abril's Chrysiptera damselfish. Bunaken was similar to Donggala and Raja Ampat in that we could collect right off the beach or take the boat to different sites, and we had all of our meals buffet style at Lorenso's. So convenient!
I have to admit I have gotten so used to the field routine that now I struggle to find new interesting things to share with you. I am back in Bali now, and my next task is to organize all of my samples, record them properly, finish DNA extractions, and start PCR to make sure the extractions are good. At some point I want to collect more samples in Sanur, and on the 26th I am going to Pemuteran with Rita to collect for both of our projects. Then back to Denpasar, process the latest samples, and fly out on September 4th! I'll let you know if anything intersting happens in the mean time.
|Posted by allisonfp on August 5, 2012 at 8:30 AM||comments (1)|
I am writing from the Makassar airport as we travel between Donggala, Central Sulawesi, and Manado, Northern Sulawesi! But before I talk about Sulawesi, I owe you an update about Nusa Lembongan. For future reference, Nusa means island in Balinese.
Lembongan and Nusa Penida are small islands slightly east of Bali that are included in the province of Bali. Lembongan is a popular spot to visit in our group because it is easy to get to from Sanur, and it is always relaxing and fun. Last summer I went twice, and met some Canadian guys (Andrew and Cody) who had just opened up a dive shop called Blue Corner Dive (BCD). This year we went back there and were happy to find it flourishing. I was impressed that they seemed to be emphasizing teaching at their shop, with a constant flow of dive master trainees and an instructor development course going on. It was really fun getting to know the dive masters in training, who came out on some of our dives- Carmel, Chris, Cam, and Tom. At BCD people usually stick around after diving for sunset happy hour, volleyball, and the occasional late night jam session at the bar, and every Friday night there is a bonfire and party. I have to say, I put off writing this post for a while because I was struggling to find the words to describe not just our trip but of the lifestyle at BCD. As a marine biologist I feel that my field lifestyle is pretty great, because I get to travel around, stay at beachside locations, and see the most beautiful coral reefs in the world, and it is all in the name of research. However, there is a certain degree of stress that comes with the research, and it is incredibly tiring to get as many samples as possible from a location, process and record them all, then pack up, fly, and start again. Owning a dive shop is also stressful, I gather, particularly when the safety of so many people is in your hands. Then there are the tourists, who are there purely for pleasure, and can't fathom the concept of being stressed and busy at such a place. I think the dive master lifestyle is sort of in between- they certainly have responsibilities, but when they're off the clock, they don't have to worry about business. And every day their office is a coral reef! There are plenty of local dive masters who live a fairly normal life, going home to their families each night, so it is the foreigners that fascinate me. Many people that we meet at dive shops have been traveling or living in SE Asia for months or years, and don't seem to have plans for going "home." The new ones jump from island to island until they secure a job, while the more experienced become instructors and settle down for years at a time. I think it's really interesting that in this line of work it really doesn't matter what background and education you have, because diving is such a unique skill that anyone can pick up at any time. I was sort of shocked to realize that people can make a living diving all the time, and for some young people there's no need to go to college if that is their dream. I think it's one of the few industries where you see foreigners and Indonesians working side by side. However, the owners are usually western, probably because of the startup money required to for a dive shop.
Ok enough musing about professional diving. The trip to Lembongan was fairly successful for me, because I got 9 samples, 6 of which came from Porites cylindrica. Abril and Hayley had less luck, but we plan to go back in August because Hayley's fish were definitely there.
Now, about Sulawesi. On July 31 (my birthday!) we flew from Bali to Palu in Central Sulawesi, and from there went by car to the German-owned Prince John Dive Resort in Donggala. We stayed in bungalows on a hillside looking out over the water, but surrounded by trees- which means it was buggier than most seaside locations. Every moment that I was not in the water, I made to sure to be doused in deet. Side note- we've been taking anti-malarials in the far out places such as Raja Ampat and Sulawesi. They had buffet-style meals (no meat- fish only!) and a nice little beachside bar which was nice for celebrating my birthday when we arrived! I was able to do all my collecting right on the house reef, though I had to swim kind of far or get a boat ride down the shore to get to the really good habitat. As usual, it took me a couple days to find prime nudi hunting spots, but once I did I ended up with 38 samples! Best of all, 10 of them came from Porites cylindrica, which is more than I have collected from that coral in one location so far. I was discouraged at first because there was so much of the coral and I wash' finding any nudibranchs on it, until the last day when I and Sam suddenly found all 10 within 20 minutes. That's usually how it goes- I find a good spot and suddenly am overwhelmed with collecting. Usually my camera battery dies right about then as well! It's been tough finding the time to charge my battery all the way, especially because at Prince John we only had electricity at night. Anyway, it was a very successful trip, and I'm really starting to get curious about what my genetic analysis will show!
We had a bunch of encounters with other animals in Donggala as well, particularly of the dangerous variety- like lionfish and scorpion fish. I think I took at least 5 more cuttlefish videos, including a couple that were flashing really intensely like the display at an electronic music show! I'll upload soon, but I'm almost at my storage limit so I'll probably have to remove a lot of the things I've uploaded and replace them with smaller files.
We have arrived now at Bunaken, near Manado in Northern Sulawesi, where we will be diving and snorkeling inside Bunaken National Park. We're in bungalows again, this time with a mangrove forest between us and the open water. I'm excited about that, because I have had god luck collecting near mangroves thus far. The place is owned by a great local guy named Lorenso- check out his website! http://www.lorensobunaken.com/
I'll let you know how it goes!