Alina Blyum’s Diary
August 7, 2009: We reach the lake
We finally made it! By the end of the week we reached our final destination on the bog - the glacial lake. Every raised bog typically has a lake in the middle that dates back to the Ice Age. After 2.4 km of walking on the bog, there we were, looking at the cleanest, most beautiful lake I've ever seen. And the sense of accomplishment cannot be underestimated. We also realised how vegetation changed as moved deeper in the bog. In the beginning we mostly enjoyed eating blueberries but closer to the middle we found many more blackberries (which actually also tasted fantastic!)
Today I counted small trees with Dima, a Belarussian forestry student, who was so efficient in counting trees that I could only envy him and try to copy his technique!
It's Friday today and we wish to have some fun in the evening and celebrate the completion of the first bog but everyone is so exhausted that we decide to stay at home and just chat.
August 6, 2009: Rain
Today we made it further into the bog. I didn't realize it would be so difficult to move forward. First you have to cut trees along the bog profile (poor guys!), put wooden pickets to mark the distance and then walk along the profile till the next sample plot. Walking on the bog is quite strenuous and requires physical fitness, but the feeling of beeing part of the team and the presence of fellow Earthwatchers ready to help you is amazing!
I worked with Fabio today counting small trees, identifying their approximate age and height. Then I proceeded with a different type of work: cutting the grass. Inside a sample plot you mark a 50cm x 50cm area using wooden sticks and cut ALL the plants that are inside this area. Then you classify them: cotton grass, sphagnum moss, blueberry, waterberry, etc. and put them in separate bags. The scientists will use this data to determine the productivity of the bog and the density of different plants in this or that bog area. Work was going on when suddenly it started raining. A new "wet" experience on the bog!
August 5, 2009: Bogs! Bogs!
Pancakes for breakfast were awesome! We couldn’t get enough. Special thanks to our cook Zinaida!
After breakfast Natasha gave an introductory presentation about bogs. It was very informative! We found out that bogs cover about 14% of Belarus. There are more than 10,000
bogs in the country, which absorb large volumes of atmospheric CO2. One hectare of bog is 7-15 times more effective than a comparable area of forest for removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. Bogs
act as reservoirs of fresh water, which can add to the flowing rivers, and since bogs accumulate water, they modify the climate on surrounding areas. Bogs are habitats for a wide
range of both floral and fauna species, and 56% of all berry resources are situated in bogs. It's unbelievable that people drain and destroy bogs!
After the presentation we had a tour around Klasticy. It was a long but very informative day. We were surprised to find out that in July of 1812, during Napoleon's invasion of Russia, there was a battle in Klasticy between Russian and French troops. The French, led by Marshal Oudinot, had a plan to take Klasticy on the way to St. Petersburg, but General Wittgenstein decided to hit from the flank and the French were brushed aside, which ruined their plans to attack toward St. Petersburg. In general the village is very picturesque, with nice small houses, the beautiful river Nishcha and cattle here and there.
In the afternoon we headed to our first bog. An amazing view! Natasha explained what we had to do and the work started. That day I worked together with Fabio (Alcoa, Brazil) and Mastura from British American Tobacco. The task we were performing was called "Big trees". We had to count all the big trees in the TSP (Typological Sample plot), define their species, measure their diameter and height and mark them after counting. Later on the data will be used by scientists to measure forest productivity on the bog.
August 4, 2009: Road Trip
It's 6 a.m. I'm too full of excitement to sleep any longer, and really feeling the jet lag. The morning is nice and fresh and I decide to have a little walk along the wide and unbelievably clean streets of Minsk. A couple of hours later we meet in the hall of Academicheskaya for breakfast. After shopping in BigZmart, we jump in our cool red bus and get ready for a 5 hour drive. On the way we stop at Natasha's (our principal investigator) "dacha" where we are treated to sandwiches and tea. Several bus stops and playing card "miracles" later we find ourselves in the final destination - village Klasticy. Victor, our driver, drops us at the house of our host, Alla Nikolaevna, where we find out that there aren't enough sleeping places for everybody! Does it mean that we have to separate? No way!! We decide to have four boys sleeping in one room, two of them on the floor, so we give them all our sleeping bags. A nice belorussian dinner and long talks afterwards.
August 3, 2009: On the way!
Here we go! It's 5 a.m. The music of my alarm clock is unusually pleasant this morning :) Several hours later I'm on board a Boeing 737 taking me from Samara to Kaliningrad, the western exclave city of Russia, where I spend 6 hours before boarding my connection to Minsk. Luckily my mother's friend is living in Kaliningrad so she can show me around. Kaliningrad is a very nice and clean town. The former Koenigsberg, it was annexed by the Soviet Army in 1945. Koenigsberg was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946 after the death of Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR Mikhail Kalinin, one of the original Bolsheviks. The German population was expelled and the city was repopulated with Russian citizens. German was replaced by Russian as the language of everyday life. The city was rebuilt, and went through industrialisation and modernisation. The appearance of the city changed dramatically over the years but there are still some traces of old East Prussian times. The so-called King's Gates is the only thing that remains from the big tower.
Another takeoff and landing, and I'm just in time for the 7 p.m. meeting with other Earthwatch volunteers and project staff in the main hall of Hotel Academicheskaya in Minsk.
So, we are a team of 8 volunteers from different parts of the world. I immediately see that this is going to be a very pleasant adventure because we have a very nice company - very interesting people with unique personalities. Let's have fun!
July 23, 2009: Getting started
I'm Alina Blyum from Alcoa Russia, Samara plant. In less than a week I'm going to participate in an Alcoa Earthwatch project "Belarus Wetlands." Imagine how impatient I am now! (I already started packing!) Several months ago I received a message saying that I was chosen and couldn't believe my eyes!
A little bit about myself. I've been with Alcoa for 3 years now. I started right after graduation and have been working as an interpreter. This year I was transferred to the FRP technical department to work as process management group leader. I'm 25 and I enjoy travelling and studying foreign languages.
I'm sure this expedition is going to be a tremendous experience that will enable me to learn something extremely new (where else would I have learnt anything about bogs in Belarus??!!) and use this new knowledge and skills to help preserve the vulnerable ecosystem of Belarus wetlands.
I will keep you posted on my adventures and progress!