Anastasia Danelyants’ Diary
Mountain Waters of the Czech Republic

June 13, 2009: Reflections
June 11, 2009: Final touches
June 9, 2009: Streams
June 7, 2009: R & R
June 5, 2009: Tree day
June 3, 2009: From forest to opera
June 1, 2009: First day in the field
May 5, 2009: Teammates
June 12, 2009: Farewell
June 10, 2009: Back to the beginning
June 8, 2009: Young tree inventory
June 6, 2009: Putting in our oars
June 4, 2009: Homework
June 2, 2009: Cutting the grass
May 31, 2009: Czech welcome
April 2009: Intro

June 13, 2009: Reflections

Our_Team I had half a day more in Prague and spent it in the center again. My flight back home was safe and nothing unforeseen happened. There was a singular coincidence. One article in the airplane magazine was dedicated to different volunteer projects, including Earthwatch expeditions. It said "voluntourism" (from "volunteer tourism") had become a popular type of vacation in recent years. And now I can understand why. I came home from this expedition fresh and rested as if I had been on a holiday. But it included so much more. I met fantastic people, learned many things, made my own contribution to protecting the environment. It was both a lesson and an adventure. I'm very grateful to Alcoa for entrusting me this very valuable mission and gift. This diary is one of the ways how I can share it with you. Please write me any questions or thoughts that occurred to you reading it. And thank you for reading. Just one more thing I wanted to share. Something I felt: doing something for nature makes you feel much more in charge.
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June 12, 2009: Farewell

Charles'_Bridge On Friday we were left on our own and had freedom of choice. The only thing we had to meet for was our last dinner together. All of Prague was at my disposal, but again I chose the Prague Zoo. Only Russell joined me. I should tell you that thePrague Zoo is one of the best I've seen. It covers a huge area, has a vast variety of animal species, and what's the most valuable and pleasant for me - great roomy enclosures for the inhabitants. It also breeds endangered and rare animals and returns them back to the wild or to special natural reserves. Among such animals are Przewalski's horses, the pride of Prague Zoo, one of the most endangered in the world. I was really confused by the weather this day. It rained probably five times or more and every time after that the sun shone brightly and a serene sky promised no more rain. For lunch we met with Rachel and Martha in the center of the city and had a juicy sausage. Then I just walked on my own for couple of hours in the center, looking for souvenirs, taking pictures, gazing around, breathing in Prague air and relaxing. In the evening we met Josef near the Charles' Bridge as appointed and went to the restaurant. We had a beautifully decorated separate room with a big table for all of us. We talked about everything that happened to us, our new views and thoughts, and of course thanked Josef, Petr and Dobro for their attention and kindness, for all the knowledge and skills they shared with us so generously and willingly. It was a very cordial but at the same time very sad dinner for me, because I get attached to people fast and this was a farewell.
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June 11, 2009: Final touches

Heating_glass_for_blowing Josef stayed in the pension to pack all the equipment, samples and papers. So we went with Dobro and it was a good chance to practice speaking Czech. We visited a couple of glass factories. The Czech Republic is famous for its glass, and especially in the Bohemia region, where we were. At the first factory they produced hand-made Christmas-tree decorations. We could see the whole process: heating a glass rod, blowing hot glass into a decoration, making it shiny, painting, spangling, adding an eye and finally packing. We got the chance to blow a glass ball ourselves and it was incredible. Later in a shop we bought some nice and fragile ornaments and I managed to bring them home safe and sound. On the way back we had to check rain-gauges just at one spot, and Cathy and Will did it quickly. By the way, we saw a deer twice this day. I was happy. We gathered in our sitting-room and Josef gave us a quiz on all the things we studied during the expedition. We brushed up on all the research methods we used, causes and effects, as well as cultural and historical facts about the country that we'd learned. This was a nice way to highlight key points and give feedback. Then we left our cosy Czech home. The last dinner in our village restaurant included garlic soup and pork with sauerkraut and dumplings. A heavy rain accompanied us to Prague. We checked into our rooms in Charles University's hostel "Kolej Komenskeho" quickly. I didn't need much time for rest, as well as others, and soon we left for a nice walk along old streets and lanes of Prague. I had quickly explored this part of city before, the first day in Prague, but easy walking with friends here is beyond compare. Later when we were back I copied Will's pictures as he's got lots of very good ones.
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June 10, 2009: Back to the beginning

