Yolanda Barba Gutiérrez's Diary
Mammals of Nova Scotia

July 13, 2009: Return to work
July 10, 2009: Signicant breadth and insignificant depth
July 8, 2009: Barbecue
July 6, 2009: Return to Cook's Lake
July 4, 2009: Watching whales
July 2, 2009: From voles to beavers
June 30, 2009: We set our traps
June 28, 2009: The team assembles
June 26: Celebrity
June 24, 2009: New friends
June 22, 2009: First contact
July 11-12, 2009: The Earthwatch Team
July 9, 2009: Survival skills
July 7, 2009: Ediacaran Fauna
July 5, 2009: Msit No´kmaq
July 3, 2009: From the forest to Liverpool
July 1, 2009: Climate change
June 29, 2009: Why Mammals?
June 27, 2009: Welcome to Nova Scotia
June 25, 2009: Preparations
June 23, 2009: Earthwatch, Alcoa and people

July 13, 2009: Return to work

Nova Scotia 286 After three different flights and thirteen hours flying, it's back to work! Firstly, I have gone straight to tell my Community Leader, Vanesa Fernández, about my experience. We have looked at photos on the blog and we both agree that we are going to encourage Aviles Alcoans to participate in the Earthwatch Fellowship Program next year. Our topic for the next community meeting is going to be “Mammals in Nova Scotia”. It is an incredible experience and it is really worth. For that reason, I would really like to thank Alcoa for giving me the opportunity to enjoy this experience in Nova Scotia.
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July 11-12, 2009: The Earthwatch Team

Team People engagement is one of the most important things needed in order to reach successful results. For that reason, I would like to thank my team for being such a lovely group and making Team II Nova Scotia 2009 such a memorable experience. As a keepsake, I would also like to define each Team II member with only one word. Nicole, spontaneity; Paul, courage; Tom, patience; Emmeline, knowledge; Lynn, tranquility; Maisie, commitment; Linda, gentleness; Claire, excitement; Roy, experience; Robin, honesty; Carry, happiness. Thank you very much, one and all. Quote of the experience as requested - "significant breadth and insignificant depth"!
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July 10, 2009: Signicant breadth and insignificant depth

Yolanda_and_friend Studying mammals in a temperate environment is not always considered as exciting as in other more exotic places. However, I have found it a really fulfilling experience and believe it is important for the future of these habitats to collect data. We need more information about these mammals because they are crucial members of the ecosystem and may become threatened in the future due to climate change. Today Dr. Newman looked at the data we have collected over the past two weeks and he explained the results to us. Our dataset has turned out to be very unusual. We have only trapped twenty percent of voles that would be expected, but we have also trapped many other species, such as chipmunks, jumping mice and red squirrels, which are not as common. It is very difficult to give an explanation with data only collected by two teams. It could be said that vole numbers change in cycles and consequently our research leaders have detected a natural decrease in numbers. Also, it is not easy to link global climate change with the local data that we have collected. Nevertheless, it is possible that the unusual cold weather recently in Nova Scotia has played an important role in reducing vole numbers. Anyway, according to Dr. Newman, our dataset has shown "significant breadth and insignificant depth". Our experience finishes today but all of us know that we have made a difference in research about mammals and climate change.
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July 9, 2009: Survival skills

Building_a_fire  Protection, acquisition, navigation and location are the four keys to survive if you are lost, according to our "Survival Skills" class. I really enjoyed learning to build a fire or prepare natural traps for capturing animals. Generally speaking, today was a wonderful day. In the morning, we checked our traps and we had a very nice surprise when we trapped three jumping mice among other mammals!! This kind of mouse is one of the most difficult to trap and we have trapped three in one morning, so you can imagine the jubilation not only from us but also from our research leaders. We Sunny_beach also picked our camera traps up after two weeks in the field to analyze the animals which had prowled around the area. It was exciting to watch raccoons and deer directly in front of our lens. In the afternoon, we could go to the beach!! After having a practical class about survival skills in the field, we walked along the beach on a very sunny day. Today, we have said goodbye to Cook´s Lake. It is sad, our Earthwatch adventure is close to the finish.
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July 8, 2009: Barbecue

