28 July 2021

Taking an intern into the field

I have an intern! For the first time ever. And I probably should say "we have an intern" as the project the intern is working on is mainly Jaco's, with me bolted on. But still. Jaco had been involved in research where he quantifies the relative influence of the sea and the river in various estuaries, and he figured he could do something similar in the estuary we will be using for our September fieldwork. So when the internship application process finished and yielded an intern, we made sure to back into the field. We were still in the middle of the heatwave, but we figured we could do this.

We gathered in Malltraeth. The idea was that we would first have a look at the actual river, and then walk to the very end of the estuary. And the estuary has no shade! I made sure I applied sunscreen twice, and wore an ugly sun hat. Our intern had brought neither sunscreen nor hat. Oh dear. We didn't have a hat to spare, but we could kit him out with some sun cream.

When you are negotiating an estuary, you are likely to sometimes want to cross the channel. Jaco and I were prepared for that. The student a bit less so! It must have been a bit of steep learning curve.

We did what we came to do quite effectively. After a few hours we were at the end of the estuary! And from there on, our only task was to get back to the cars. It had been my explicit request to walk back through the woods, as there is more shadow there. That was a bit more work than I expected! We first had to walk back to the dunes, then through the dunes to the woods, and from the edge of the woods to the actual path. In my flawed memory, the path ran close to the edge of the wood, but that was only true further north. We had to bushwhack it a bit before we got to it! And it is not a dense woodland; the amount of shadow wasn't overwhelming, but it was a lot better than the estuary.

I had been carrying the necessities for the day, and by the time the reached the dunes I felt the shoulder straps of my bag cut a bit into my shoulders. And our student was lagging behind a bit. So when we reached the parking lot by the road, I suggested a little break. I liked a drink and a bite to eat, and I figured our student could do with the breather, and I liked to give Jaco some of the fieldwork weight I had on my shoulders. And that's what we did.

Only when we were almost back at the cars they did it dawn on Jaco and me that maybe our student had blisters. We had been walking through saltwater after all, and we all had sand in our shoes, and all that can chafe and rub. It turned out that he did! In hindsight, we should have left him at the parking lot, got the car, picked him up, brought him back to his own car, and then all gone our separate ways. It was a bit late for that now.

When we were all back at our cars, we had achieved scientifically what we had intended to, and nobody looked particularly sunburned, so I think this was a success! And the rest of the internship will now be university-based. No more fieldwork. At least not much; maybe Jaco and Jack, the student, will go back to the river at some point, but they don't need a Micropalaeontologist for that. I think we had a good start! I hope that is representative for the rest of the project…

Some lovely exposed sediments, and vegetation with fairly clear zonation in the background!

Pretty intertidal vegetation

Ripples in the sand

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