Forest_canopy_inventory This day we were on a Josefov Dul water reservoir. Josef was in a boat with Cathy, Misae and Ryan sampling water. I was in a second team preparing a new spot for forest inventory. We measured 30x30 meters square, marked all trees inside with numbers, and did all usual measurements: height, trunk circumference, temperature and resistance. We agreed to meet a boat team at lunch time in a small local museum in a village where a glass factory used to be. After a short visit there we continued working on a different spot, Oldrichov, the one with the rain-gauges and stream monitory station. We did some repair work to the station, cleaned up the area, and checked rain-gauges again. A find of the day was a nice big mushroom. For dinner we had tomato soup and fish with potatoes. And a fruit dumpling again, which we had been looking forward to for several days! Ryan treated us with strawberries in the evening, so it was not dull at all to process the data. We didn't have much work to do, so we soon had a good time playing cards again. I felt a bit sad that evening as is was our very last evening and night in a hospitable "Statek U Rajtru" pension in beautiful Jizera mountains. "My heart's in the highlands" - I can write, as Robert Burns did (though about different places).
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June 9, 2009: Streams

Measuring_stream_flow We started from Sous water reservoir. Josef, Rachel, Martha and Russell took water samples from the boat. Cathy, Misae and Will marked trees on a new spot and did forest inventory. Ryan, Petr and I took stream water samples walking around the reservoir. We also measured flow rate, checked water temperature and oxygen level, and if we saw fish in the stream we also wrote it down. The weather was unexpectedly warm and nice; it was a pleasure to follow forest paths and chat, and jump over a wide stream once. I enjoyed this work day probably most of all. On the way back we visited an old dam near Desna village. In the beginning of the 20th century the dam failed and water flows and huge stones caused damages and victims in the village. We also had some free time in Jablonec city, but it started raining and we didn't walk around a lot. Dinner brought tripe soup and potato pancakes with chicken and vegetables. This evening was my turn to do a presentation. I showed pictures from Samara, and from Moscow and St. Petersburg also, and gave out some souvenirs I brought. It was a nice evening. We sat up late talking and then teaching each other card games we play back home.
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June 8, 2009: Young tree inventory

The_only_old_Mountain_Ash We went to the spot called Jizerka, where we'd taken grass samples before. This time our team (Will, Misae, Ryan, Russell and I) did forest inventory. There were mostly young trees planted after clear-cutting: Norway spruce, Colorado spruce, mountain ash and some birches. We measured height, trunk circumference and average crown spread (measurements from two sides of a tree) for several spots. Then I got the vegetation statistics (grass, blueberry, moss, etc.). The second team took stream water samples. It started raining when we were finishing and we all got wet. Hot cauliflower soup and beef with rice were served in the nick of time. The nice thing is that I never caught a cold during the expedition in spite of the weather. We passed stands of dead spruce reminding of the acid rains here. Hopefully Josef's project andOld_and_young_spruces  our common efforts will lead to recovery of this beautiful district, which I really loved. For the evening we've got lots of data to write down. When it was ready Ryan did his presentation about the place where he lives. He showed us beautiful views of Lake Michigan and at the same time told about ecological problems they have.
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June 7, 2009: R & R

Liberec_Zoo_Red_Panda Sunday was our rest-day. First we went to Lemberk castle. It has several rooms with original furniture, houseware, paintings and carpets from different centuries. So one can trace the changes of household style. We had our usual sandwich lunch in fresh air and went to Liberec, where he had several options: Zoo, Botanical garden or a Museum. I go to zoos wherever I am, so I couldn't miss this one and spent all the time there. Rachel, Martha and Russell joined me. Liberec Zoo is the oldest in the Czech Republic and is focused on breeding endangered and rare animal species such as white tigers and golden takins. I waited for ages to take a picture of a red panda. They are usually sleeping on a tree curled up into a ball every time I see them. When we were leaving it started to rain and we didn't stay in Liberec long. Dinner was waiting for us - chicken soup and fried cheese with vegetables. I was so full that I couldn't have my dessert and our kind hostess packed it for me. In the evening Cathy did her presentation about the previous Earthwatch project she attended several years ago in Romania. It was an archeological research project. The team excavated an ancient Roman fort. She showed us pictures of the spot, told how they worked, what tools used, what they'd found. It was interesting to listen.
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June 6, 2009: Putting in our oars

Josef_takes_water_sample Today we went to Bedrichov water reservoir. I was in a boat with William and Josef taking water samples from different depths in two points. We also measured water level, temperature, oxygen saturation and clarity. William was rowing to the middle of a lake and I was rowing back and we both managed it pretty well. There were two more teams, one doing forest inventory and a second taking water samples from streams around the reservoir. We finished work at noon and had lunch in a place where we usually had dinner. The meal was more Italian then Czech - mushroom soup and spaghetti with meat and sauce. And dinner was at our pension. Our hosts were very kind to do barbeque sausages for us, which I enjoyed a lot. 