In_the_field Yesterday, I talked about the impact of climate change from a general point of view, and today we have seen in the field how the weather plays an important role in the types of mammals inside one area. Today we checked our traps again and we found several chipmunks, voles and one lonely mouse! In previous Earthwatch expeditions, mice were common, while chipmunks were difficult to trap. Now, the current situation is completely different. We have trapped only one mouse up to now and at least 8 chipmunks. Before lunch, we also searched for transect signals in the field, especiallyYolanda_and_Paul deer droppings. Later, we cleared the path as in previous days and checked our traps again before dinner. Then we all got together for a barbecue where we shared our previous experiences sitting around the fire. It is very special to have this experience in a pristine natural environment, in the forest and close to an incredible lake.
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July 7, 2009: Ediacaran Fauna

Sunny_day Dr. Chris Newman talked today about geology, starting with concepts such as Phantalassa o Rodinia and finishing with the concept of Ediacaran Fauna, a distinctive group of fossils dating from and existing only during Precambrian time. The fauna class arose about 600 million years ago and is named for Australia's Ediacara hills, where it was first discovered. Conceivably they may represent an early, extinct branch in the evolutionary history of animals. According to the last term, evolution provides an essential framework for studying the ongoing history of life on Earth. A central, and historically controversial, component of evolutionary theory is that all living organisms, from microscopic bacteria to plants, insects, birds, and mammals, share a common ancestor. At this point, climate change plays an important role in that evolution.
Skull
After that brief overview about evolutionary theory, let me say that today was our first sunny day. We started checking traps in the field and we trapped three chipmunks and two voles! My team really needs to improve the position of the traps in this kind of field because today we have only trapped one vole.  Later, we looked at ticks in the field with a blanket and it looks like weather plays an important role in tick counting. The warmer the weather, the more ticks we find. After lunch, we were clearing the path from the road to the "headquarters" before re-checking our traps. To conclude our day, we went to watch bats at dusk. Exciting finish for a nice day.

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July 6, 2009: Return to Cook's Lake

Cooks_lake After the weekend, we returned to the work at Cook´s Lake. Today, we checked a big area inside Cook´s Lake, looking inside the field transects for scat (deer, porcupine, fox, coyote, etc.), footprints and chewed trees (beavers and porcupines). It was Home_for_dinner exhausting because so many mosquitoes and ticks were biting us. Later, when we went to lay the traps in the forest on the hill, the team found a wasp nest and some members were stung. Finally, we examined several skulls of raccoon, seals and porcupine at home after having a nice dinner.
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July 5, 2009: Msit No´kmaq

Kejimkujik Msit No´kmaq is an expression in the native Canadian Mi´kmaq language. The phrase describes many aspects of the Mi´kmaq life and spirituality, reflecting the strong bond between people and land. Today, we have spent the day at the Kejimkujik National Park where Mi´kmak style of life is engraved on rock outcrops along the lakeshores. The hundreds of drawings found there show the richness of expression of Mi´kmak culture. Descendants of the early Mi´kmak are proud of this part of their history and consider Kejimkujik one of their most sacred sites. In recognition, the Yolanda_Paul_and_friend area has been designated as a National History Site. In our trip today, we did a tour around the lakeshores looking for Mi´kmak drawings. Furthermore, we searched for deer droppings in the forest and hiked along a nature trial. I hope our experience will develop strong bonds as well between the team and the wildlife.
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July 4, 2009: Watching whales

