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NR495 Fall 2008          Volunteers and Students          2008 Field Schedule

 
What to wear, what to bring, what to expect, and where to meet when you come out in the field...
   

*What to wear and what to bring*


-- Long, loose, comfortable pants (but not the quick-dry fabric - it gets caught on the cacti). We will probably see rattlesnakes, and the risk of being bitten is quite low as long as you are diligent about looking for them, unless, of course, you step on one, but long, loose pants make it so that they are unlikely to contact skin if they do strike (nobody in our lab has been bitten in over five years of research on the prairie).  I do not recommend jeans - people often find they are uncomfortable in jeans, particularly when it is hot.  If you do wear jeans, make sure they are loose and comfortable.  If you show up in shorts, I will not let you come out with us - no exceptions.  Click here for information on prairie rattlesnakes

-- Sturdy shoes, preferably over your ankles (to protect against snake bites); I wear hiking boots.  There are cacti out there, and so I recommend leather shoes at the very least (leather, over-ankle hiking boots are best).  We will be doing a lot of walking and standing, so whatever you wear must be comfortable.  If you show up with only sandals, I will not let you come out with us - no exceptions.  Click here for information on prairie rattlesnakes

-- Plenty of sunscreen (it's a good idea to put sunscreen on before you leave the house in the morning so that you don't forget, and even then, bring some for a re-application or two later in the day). It doesn't have to be hot to get a sunburn, and doesn't  even have to be that sunny - wear sunscreen (and see notes near the bottom of this page regarding sunscreen).

-- A water bottle (we carry 5 gallons of ice water out to the field, but you will need something to put it in).  I suggest a 1-liter Nalgene, or comparable water bottle. For drinking in the truck, I suggest getting one of those sippy things that fits just inside the Nalgene-style water bottles.  Please start out with a full water bottle.  
Dehydration is a serious issue out on the prairie - you will need to drink a lot more water than you usually do. 
 

DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE THIRSTY TO DRINK WATER!

Information on dehydration and heat stroke - please read this:  pdf     online

-- Whatever you want for lunches and snacks - I usually bring a couple of  sandwiches and various snacks.  For lunch and snacks, you will have time to eat in the truck when we travel from town to town and on the way home, so pack accordingly.  We have room for little lunch coolers, but they will have to go in the back of the truck (ditto for backpacks), since the cab will be full of people.  Don't underestimate how hungry you will be on the ride home... lunch comes early when your day starts an hour before sunrise, and most people find that they want a mid-afternoon / late-afternoon snack or second lunch on the ride home.  There is no eating while we are processing the prairie dogs.  It's a long day - bring more than enough food.  There are no stores on the prairie.

-- A hat to shade your eyes from the sun.  Sunglasses, while good for your eyes, make it difficult to carry out some of the tasks involved with setting and checking the traps.  Go ahead and bring sunglasses if you have them, but be prepared to go without them on occasion. Later fall, and early in the spring, when it is a bit colder, a hat will help keep you warm... especially in the morning.

-- Warm clothes if it will be chilly in the morning (e.g., sweatshirt, fleece, hat).  It can be quite chilly, even in July and August, before the sun is fully above the horizon.  The closest town to where we will be is Nunn, CO.  I usually assess the weather by using a combination of area forecasts and satellite images.  The NOAA site tends to be the most accurate, and is not burdened with flashy advertisements.  Click here for Nunn weather on the NOAA site.

-- Some people like to bring sandals or other comfy shoes for the drive home.

-- A camera  - optional of course.  We have a 'rule' that field pictures should be shared... send me your good ones, and I'll post them on the website.

-- Binoculars - optional of course, but birders will especially appreciate having a pair - I have bird books in the truck.  They are also nice to have if we see a badger or swift fox (rare, but we do see them occasionally).


**Make sure to check your email before you head into school*.  I will send an email if the field day is canceled.  I usually check the weather about 30-45 minutes before our scheduled meeting time.  If we will be spending time at the field station, I usually let you know that morning, so that you will know to bring something to read/do for a couple of hours.


*Other useful information*

Get plenty of sleep the night before you come out in the field!  Going out in the field on only a few hours of sleep can be *extremely* unpleasant, and you will still be expected to work as hard as everybody else.  It can be a long, hot, and tiring day out there, and showing up tired and/or dehydrated turns it from a fun experience into a miserable one pretty quick, and doesn't do much for the morale of your fellow field crew members.  It's a lot of fun out there, but you have to be prepared!

**Make sure to check your email before you head into school*.  I will send an email if the field day is canceled.  I
usually check the weather about 30-45 minutes before our scheduled meeting time.  If we will be spending time at the field station, I usually let you know that morning, so that you will know to bring something to read/do for a couple of hours.

For weather purposes, the closest town to where we will be is Nunn, CO.  I usually assess the weather by using a combination of area forecasts and satellite images.  The NOAA site tends to be the most accurate, and is not burdened with flashy advertisements.  Click here for Nunn weather on the NOAA site.

Make sure to dress in layers - the temperature can change quite dramatically in a short amount of time.

