“The key things I have learnt from this experience are: We all have our strengths and to have the most happy and productive team is to respect and allow everyone an opportunity to participate... which is what we did. And our teams were always laughing, helping each other and successfully completing all tasks. When I return home, I will look into landcare/revegetation projects locally and see how I can participate. Without volunteers these "projects" wouldn't happen. People out in the world are doing amazing things, with our learning, motivation and leadership - we can encourage more people to be involved. Thank you Earthwatch.”
“I have loved my time in Czech Republic and its people, the work there, my colleagues and now friends, our host professor Josef and our driver Dobroslav. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. We had the opportunity to share the work for a nice cause with a group of enthusiasts committed to the environment. For fifteen days nonstop, even in our free time we kept learning things through cultural visits and extended meetings. An experience that has left me a lasting memory. I think that will not pass unnoticed to the people around me. I am missing pH, soil moisture, temperature, canopy, beech forest, spruces, Callamagrostis, Avenella, mosses, Bedrichov, Frýland, Liberec… and blueberry dumplings for dinner!”
"What a fantastic experience. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time away with the team learning about the effects of acid rain in the mountains and the different research techniques as well as the culture of the Czech Republic and that of my fellow participants. I would highly recommend an Earthwatch program to all people. I have formed great friendships and knowledge".
“Over the past fourteen days we have learnt to take water samples, sample rain gauges, measure and monitor the forest restoration and regeneration successes, collate and input data. It was a great learning experience and good fun. As part of our Earthwatch/Alcoa community action plan, we will be implementing some of the research methodology, learnt in the Jizera Mountains project, to measure the progress and change in the landscape associated with our local projects.”
“ The ecological expedition gave me a chance to make a contribution to ecological stability of the Czech Republic. I’ll share my experience with my colleagues. I’ll show a presentation to my colleagues and explain to them in detail what we did to help the environment. People need to protect the environment at home and in the garden, at school, while shopping and on the road for the benefit of all human beings.”
“My time on the Mountain waters of Czech Republic expedition has become an unforgettable experience. We have worked for two weeks in the ongoing ecosystem recuperation projects in the area. This has allowed me to learn how to use several monitoring methods and increase my knowledge in issues totally new for me. Sharing with my international colleagues conversations, culture, lives and laughs has also made this time even more enriching and enjoyable.
I highly recommend this experience to all people. I sincerely thank Alcoa and Earthwatch for giving me the opportunity of participate in it, and also to our nice professor Josef Krecek who was always so attentive to our needs.”
“Sincerely, I’ve enjoyed those great moments with participants from Czech Republic, Spain, Surinam, Australia and Russia. Everyone was respectful and very attentive to the needs of others; that was the key to the success of this expedition. As the captain of this wonderful team, I´m very proud of having been with those people during 15 days.
Moreover, through this wonderful human experience, I’ve gained new knowledge from Dr. Josef Krecek about how to measure and analyse the quality of the water as well as the forest. Those technics will be useful and significant in my work.
Finally, I hope that Earthwatch Institute and Alcoa can continue to support those projects regarding the environment.”
I'm proud to have participated in the Mountain waters of the Czech Republic experience. We were there for 11 days, and it looks like we are a big family. Thanks to Alcoa and Earthwatch for giving us this good opportunity and all the people and friends that helped me with this. I enjoyed the work very much and I learned a lot. Maybe I can share this with my people in Surinam after my return. It will be nice.
It’s our last day in the Jizera Mountains. Today we were fortunate to visit a glass factory and observe the ancient Czech craft of glassblowing. This factory produces many of the Christmas decorations we purchase back home. We were also able to make our own decoration by heating and blowing the glass. Some were more successful than others! From there we visited a glass museum. Glassmaking is a one of Bohemia’s greatest industries. For the past eleven days the team has worked in the field taking samples for water quality, measuring rainfall, monitoring vegetation health and density, constructing two weather stations and undertaking maintenance at one of the weirs. Evenings have seen the team sample the water collected, measure the weight of grasses, mosses and litter and input the data into the computer. From Joseph Krecek and Yana we have learnt an incredible amount, both in the field and about the Jizera mountains project. One of this trip’s greatest learning experiences has been with the team. We met for the first time a day before we set off for our time in the mountains, but within a short time we knew and understood so much more about each other, everyone’s cultures and countries and how easy it can be to work together. From the Czech Republic, Spain, Russia, Suriname, Canada and Australia has been a great team effort. Thanks Joseph, Dobroslav, Jana, Earthwatch and Alcoa!