In_Lunenburg Today was our free day and we spent all the day in the town of Lunenburg. This town offers visitors many architectural delights: houses, businesses, churches and public buildings from the late 1700s and particularly early 1800s are still being used today. In 1992, the government of Canada designated "Old Town" Lunenburg as a National Historic District. In 1995, the World Heritage Committee, under the auspices of UNESCO, recognized Lunenburg's cultural and natural heritage by adding it to their World Heritage List. After having a look around the town, three mates and I lived one of the most exciting activity of this experience: watching whales. At 2.30 pm we got on board a ship to go Whales deep into Atlantic Ocean to watch whales. Watching so close these mammals is really incredible. Moreover, we could also see seals! I am checking right now my photos and I cannot believe yet. After our tour, all the team had dinner in a typical Canadian pub to conclude a very nice day.
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July 3, 2009: From the forest to Liverpool

Inspecting_traps As I explained in my blog previously, ecology is the scientific study of the distribution and abundance of species and their interactions with their environment. But, how can we carry out that study? The most common methodology is to carry out a survey: a static activity to determine the factors which affect distribution and fact. There are several ways to do a survey: look/direct observation, traps or field signs. Each way has advantages and disadvantages but all of them are useful tools to research mammals in Nova Scotia. Up to now, we have seen mainly voles, chipmunks, porcupines, deer, muskrats, squirrels and beavers, among others mammals. Today we started our field work checking our traps and unfortunately, my team only trappedLiverpool one vole! We also checked our camera traps and have thrown pieces of fruit in front of them just to attract mammals. After lunch, we had a conference to check our results after the first week. In the afternoon, we went to the launderette in Liverpool. Later, we looked around this city. It was a really hardworking day and tomorrow is our free day!!
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July 2, 2009: From voles to beavers

Today was a very fun and sunny day. Firstly, we checked our small mammal traps at Cook´s Lake forest. We trapped five voles and two chipmunks! After weighing them, we returned them to the forest, at the same place where we trapped before. Later, we set up camera traps. My team decided to put ours in an area where there were many deer droppings yesterday. Other teams put cameras to film bears, porcupines or more deer. Tomorrow, we can check the film. After having lunch, part of the team looked for field sign transects, especially deer droppings, and the remainder cleaned the path. To finish the day we went to watch beavers in a magic environment. Beautiful ending for a productive day.
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July 1, 2009: Climate change

Freeing_the_voles I want to start my blog today by giving an overview of climate change. It is clear that changing weather patterns are critically important. The first question to answer is, "What influences global temperature?" All the following are important: ocean variability, orbital and rotational Milankovitch variation, plate tectonics and continental positioning, glaciations, greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, water vapour), global photosynthetic uptake, volcanism, hysteresis (climatic inertia), cybernetic feedback loops and anthropogenic potential. However humans can impact the climate by using fossil fuels, sulfate aerosols (fossil fuel combustion), cement manufacture (cooking calcium carbonate), changing land use and deforestation. Also livestock are responsible for 18% of the world´s greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases trap heat at night and stop temperatures from falling and there is therefore less winter frost. There has been a narrowing of the diurnal temperature range. Climate change is not good news and in this project we are going to research the impact of this effect on mammals, from voles to deer. 

According to my previous posted goal, today I have trapped two voles! My team checked our traps twice and we found one vole in the morning and another in the afternoon. We have also looked for deer droppings and we have identified one important area inside forest. I would like to highlight that in Nova Scotia there exist different perceptions on the environmnt: fear and apathy; but each day many people work hard to conserve this incredible country! Volunteers can make a difference!

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June 30, 2009: We set our traps

Gutierrez_the_trapper Today was our first visit to the field at Cook´s Lake. It was an incredible experience. Cook’s Lake, a focal area for the project, contains some 134 hectares of mixed coniferous and deciduous woodland, hay meadows, ponds, streams, and wetlands. This woodland has been owned by the family of Principal Investigator Christina Buesching for more than 20 years as a haven for wildlife. At the beginning of the day Christina showed us two skulls, one of cow and another of deer, inside the forest. She explained to us the importance of their antlers for their survival. After that, we went deep into a boggy forest for hours. My wellies were the best purchase that I did before my arrival!!!! In the afternoon, we prepared traps for mammals and we cut grass to put inside them. Each trap cost more than £60, so we'd better not lose any! We placed the traps in the forest and we will return tomorrow to have a look at their occupants!! I hope we will find lots of mice in the morning.
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June 29, 2009: Why Mammals?

