I have held a wide variety of nicknames throughout my life. As of tonight, I added to the array the flattering title of “swamp girl.” (Psychology majors just don’t understand; the irony of this statement does not escape me.) It sounds a little gross, but perhaps could be used as the name of a superhero?
I earned this one because every Wednesday at 12:35 sharp, our biology class of twenty or so files into the lab closet to get our chest waders and other equipment. Then we shuffle to the bus, supplies in tow, followed by the confused stares of onlookers. We are BIOL 310 and evidently, I am swamp girl.
To say all this sounds epic, but there’s actually very little glory in wading through mucky water up to your armpits. A more recent excursion took us downstream of a waste treatment facility (read: human sewage processing plant) where clean water was released back into the natural water shed. Our analysis told us that water treatment guys were doing their jobs pretty well. Regardless, there’s always the mental aspect of “good gracious, what am I wading through?” And finally, this past week I found myself sloshing into freezing water with a 25lb ponar (spring-loaded metal grabby) in hand. This was used to dredge up samples of silt/dead leaves which looked exactly like wet cow patties.
Inglorious as it is, I freely admit that our class has a lot of fun. We’ve identified a wide variety of water critters I didn’t know existed, including freshwater eels and dragonfly larvae. It’s crazy to think that the female eels we find here in Virginia actually began their lives thousands of miles away, in the Sargasso Sea. Despite the exotic appeal of the eels, however, my favourite of the organisms we’ve dealt with, is a lowly gastropod mollusc–the freshwater snail. Snails have been dear to my heart since I was a wee one, beginning my biology career as a three-year-old with my “snail farm.” In my more recent history, I rescued one last week from being “preserved” in our biology department’s collection (read: dropped in isopropyl alcohol). I have since named him Milton. To the best of my knowledge, Milton is a Helisoma anceps (also called the two-ridge ramshorn snail). He seems fairly happy in his new home on my desk, but like any good biologist it is my intent to release him later in the school year. I’m sure his presence in my room doesn’t help the swamp girl image, but for the time being he’s here to stay. Anyway, every superhero needs a sidekick.