Science in Siberia: Lake Baikal Field Research With Wellesley College

I am spending the month of August 2016 studying Lake Baikal in Siberia with a small group of students and professors from Wellesley College. We are conducting scientific research for a longitudinal study. My focus is studying how heavily grazers are feeding on algae through the use of grazer exclusion pens. You can follow along here on my blog each day. Each entry is a brief summary from the Wellesley College Lake Baikal Student Blog and you can click the link to read more on the actual blog.

Thanks so much for being interested and if you like what you are reading please share this on your social media posts and invite your friends to follow along as well.

Wednesday August 17, 2016

Today was our last morning in Bol’shie Koty. The morning was raining and we took an angsty last walk on the beach. We said goodbye to the beloved staff and then boarded the hydrofoil for Listvyanka. We visited the Museum of Wooden Architecture and toured several Siberian houses. We ended the day in our old hotel in Irkutsk. Tomorrow is our last day in Russia.

Read more about our day here.

Final breakfast at the biostation Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Final breakfast at the biostation Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Tuesday August 16, 2016

Today was our last full day at the biostation. It is a bittersweet feeling. We spent the day packing, hiking, and had a final farewell dinner. Our station manager, Elena, gathered a huge number of edible mushrooms today, and the were delicious.

Read more about our day here.

Edible mushrooms gathered by Elena Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Edible mushrooms gathered by Elena Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Monday August 15, 2016

We split up into two different groups today, one group went on a mountain hike while the other went on a beautiful valley walk. The valley walk consisted of two things- trying to avoid the many ants and spotting birds. There were ant hills nearly as tall as us. We did see a Great Spotted Woodpecker cracking into the birch trees and marveled at the swiftness of the streams after the storms. The group that did the mountain hike had a steep hike  and were able to look over the lake and the surrounding forests. We all made it back to the Biostation safely and will spend the evening journaling and watching a movie called “The Way Back.”

Read more about our day here.

Hiking in the valley Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Hiking in the valley Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Hiking in the valley Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Hiking in the valley Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Sunday August 14, 2016

We spent our final night of our expedition camping out on the boat deck in our sleeping bags. We were able to watch the sunrise. As we headed back to Bol’shie Koty we stopped by a cliff to check out ancient petroglyphs. We were able to catch a glimpse with binoculars. We arrived back in Bol’shie Koty around 7:00 p.m.

Read more about our day here.

The full group Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

The full group Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Saturday August 13, 2016

Some of us started our day with an early sunrise hike, while others relaxed. In the afternoon we visted a Tibetan Buddhist Stupa. It is a tradition for people to walk around the monument clockwise, wishing happiness to all beings. After that visit we went to Khuzhir, a town with rich history. We enjoyed food and exploring the town while event visiting a museum.  We also finally experienced blue skies, so hopefully we will get to spend the night under the stars.

Read more about our day here.

Tibetan Buddhist Stupa on Ogoi Island Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Tibetan Buddhist Stupa on Ogoi Island Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Friday August 12, 2016

Early this morning the storm wind changed directions and our captains were forced to leave the bay. Once we got on open water the weather was not too bad so we would make our journey up to Ol’ khon Island. It took 7 hours but we made it. We were then free to explore and then celebrate Lyuba’s birthday.

Read more about our day here.

Exploring Maloe More (Little Sea) on Ol'kohn Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Exploring Maloe More (Little Sea) on Ol’kohn Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Thursday August 11, 2016

We experienced a very stormy night on the boat, but everyone managed to stay in their beds despite the winds being so strong. We were told that we would ave to spend the day at Bukhta Peschania waiting out the storm. Most of us did not want to be stuck on the boat all day so we took advantage of our time and did a hike to Granddaughter’s Cove. Those that did not do the hike spent time journaling and drinking tea. We are trying to make the most of the storm, but hope we will get cleared to be on our way early in the morning.

Read more about our day here.

Hiking to Granddaughter's Cove Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Hiking to Granddaughter’s Cove Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Wednesday August 10, 2016

We left today for our five-day lake adventure. We made our way from Bolshi Koti up the western coast to Bukhta Pescha (Sandy Cove) where we pulled over for lunch.We wound up staying here through the night, waiting out what turned out to be a major wind storm (the wind is called Nagornaia, and reached a windspeed of 22 meters per second today). Some of us took advantage of the waves and tried some body surfing.