Gutierrez_on_site Ecology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the distribution and abundance of organisms and their interactions with their environment. According to this definition, how do mammals play a relevant role inside this science, and why is it important to monitor mammals? First of all, diversity. Second, they are protected by international law. Third, they are indicator species for climate change, habitat management and environmental population. This research process can be carried out based on direct or indirect methods that we are going to put into practice during this expedition. Today we have had our first experience in the field: we have seen porcupine, frogs, a red belly snake and deer!! We have also started to recognize sign (animal droppings) in the field. So far, we can recognize droppings from fox, coyote and porcupine. These signs can be a useful tool to develop a good study about mammal populations in the remaining days. All this experience is taking place in an incredible natural environment between Atlantic Ocean and the Canadian forest.
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June 28, 2009: The team assembles

The rendezvous time was at 3 o´clock at Halifax Airport. Twelve different persons (one Australian, one Canadian, one American, one Dutch, seven English and one Spanish) and just one goal: enjoy and learn with an Earthwatch project focused on the effect of climate change on Nova Scotia mammals. The team looks very cheerful, so I can say that my experience has started very well. The landscape is incredible. It is raining; the weather is not the best but fog on the sea gives an atmosphere of mystery to the environment surrounded by tall firs, and our cottages are wrapped inside that mystery. Tomorrow our field work begins, so I am going to have a look at a book that I bought in the morning about animals in Nova Scotia, just to be familiarized with them.
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June 27, 2009: Welcome to Nova Scotia

After three different flights and twelve hours flying, my experience in Nova Scotia begins! After landing in Halifax I have my five senses on the alert. At first sight, I have the sensation that it looks very similar to Asturias (Spain): green is the main color in landscape, and the sunny weather today increases the color effects. Perhaps the main and most important difference is that more natural area has been protected from buildings in Halifax. They are so lucky! I have seen hares on the green zone at the motorway edge from the airport to the hotel. After just four hours, I can say that it is very easy to fall in love with Nova Scotia.
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June 26: Celebrity

Image002 This morning I had a very nice surprise: My photo on the My Alcoa Web site! Just for one day, it seemed to me that I'm famous at Alcoa. Several workmates called me to say that I was so lucky (I have no doubt!) and they are going to apply to the Earthwatch Fellowship Program next year for sure. All of them will be very good applicants for the award. The rest of the morning was a very stressful day, always in a hurry. It was my last day working before leaving for the expedition, so I wanted to do as much as possible to avoid overburdening my colleagues during the next two weeks. Now, I am going to pack my luggage. I think I have all I need. I have double-checked the packing list from the Briefing. Later, I am also going to say goodbye to my parents, my friends, my colleagues...for sure they are going to ask me for presents. Well, it is time to go. Tomorrow my adventure will start!!
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June 25, 2009: Preparations

What do I really need to do and know before my trip? The first step is to read the briefing that Earthwatch sends. It seems to me really informative. I have also asked Claire about it, just in case (as I mentioned in a previous post -- this is going to be Claire's fourth Earthwatch project) and she said that she couldn't think of anything else I would need to know. The second step is to learn, at least in my case, the meaning of all names of animals that you are going to find in Nova Scotia. Incredibly, as a confirmation of this, I saw Paul's June 24 post and realise that there are people who don't know what a vole is. Now, I have no doubt!! The third step is to prepare your luggage. I know that I'm allowed to take more luggage than I can carry and handle on my own, but I am going to pack an extra set of field clothing and personal essentials in my carry-on bag just in case. The most important things are bug spray, long sleeved shirts, and boots. I think I have all the arrangements for my trip. Two days to go........and counting!!!
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June 24, 2009: New friends