You should all have my cell phone number - if you don't, make sure you get it.  For nights before I go in the field, I sleep with my cell phone turned on, so please do not call me after 8:00pm (actually, 7:00pm is a safer bet if I was in the field that day) - I will be sleeping.  If you need to reach me the night before we go in the field, send me an email.  I check my email and the weather in the morning before I leave.  I suggest you also sleep with your cell phone on so that if you oversleep, you will hear your phone when I call looking for you...

Make sure I have your cell phone number.

If you're not used to being out in the heat or wind all day, make sure to drink more water than usual the day before - you lose it pretty quick out there, and it is nearly impossible to keep up with water intake if you start out even a little dehydrated.  Drinking a lot of water the night before also makes it easier to get up so early :)

Information on dehydration and heat stroke - please read this:  pdf     online

Some of the girls have been quite dismayed to find out there are no bathrooms on the prairie... There are also no trees, and no tall bushes.  Heck, there are hardly any short bushes - it's just us and the grass and the prairie dogs out there.  When we're all at the truck, the front of the truck is usually designated the "girls room" (or whatever end is opposite where everybody is), but you still need to announce your intentions and make sure everybody hears you if you don't want to be surprised.  When we are dispersed across the prairie to set traps or check traps, peeing is done on an opportunistic basis.  Really, nobody is looking - they will all be looking for traps, which is hard enough as it is.  Trying to hold it in all day is not recommended (it leads to bladder infections, and if you've never had one, trust me, you don't ever want to). 

I will not let you come out again if I think you are not drinking water because you don't want to pee on the prairie.

Dehydration is a SERIOUS issue - life threatening, actually.  

See http://www.cdc.gov/nasd/docs/d001201-d001300/d001215/d001215.html

 

Please remember that the days can be very long out there.  Often we are only out for 10 or 12 hours, but 15 hours days are not uncommon.  If you have pets at home, especially dogs, who cannot go that long without being fed or taken outside, please make arrangements with somebody to feed or walk your pet in case you are not home in time.  Also, a word of warning, not all areas on the prairie have cell service - do not assume you will be able to call somebody to let them know you will be late.

Sunscreen... make sure your sunscreen can handle a full day (with reapplications) under the sun.  This may seem silly, since it IS sunscreen after all, but trust me, not all sunscreens are created equal.  I've found that NO-AD sunscreen works quite well - it was top-rated by consumer reports, just behind a Neutrogena variety.  At perhaps 1/4 the cost, with similar qualities, the NO-AD seems like the best choice to me... but you should decide for yourself.  Here are a couple of links to sunscreen reviews:

http://www.consumersearch.com/www/family/sunscreen/
http://www.slate.com/id/2124091/


And an article on why you really should use sunscreen, even if you're not worried about skin cancer (including some information about the most common sunscreen mistakes...):
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3076469/

Based on what I've read recently, I don't recommend the spray-on type of sunscreen - you are pretty much guaranteed not to apply enough to prevent sunburn, especially when you are in the sun all day, and I've been told that it has the unpleasant feeling of shellac once you have more than one application.  For each application you should be applying about an ounce of sunscreen (enough to fill a shot glass.  Yes, really).

Pockets... whatever pants you choose to wear, you will want to make sure they have useable pockets.  Whenever we are away from the truck, you will be carrying a walkie-talkie, and usually a clipboard, and when we check the traps for prairie dogs you will be carrying, in addition to the walkie-talkie and clipboard, some plastic baggies, flagging, and pens, and you will need pockets to put them in.  You won't  be able to carry it all in your hands - you will be carrying flags, a clipboard, and prairie dogs (in traps, of course) as well, so your hands will be more than full.  When I say "useable" pockets, I mean the kind that you can put a bunch of stuff in, and still bend down without everything falling out, poking you, or breaking... if you are wondering if your pockets are "useable", try putting a large cell phone (or something else roughly 4" tall, 2" across, and 1" deep), some pens (sharpies and ball point), some plastic baggies (about 10, sandwich size, rolled neatly so they don't wrinkle), and maybe 20 rubber bands into your pockets, get down on your knees, and try to pull one rubber band, the plastic baggies, and a pen from your pocket, and then put all but one plastic baggie back in your pocket.  If you can't do this somewhat comfortably, you might consider different pockets, or maybe a fanny pack... 


-- All of our field sites are on the Pawnee National Grassland (PNG) or the Central Plains Experimental Range (CPER), all of which are part of the Short Grass Steppe Long Term Ecological Research site (SGS-LTER).  Click on the names to find out more about each one...


**Make sure to check your email before you head into school*.  I will send an email if the field day is canceled.  I usually check the weather about 30-45 minutes before our scheduled meeting time.  If we will be spending time at the field station, I usually let you know that morning, so that you will know to bring something to read/do for a couple of hours.


     
Where to meet...
     
We meet in the parking lot on the south side of the Anatomy/Zoology building, near the double doors that are by the loading zone and state vehicle parking.  Look for the great big, white, four-door Ford F250 - you can't miss it.

If you are driving, park on Lake street or in the Z lot just east of the Anatomy/Zoology building (don't park at the meters - you will get a ticket).  Anybody can park in the Z lot during the summer and on weekends throughout the year, but during Fall and Spring semesters you will need a parking permit to park in the Z lot during the week.  There are always plenty of parking spots on Lake street when we meet in the morning.  I also encourage bicycling to school - there are always plenty of bike parking spaces.

  

 
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