Between lunch and dinner we did lab work in the pension. Wrote down data, tested water samples with special equipment, and weighed dried grass samples. It was Misae's turn to do a presentation and she impressed us a lot. For many years she studied a book called "the Book of Kells", which is some 12 centuries old. It contains gospels and very sophisticated drawings made by monks. She investigated the original ways of dye preparation (colours were obtained from different plants, minerals or even insects) and the meaning of ornament fragments. And what is most remarkable - she reproduced 22 pages of the book with absolute accuracy using original materials for dyes.

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June 5, 2009: Tree day

Martha_measures_tree_health We were back on the spot called Oldrichov, where we started several days ago. The task for the day was inventory of forest stands. One more of Josef's students, Jiri, came to join us for a couple of days, as his current research includes tree-ring-analysis and he needed to collect more data for it. We did "canopy-sky" reading, measured trunk circumference and height. New for me was to measure tree temperature and resistance with a special device. But others had already used it on another spot, and it was easy to learn. Some rain water had already collected in rain-gauges and we measured the level and took samples. After lunch we moved to another spot to do the same there. In the meanwhile our teammates did some reconstruction of the stream monitoring station. Josef arranged a meeting with a forester for us, so we could ask him everything about his work, its features and problems, plants and animals typical to the region, etc. For dinner we had chicken soup with dumplings, pork with potatoes, cabbage and cracknel. In the evening Russell, Rachel and Martha did their presentations based on the research projects they had conducted at the university. Rachel and Martha studied crab population and migration in their region. Russell and Rachel did a project on autoimmune disease, looking for drug treaments that will be more effective. Their presentations were very interesting and gave rise to many questions.
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June 4, 2009: Homework

Analyzing_grass_samples The day was very cold and dull again, even worse than the previous, so perfectly suited for staying in the pension and analyzing samples. First of all we sorted grass samples. We had to separate two different types of grass, moss, dry grass and all the rest. I worked together with Misae, Ryan and William. We were a good team, had fun sorting the grass. After that we wrote down yesterday's data. I was a bit confused that I couldn't at first get the right result in Excel for the tree heights (calculated by angle and distance), which seemed to be easy. But reading 'Help' helps! The thing is that Excel operates with angles in radians, not degrees (useful to know), and as soon as I learned that, I calculated it fast. 

We had couple of hours before dinner to relax or have a walk around. I came back from dinner (lentil soup, chicken with mashed potatoes, and berries for dessert) afraid we might put on several kilos during this expedition. Food here is very tasty. This evening was William's presentation. He showed us pictures and home-movies from Australia, told about the country, the district where he lives, and also about Alcoa. He also carried out a nice game, where we had to write down two things that are true about us and one that is a lie. And others had to guess which one is made up. It was both amusing and interesting to learn new things about each other.

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June 3, 2009: From forest to opera

This day was very cool and windy. We came to a big water reservoir called Josefuf Dul. We had to sample reservoir water from a boat, but with such weather it wasn't possible. I was in a group with Josef, Cathy, Misae and William. First we did a familiar task - checked and cleaned 9 rain-gauges and measured soil pH and moisture. Then we did "canopy-sky" reading with a special device. You hold it at eye-level and see what's right above you - an open sky or leaves. At the same time you write down what kind of vegetation is on the spot: grass, moss, blueberry bushes, forest litter or open stone. Readings from every 5 meters give you statistics for canopy and vegetation of the whole square (30x30 meters). After that we did a forest inventory for the same square that included about 80 trees. For each tree we measured trunk circumference at chest level and height (using an angle finder and distance to the tree). The second team took stream water samples. 

We finished our work earlier than the day before, and it was very good, as I was already frozen to death. We had dinner (goulash, fried cheese and sausages and a fascinating strawberry dumpling) earlier then usual and went to Liberec Opera. Josef got us tickets to a "L'elisir d'amore" ("The Elixir of Love") opera by Gaetano Donizetti, performed in Italian. I enjoyed it a lot! Staging, singers, acoustics, costumes - everything was perfect. The Liberec Opera house is very beautiful. In the evening we had a rest, drank tea, coffee, and talked about everything - from modern Czech sculptor David Cerny to climate changes.

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June 2, 2009: Cutting the grass

Sampling_grass_and_soil Right after breakfast we left for the opposite side of the mountains to a spot called Jizerka. Here a clear-cut had been made, and now it's important to watch closely how the regeneration proceeds. We split into two teams again. I, Misae, Bill, Russel and Josef took samples of grass and soil. We had to cut and collect all grass in a 30x30 centimeter square area, and measure soil pH and moisture. Then we took a sample of soil using a special tube and measured humus layer thickness. We repeated this process for 20 areas. Some spots contained rain-gauges, which we sampled and cleaned. The second team's task was to check rain-gauges on the other side of the hill and to do some forest inventory for a certain spot. The soil in this area is very swampy. I was in rubber boots and that helped a lot, as once I sank into the mud knee-deep. The next teams will enjoy blueberries that grow there abundantly. 
Dinner with broccoli soup and pork recouped our strength. In the evening we wrote down all collected data. Then Petr gave us a presentation on the computer system they use to store data and get graphic images based on this data. It is stored in layers: elevation, humidity, vegetation, stream system, reservoirs and so on. You can also get 3D models of certain areas. It was actually very interesting to me.

