"All three are carried to the surface of the skin by water within your sweat glands, and the salt stays on you after the liquid evaporates”.—Wikipedia
That is IF that liquid evaporates. But here on the land of Groote Eylandt, the researchers return after a session of trapping looking like bog monsters to varying degrees—with myself (Nat) usually the sweatiest.
I consider it a success if I have a dry patch on my shirt by the end of my trap checking. I have just recently learned what a bunyip is in Australia, and I fear sometimes we look like that as we exit the bush with a bag of animals casually slung over our shoulder. Skye on the other hand somehow looks fresh as a daisy after a session of trapping…perhaps one day I’ll learn her secret.
Trapping was off to a running start once they were laid in the field and we were hauling in quolls left right and center. Trapping this early in the year has already led to some new discoveries, the freshly weaned juveniles are wily and small enough to squeeze through the small gaps in some of our trap doors! After a series of mornings with empty closed traps, and the occasional poo deposited conspicuously on the trigger plate, we put 2+2 together. Some modifications with dowel and zipties shortly fixed that blunder.
A lot of blood, sweat and tears have already been poured into data collection over the last month. Cyclone Alfred put a bit of a dampener on our data collection, but we maintained productivity undercover with Clint doing some dissections, and Jakob helping me finish the waterproof (hopefully!) enclosures that my infrared camera batteries will be housed in. Skye shed some blood for the cause, with Hipster the quoll showing off his fantastic biteforce on her -- too bad that isn’t a performance measure we are collecting at the moment. Some other mild injuries included the usual bruises, scrapes, nibbles and scratches.
Which leads me to my third component of data collection on Groote: tears—but not as you think.
One of our 5 grids is affectionately named Gorge. It is a thing of beauty. Rugged rocks, deep caverns and crevasses, quolls and rock wallabies galore, and the place of death for my field clothes. Here, two pairs of pants have already met an unfortunate end on the exact same innocuous rock, with a resounding riiiip noise shattering the silence of early dawn. It’s a good thing Groote Eylandt has a great op-shop for I am a regular customer to replace my shredded material I used to call clothing. I seem to be the only one having wardrobe malfunctions but Jakob’s shoes are one step away from a fatal blowout so I’ll keep you posted.
Some highlights of the trip so far have been Bingo the 2nd year male still being alive, Clint perfecting the ZigZag performance measure looking at cornering ability, quite a few female bandicoots with 3+ young and collecting over 200 cage poos from our quolls. I hope to be looking at the hormones in this poo, so everyone has chipped in and graciously gets elbow-deep into our cages to tweeze me some fresh samples. While we are testing performance traits in the lab, the quolls also help me out by depositing some samples on the racetrack… this unfortunately does not make it into the collection vials all the time.
Personality differences between the males is a major hingepoint of my PhD and how it relates to foraging, and there are already some major personalities showing for our quolls. One male in particular Rambo is a master escape artist, and a wily individual who seems to outwit all of us in the lab. I am really looking forward to seeing him and everyone else on candid infrared camera throughout the year. Lastly, Clint’s wife lovingly sent him a carepackage from America, which arrived several days after he left back to the mainland. I can confirm we have demolished the chocolate and coffee, and it’s a cointoss on which lucky individual gets to claim the new pair of boxers. Thanks Clint’s wife!