17 September 2021

Fieldwork kicks off

 After the last preparations, the time had come to actually start the fieldwork! And we started early. We wanted to start the trip with a walk through the interesting parts of our fieldwork area, but what we find interesting is often only visible during low tide. And we wanted to start in the field! So our timing was decided by the tides. And low tide was early. So we met on the main campus at 7 AM. By our standards, that is not particularly early; in earlier years I have had to students show up at 4:45 in the morning. I met them at the bus stop and took a register. Because of one and a half years of mainly online teaching, and most students not being particularly keen on having their cameras on, I was unusually unfamiliar with this cohort. But that would change!

We headed for the gate of the woodland where we would enter the land managed by Natural Resources Wales. We would there meet a man who would give us the key to that gate. And then we could start!

I got there before the bus; with my modest car I can take a more direct route. I alerted the rest of the staff, who were already there, to the approach of the bus. We asked the students to get off, after which the bus driver drove deep into the woodland to his designated parking spot. The man from NRW showed him the way, and was accompanied by Dei. Together they would then go and meet us, while we started our walk. And we started on my saltmarsh! I told them about that the saltmarsh was probably the best place in the entire system for finding out about the history of said system. If you go any further inland, you are in an erosive environment. If you go further offshore, you are in the high energy environment where enormous amounts of sediment get reworked everyday. Only in the saltmarsh do you get calmer and relatively undisturbed deposition! And therefore a good sedimentary record. And because the marsh gets inundated every tidal cycle you get marine microorganisms in it, and therefore also marine micro-fossils. And these can help you with your interpretation of the sediments.

I next stop was a bit of a walk. We were going to the sand flat, not far from where we would put a mooring in the next day. There Martin did most of the talking. His mooring would be keeping an eye both on that very sand, and also on the currents moving it around, so he had a lot to say about it. By the time they reached it, Dei and the men from NRW, Graham, had rejoined us. And from there we walked around most of the area. Further stops focused on the rocks of Llanddwyn island, and on the difference in wave regime East and West of this promontory. We also looked at the dunes. And then we had a break by the main car park; the figure at some students might need to use the public toilets there. And when we were there anyway, we had some lunch. And after that we went into the dunes, where Graham explained about what his organisation does in the area.

Martin sketching something in the sand

We managed to fit everything quite neatly into the allocated time! So when he was done talking, we went back to where the bus had parked. It was time to go back to SOS! There were things we could only show the students on a screen; if you stand in the landscape, you cannot possibly get a clear overview of it. Sometimes aerial photography, or lidar measurements, or that kind of larger scale views were needed. So we presented there what we couldn't show in the field. And then the first day was already done!

Session in our covid-safe lab

Some of us stayed behind for a bit; we still needed to iron out some details about the logistics for the day after. This would be Martin's day, and he had not participated in the preparations, so we needed to do things such as verify that all the things I had assumed correct. And we made it work! So we could all go home, and get ready for the next day. The first proper day where the science would start! The ball was rolling now, and it wouldn't stop rolling for over a week!

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