For now, I'm getting to know my teammates by name and by mail. Besides me, there is one Alcoan in my team, Paul Smelter from Australia, who has introduced himself to the rest of the team by mail (thank you Paul). Aside from this, I have exchanged mail with Claire. This is going to be her fourth Earthwatch project -- incredible. I ask her for advice and she seems to be very much an extrovert. Another teammate, Nicole, has a sister who is working as a (field) researcher in Zimbabwe. She seems to have a lot of energy! Tom, who works at the University of Manchester, had been with Earthwatch in Costa Rica and has sent us a traditional Canadian song that says: "late June in Nova Scotia is the end of the black fly season and the start of the mosquito season." I take it as a recommendation, so I have just bought some bug spray. This is going to be the third Earthwatch trip for Robin and Karrie, a couple from UK. For other teammates, such as Emmeline, this will be their first experience with Earthwatch. I have also read about our Principal Investigators, Cristina and Chris, and they have carried out many research projects about environmental issues working with several institutions. I'm sure that I can learn so much with all of them. I am so excited to start this expedition. Three days to go........and counting!!!
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June 23, 2009: Earthwatch, Alcoa and people

Aviles_world_environmental_day Four days to go........and counting!!! In my second post I would first like to thank Alcoa and Earthwatch for the chance to participate in this research project. For sure, it will be an unforgettable experience. Alcoa's many environmental initiatives are an important part of Alcoa's sustainability values, and the Alcoa Earthwatch Fellowship program is an unquestionable sign of that commitment. 
I also to want to thank my Alcoa Community Team in Alcoa-Inespal (Vanesa, Pilar, Virginia, Paula, Alejandro, Marqués, Juanjo), and recognize their hard work to achieve a more sustainable environment and other important Alcoa values. I am so proud to belong to this team. We have carried out many Action, Vida and Bravo Plans with other Alcoa volunteers in order to improve environmental conditions in our community in Asturias (Spain). I hope to learn much in this expedition that we can put into practice in new Alcoa Community projects.

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June 22, 2009: First contact

Gutierrez Hi everyone! My name is Yolanda Barba and work as a process engineer in Alcoa-Inespal Casthouse. My experience started on January 13 when I received an email from my Alcoa Foundation Leader in Alcoa Aviles, Vanesa Fernández, encouraging people to participate in ecological research projects around the world with an international non-profit organization called Earthwatch. I had not heard about it before, but I thought I'd really like to become an Alcoa Earthwatch Fellow and sent my application for a 2009 Fellowship immediately. Prior to Alcoa, I did a PhD in Business Management and I focused all my research on sustainable development, especially on the environmental impact of WEEE (Waste of Electrical and Electronic Appliances) so I would really want to participate in an expedition working on this topic, especially on climate change, a growing problem in the last few decades. 
I was disappointed when I received the following notice: “You have been selected as an alternate for the 2009 Alcoa Earthwatch Fellowship program. In the event that an Earthwatch Fellow cannot accept the project to which he/she has been assigned, Earthwatch may call on our alternate pool to replace them."
At first I felt that I had no chance, but I did not give up hope! I was very much hoping to receive a new letter from Earthwatch, and on June 3, I received one of the most exciting letters of my life: “Congratulations! Earthwatch Award - The Mammals of Nova Scotia." I had been selected to participate in the upcoming Earthwatch-Alcoa expedition and had been selected as a 2009 Earthwatch Fellow! I was so excited that I called my parents, my boyfriend, my colleagues,…. It is not possible to describe my feelings at that moment. I had just one day to answer that offer, but it took me only one minute to reply. My dream was just beginning.

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Yolanda Barba Gutiérrez, casthouse process engineer Avilés smelter, Spain