Today was our last day in the field. We are all trying to memorize the scenery, so we will never forget the beauty. There are some things cameras cannot capture. Our host Josef is very pleased with our performance; we have completed everything on his schedule for our expedition plus more. Today's two groups were allocated to tree health in reforested areas and weather station installation. My group, tree health, were rating the appearance of the trees, height and canopy measurements. The second group installed the second weather station at the top of Jizerka mountain. This station will measure rain, air temperature, air humidity and soil temperature and moisture. During this expedition we have all been able to participate in the different variety of tasks and feel we have a strong understanding of all these skills.
We have been here for 11 days, and it looks like we are a big family. I feel very sad when I think about the last day. But in every good beginning there is a very good end. I'm writing this to let all of you know how proud I am to be here. Thanks to Alcoa and Earthwatch for giving us this good opportunity and all the people and friends that helped me with this. Today we started working at 8:00 am. We traveled to the Sous lake. Then, Josef separated us into two groups. One of them, in a boat, measured parameters of water at different depths. I was rowing. The other team was taking water samples from the streams around the Sous lake. I enjoyed today's work very much and learned a lot. Maybe I can share this with my people in Surinam.
The good weather has accompanied us today to the Jizera Mountain again. No worries about the alarm clock sounding at about 7:00 am, because we are really enjoying the experience day by day. We reached "our mountain" and were divided again in two teams. My team was working with Dr. Josef Krecek at a water reservoir of the area. It was constructed in the 19th century to supply water for an old glass factory (today just the remains of the stone walls can be seen). Now, this reservoir is one of the points we are monitoring, and some work needed to be done. We cemented the outlet area where the measurement sensors have been mounted. After this, we also moved stones in order to create a good support for the dam wall. It was nice to see the work finished. While the other group was finishing its work, we hiked to the upper part of the mountain, to set up another pillar for
a future station for measurement of the soil. The view from that point is fantastic. The second group did inventory of a spruce area close to our reservoir. They measured height, diameter of the canopy, and health of more than two hundred trees! After the work, we enjoyed some refreshments in the terrace of one of the nice wood houses of the area. Thelma will give us a presentation today about the project on which she is working, related to river recovery in Australia. I am sure this will be very interesting.
Our free day woke us up immersed in a thick fog and raining. In this atmosphere, the minibus carried us to our first visit: Frýdlant, a wonderful castle with many furnished rooms where we were moved to the XIII century. This great castle emerges from the granite rocks above the Smedá River. From here, Dobroslav (our driver and man for logistic support) drove to the Bazilika Navstívení Panny Marie (The visit of Virgin Marie). It was built to shelter the wood image of the Virgin that one man carved in her honor. She had appeared to announce the recuperation of his ill wife. The
image is supposed to be miraculous. The next visit was also related to recuperations. We stopped to drink water from a fountain that is good for mental illness. Here we were offered by Josef a cup of tea with typical Czech Oplatky (spa wafer). These were first made in the town founded by the king of Bohemia and the Emperor Charles IV, famous for its medicinal springs- Carls Bad. We all found them delicious. After this break we spent the afternoon in Liberec, most of us visiting the small zoo, where we enjoyed with the lovely animals. Before our free day finished, we tasted once more a typical Czech dinner. And to conclude, it was my turn to briefly present to my friends the object of my current biology research. Good night!
Weather can be changed in the Jizerske mountains where we live very quickly. Sun can change to wind and wind can change to rain. Sun, wind, rain - nothing can stop us from going to the field to work. Today we went to the Oldrichov forests accompanied by rain. In the forests we were divided into two groups. The first group did measurements of beech and spruce trees. We measured height, temperature, resistance, rating and circumference. And all of this will help to determine how healthy trees are. The second group dug soil profiles for sampling and installing moisture probes. They also did sampling of three streams within the area. On the way home our kind professor Josef also showed us the Polish border where we could see power stations. After field work we did our traditional laboratory work making calculations determining tree heights, weighing grass samples and analyzing water samples. Tonight we shared traditional Czech barbecue and smoked
potatoes, and also Spanish Sangria. Of course, our barbecue was accompanied by rain and thunderstorms. During the storms our Spanish colleague Marta showed us her presentation about her profession, volunteering actions in the Asturian (city in the North of Spain) region. That was very impressive because that part of Spain was completely unknown to the team and Marta opened our eyes to that city and their culture. We appreciate the variety of tasks and participants that we have here.
Another beautiful day in the mountains. Today we got a chance to hit the water in a row boat and take some water samples within two reservoirs. We tested the water for pH, EC, temperature, turbidity and aquatic organisms. One of the reservoirs is the water supply for the nearby cities and villages and was once so acidic from acid rain pollution it killed all the fish. The other reservoir is a back-up water supply, not yet connected, so is used for recreation. We also did some stream and rain gauge sampling to test for the same parameters as mentioned. At the end of a tiring day some of us took a dip in the reservoir, which was very refreshing after another warm day. We also picked some wild blueberries which grow throughout the mountains - yum! After returning to the village we walked to the local swimming pool which was very busy and got some drinks. Tonight, Bridget from Australia gave a presentation on her role as a water educator for Barwon Water in Victoria. There was much discussion to follow. We are all tired tonight but have been very much enjoying the experience!