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June 1, 2009: First day in the field

Rachel_and_Martha_measure_soil_PH We had a very nice buffet breakfast (as we would every day) and went to Liberec, a nearby city, where we had some free time to see the central square and streets. After breakfast we also had an introduction lecture on the aims of the research and the methods to be used. Our first work site was Oldrichov, in a beech forest high up the hills. We had to take samples from 10 rain gauges and several streams, so we separated into two teams. I was with Rachel, Martha and Misae, led by Josef. One by one we checked the rain gauges, took samples of water using filters, marked each sample bottle with a rain gauge number, and carefully cleaned the equipment. One rain gauge was in the open and others were under the trees, thus giving more broad results. We also measured soil pH and moisture under each stand with a special device (HB-2 Kelway soil tester), a process that also required careful attention. 
In the meantime the second team was taking samples of stream water. Then we reassembled at a forest stream with a monitoring station. I, Ryan, William and Petr measured the width and depth of a segment of the stream before and after cleaning the bottom for evaluation of annual sedimentation. Other team members cleaned the monitored place and also did some forest inventory. 
It was a good work day and we rode to dinner. Beef soup, chicken with rice and strawberry dessert were perfect. All our dinners were at a very nice village restaurant. I loved the cuisine, the decor and the hostess.
 
We had a lively evening together. First we recorded all the data we had collected. Then Josef showed us a presentation on the research in the Jizera Mountains and results of the previous years. After that we talked about ecology and our countries again. Misae showed us how our names would be spelled in Japanese.

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May 31, 2009: Czech welcome

Evening_data_processing I got acquainted with all the participants at noon, before we started our trip from Prague to the location of the project - Jizera Mountains, in the northern part of the country. I recognized Dr. Krecek at once, from a picture in a briefing, and was very glad to meet him after all the mail correspondence we'd had when he was helping me get my visa. There were also Petr, who is helping Josef with the research and is completing a PhD; and Dobro, our driver, helper and good friend. The team has worked together many years on this project, and are very friendly and supportive. 
Our lunch, my first meal in the Czech Republic, showed me that no one can go hungry here: portions are huge! We visited a fortress from the 14th century, empty since the 16th. If you can handle the numerous stairs, you're rewarded with a wonderful view. Our minivan climbed up the Jizera mountains by a long curvy road. Forests and meadows were all around ... and a thick mist. (I learned later that you can "catch" a mist. Did you know?) We settled in a cozy village house "Statek U Rajtru" with a nice wood smell inside. I'm in a room next to Rachel's and Martha's. 

Dinner was very tasty - a garlic soup and beef with dumplings from a Czech recipe. In the evening we sat together at a big table and talked on different topics, including Czech history, famous people, culture, the region's peculiarities and our own countries.

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May 5, 2009: Teammates

I wasn't able to join the expedition team until the second day, so I missed the whole first evening in Prague with my future friends, including dinner together and a concert. But I already knew the names of my teammates. Besides me, there were two Alcoans on the team: Ryan Tonk from the USA and William Roche from Australia. The USA was also represented by Cathleen and three friends studying together - Rachel, Martha and Russell. The eighth volunteer was Misae from Japan, who had participated in Earthwatch projects for many years. Cathleen is also an experienced Earthwatch volunteer. For the rest of us it was the first time (and maybe not the last, who knows!)
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April 2009: Intro

Hello, friends and colleagues. My name is Anastasia. I live in Samara (Russia) and work at Alcoa as a Helpdesk team member. In April 2009 I was lucky to be invited to join the Earthwatch expedition "Mountain waters of the Czech Republic" as an Alcoa Earthwatch Fellow. I was so excited! I looked forward the expedition, studied related materials and previous diaries, and even got an audio course of the basics of the Czech language. But I had only one month to prepare for the trip. Getting a visa to travel to Europe from Russia is no piece of cake. I spent a whole month rushing around, and got the visa the very last day, when I had almost given up hope! With help from the Earthwatch team and our leader Dr. Josef Krecek, all ended well, and I was on my way to the Czech Republic. I was also inspired by the fact that many words on Czech sounded familiar to my Russian ear. The languages have much in common, and I hoped to be able to communicate a bit in Czech, besides English.
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