Friday, September 26, 2008

The Black Widow Blues

So I recently had the opportunity to get back in the field for work. Yippeee!! I was so happy to be out and about and not staring at the gray walls of my cubicle that it really didn't matter to me what I was actually doing in the field. I was happy with whatever was thrown my way. And boy was this an "interesting" site. It's a contaminated site up in Panama City on which we were sampling groundwater for a list of parameters including VOCs, SVOCs, lead, TRPHs, and PCBs. We had twenty wells to sample for groundwater level. Below is a picture of what a well casing looks like. The well is the white PVC pipe with a cap on the top to keep things from falling into it. And the rusty metal thing around it is a box to keep the well protected and locked if you so choose. Since this site is only sampled once or twice a year, some of the local creatures have taken up residence in the wells. I was excited when I opened this well and found some really cool egg sacs...

I was excited when I opened this well and found some really cool egg sacs...
Here's a blow up of some of the ones inside the casing lid. There were probably about 15 of these spacey looking sacs, so I called over my coworker and asked her to come take a look at them. Good thing I did! She identified them as Black Widow spider eggs...YIKES! So then we started looking for Mama...we found her in the corner, somewhat scared, but still very dangerous looking all decked out with her red hour-glass marking on her underside. I didn't get a picture of her, but she looked like one of those sweet old ladies with a dark past! And of course I didn't want to kill her, so my coworker kept an eye on her while I reached my hand down into the well to take the cap bites!Here is a picture of what the actual Black Widow spider looks like. Here are a couple more. And according to this site, even the egg sacs contain poison! Wow, glad I didn't take a specimen!

Oh, and we also found a dead scorpion in another well and a very large bee's nest in another. I'm not sure what kind of bees they were, but they looked much larger to me than a normal honey bee. I'm hoping they weren't the Africanized Honey Bees (aka African killer bees which established in Florida around 2005)! Can you tell the difference? Either way, we didn't get stung, but we did have to kill them to get to the well...sorry bees!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Kayaking (#6)

For the past week my Swiss cousin, Gian Marco, came to visit me in the USA! Yay!!! I love having family in town! Gian Marco is an amazing, multitalented guy from Switzerland who is not only my super smart cousin, but also a famous Swiss rapper and techno DJ...yes, I said Swiss rapper. Check out some of his music collaborations here and here.

So I wanted to show him all the cool things that I like to see and do in the Tampa/St. Pete area. It was a crazy whorlwind of a tour for him. I didn't realize that the stuff I did was so physically active, but in his words "this has been a very sporty vacation". One of the things I did with him was to take him kayaking at Weedon Island Preserve. We rented kayaks from a pretty cool local kayaking center called Sweetwater Kayaks. There's a really great, very well marked kayak trail at Weedon Island that took us through some cool mangrove tunnels and got us a little more sunburned too.

Yes, it was "sporty" but I think Gian Marco had a good time. When's the last time you saw a kayaking rapper?

Surfing (#51) attempt

Photo: Wikimedia

Karen and I went surfing the first weekend I was back in Tampa at St. Pete beach. Hurricane Fay was heading across Florida and bringing us some swell. Ryan taught us some tubular moves and Mike and Amy were kind enough to host the event. It was Karen's first time and my second time. Things went pretty well. The waves were pretty calm, but big enough to ride, until a few storms came through and then it got a little crazier. The rip tide was pulling us to the north a bit. I even got up on my knees on one ride...rad! Anyway, we were going to try again this weekend with waves from Hurricane Gustav, but once we got to the beach to survey the situation we saw that the ratio of surfers to number of ride-able waves was about 40:1. Yikes! So we got sunburns on the beach instead. (No pictures from me...too much sand!)