The main purpose of the day was finalizing our visit to the field yesterday. For the first step we sorted our samples from the Jizera Mountains into categories: fine grass, main grass, mosses and litters from our samples. After we selected the categories, we weighed the different samples on a balance scale. Also, the samples were wrapped in bags which had been dried in an oven to a temperature of 60ºF. Following this exercise, the data will be collated and the statistics will be used for showing the changes for each category in the field. Because we were so dedicated to the work, we finished earlier that we had expected. So, we had time to visit the church in the village and take a picture in front of the local tourist sign. Finally, I did my presentation in the evening. That was about my expertise in environmental education, based on the action research model. I have shown the film "Homebuilders" to other Earthwatchers. They seemed to appreciate it.
July 14: Monitoring the Changes in the Jizerka Mountains
Today's blogger: Thelma Crook
Rain, thunderstorms and, apparently, a mini tornado cut short our excursion yesterday, so first thing this morning saw us set off again to the Jizerka Mountains. The two teams split up to complete their vegetation and soil surveys and their water, soil pH and moisture sampling. The weather was much kinder to us today and we managed to complete our sampling runs and be back at camp by 3pm for a well earned rest. This evening Jana (research colleague of Josef) showed us slides of Jizerka Mountains in 1988 and 2004. As we are only able to see the vegetation in its current condition, it put the research work into perspective and allowed us to see the
changes that have occurred over the last 30 years. It shows how important it is to monitor and evaluate these projects over long periods of time. We are really lucky and privileged to be part of this research. Thanks to Earthwatch and Alcoa. To finish off the evening Mohamed provided us with a very interesting and entertaining presentation on his background and the country that he lives in, Suriname. It was a great learning curve, as many of us, until we met Mohamed, were completely unaware of where Suriname was.
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July 13: Forgot our raincoats!
Today's blogger: Bridge Ure
Today we set out for our second field day. Our bus stopped at a lookout, where we could see the environmental damage in the Jizera Mountains. We were divided into two groups again. My group's job was taking measurements from rain gauges and then cleaning them, and also measuring soil moisture and soil pH. The second group were analysing vegetation by measuring the herbaceous canopy and taking vegetation and soil samples within a quadrant. We got rained out early and were unable to complete our sampling. Would you believe that the 3 Aussies were the only
ones who didn't bring raincoats?! The afternoon was spent sorting and categorizing through the different grasses collected by Group 2. Then another magnificent Czech meal. Today was a blueberry dumpling -- yes, this was main course! Finally we had our Spanish World Cup victory party, catered by Belen and Marta.
Hello everyone! Today was our first day in the field. We started our day at 8:00 am, with water monitoring, taking samples, measuring pH and oxygen and temperature. We measured 18 places. We had to climb over some rough ground to take the samples and write the results. The other group was responsible for measuring tree health, circumference, height, canopy density, and ground cover in a 30-square-meter area of a spruce and beech forest affected by acid rain. I like the crew. We are just two men and six women. We are staying in a nice farm and I like this place. After a traditional Czech dinner, we discussed our impressions of our first day in the field, did the calculations, and put the data in the spreadsheets before retiring. We are looking forward to enjoying the rest of the excursion together.
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July 11: A Taste of Czech Republic
Today's blogger: Marta Herrero Blanco
At last we have reached Bedrichov. Yesterday we met all together for the first time in Prague and we enjoyed a lovely Czech dinner and concert. The Mezzosoprano was really good! It was great to enjoy the Czech food and this event was organized by Professor Josef Krecek. Today, we took the minibus at 12:00pm and went via Boleslav for more traditional Czech meals, including the ever-popular Beef Goulash
and a fresh dumpling recipe. Svetlana and Belen both said their Goulash was reflective of the culture of the Czech Republic. On our way we visited Hrad Frydstejn castle, built in 1385, and used to protect the village. It was abandoned in 1540. Now it belongs to the village and it is slowly being partly restored. This was explained to us by our kind host Josef Krecek. Should we mention the weather?! It is a sunny and hot 33C today with no breeze. Litres of water consumed - probably 20! This is okay for the Aussies (Australians), but the others are "cooked"! We arrived at Bedrichov at 16:30pm to very beautiful and comfortable accommodations. We're also looking forward to dinner in the village followed by the World Cup final. Our two Spanish guests are predicting a Spanish victory!