Read more about our day here.

Taking advantage of the waves body surfing. Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Taking advantage of the waves body surfing. Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Tuesday August 9, 2016

Our stomachs have been filled with fresh raspberries, currents and zhuchki (“little beetles” – actually small, tasty pastries) thanks to friendly, garden-owning residents of Bol’shie Koty. We also spent some of the day interviewing local researchers, cooks, gardeners and technicians. We learned how their family’s came to Baikal and what the lake means to them. Tomorrow we embark on a 5-day expedition to explore several of the islands of Lake Baikal via cutter ships. Internet will be spotty, but will post when I can.

Read more about our day here.

Getting our fill of fresh raspberries Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Getting our fill of fresh raspberries Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Monday August 8, 2016

Today we seemed to have a much needed break. We spent time in the bio station where we caught up on our journals. Later in the day we went to visit a local farm in village of Bol’shie Koty. Irina, the owner of the estate gave us a tour of the grounds. We met several residents of the farm including: goats, cats, turkeys, hares and a dog named Jack. This estate was a little oasis in the village. We also had some time to hike, catch up on laundry and do some reading.

Read more about our day here.

Meeting the goats at Irina's estate Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Meeting the goats at Irina’s estate Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Sunday, August 7, 2016

While I am working on a longer term experiment with Helena, we spent some time today helping the other groups stay organized as they wrote up findings from their experiments. In the afternoon we had Vladimir Munkhanov come speak to us. He is a member of the indigenous Siberian community and a friend of our course. We met him on skype during the school year, so it was nice to meet him in person. He accompanied us on a scenic hike up the Malaia Kotynka creek with Professor Hodge.

Read more about our day here.

View from our scenic hike Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

View from our scenic hike Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Saturday, August 6, 2016

We traveled on the Kozhov to Zona pokoia (quiet zone) today. Botanists from Irkutsk State University gave us a hiking tour of the flora and fauna. At the end of the hike we saw a grouping of stromatolites that are 2.7 billion years old. This was a highlight of the hike for me because of my major in astrobiology. We also were led up a steep slope to explore a large cave that contained a limestone cavern with stalagmites. We concluded the day with a dip in the lake.

Read more about our day here.

Dip in the lake after hiking Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Dip in the lake after hiking Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Friday, August 5, 2016

Today we got to stay dry and focus on analyzing data from fieldwork and preparing presentations for classmates, professors and visiting Ph.D, students from Irkutsk State University Limnological Instittue. The weather has been rainy and it was nice to spend some time out of the cold water wading and swimming. After lunch some of us presented our preliminary research and then took a little break to check out a Canadian documentary about the migration of early Siberians to America.

Read more about our day here.

Presenting preliminary fieldwork research Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Presenting preliminary fieldwork research Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Thursday, August 4, 2016

We had another busy day today. We spent some time hearing from Professor Timoshkin’s graduate students: Yulia, Olya, and Katya. The presented their fields of research and we got to see their sampling methods first hand. We collected samples and went back to the lab to look at what we found. We spent the afternoon collecting more data and doing some analysis for our field projects.

Read more about our day here.

A famous tardigrade (water bear) we collected Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

A famous tardigrade (water bear) we collected Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Today we spent the morning in the cold water completing data collection. The evening was spent enjoying a hot meal and listing to a lecture from renowned Russian ecologist and Lake Baikal specialist, Oleg Timoshkin. Professor Timoshkin will be providing some guidance for the next few days.

Read more about our day here.

Examining research findings Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Examining research findings Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Tuesday August 2, 2016

We started the day brainstorming about picking sample locations and then ventured out to collect samples. The water was freezing, but we will gladly endure cold temperatures for science. We also hiked up to Malaia Sennaia where we dove to collect additional samples and install logging instruments. We will soon be parents to millions of new bacteria.

Read more about our day here.

Gathering samples for field research. Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Gathering samples for field research. Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Monday August 1, 2016

Today we brainstormed research topics and formed groups. I will be working with Helena. We are going to be setting up grazer exclusion pens to study how heavily grazers are feeding on algae by comparing areas inside the pens, where grazers cannot enter, to natural areas where grazers are active.

Read more about our day here. 

Finalizing fieldwork topics Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

Finalizing fieldwork topics Photo credit: Wellesley Baikal Research Team

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