Monday night: thorough coverage of our mark-recapture areas. The weather stayed reasonably warm into the night, so teams were able to gather up a lot of crickets. I stayed behind to run a set of 9 pm crickets.
On Tuesday, we concluded that one of the paint types we'd been using for mark-recapture was not good for the crickets. Crickets painted with Testor's enamel paint were noticeably more sluggish than unpainted crickets or crickets painted with the acrylic paint we'd been using in the lab up until then. We also concluded that we were reaching a point where we weren't learning a whole lot more from repeatedly re-surveying our mark-recapture area, so we decided to switch gears for our evening plans. Oh, we also went to the beach in Santa Barbara, which was a much nicer trip than our trip to Pismo Beach last year. Not only was the beach less crowded, almost everyone actually went in the water. I should have gone for a fuller swim, but oh well.
So then, Tuesday evening, we formed four small teams and headed out in four different directions to get a better sense of the broader population structure out here. I also wanted to encourage everyone to help me collect up as many long-winged crickets as possible, because they're much more rare than the short-winged crickets and are a huge limiting factor for the circadian experiments. In order to give everyone extra incentive, we decided there needed to be a prize for the team that collected the most long-winged crickets. Casting about for ideas, I settled on a prize of a cake of that team's choosing.
It worked! Mk and I wound up hiking up a road in a valley along the southwestern part of the reserve. C and P were supposed to hike along the corresponding eastern edge, but when they reached the gate for that road, C observed two sets of predator eyes shining back at her: either coyotes or mountain lions. So they wisely stuck closer to home. B and CH headed north, and L, G, and Ms headed south.
The cake bribe worked. C and P won, and we came in second, but I still feel like a winner given that I wound up with 6 long-winged females with pink flight muscle. We set them up for a noontime circadian experiment.
As is typical for field experiments, we're making a ton of decisions on-the-fly out here, so part of the reason for trying to thoroughly blog about everything is to try and remember why those decisions were made (and also try to retain shreds of sanity because there is major Thought Tragedy of the Commons* out here).
After the noontime data collection, I became concerned that catching crickets, holding them overnight and through the next day, and then running them, was affecting their metabolic rates. The noontime crickets had higher respiration rates that are comparable to the respiration rates I've observed so far with laboratory crickets, whereas the 9 pm crickets tended to have about half to two-thirds the respiration. We aren't really aiming to study metabolism under starvation conditions, so that was a problem.
Thus, last night, we changed things up again. At 9 pm, teams set off to the two locations out of the four that had been the most fruitful on Tuesday night. Larger groups seemed prudent after the creepy nighttime predator eyes (and a note: nighttime fieldwork is a whole different ballgame than daytime fieldwork!!). I stayed back at the ranch house to prep supplies for another circadian experiment. At 10 pm, teams returned with their haul up to that point, and I wound up setting up 1 long-winged female, 6 short-winged females, and 6 long-winged males for another run starting at 10:24 pm.
At noon, I trained Mk how to help me run the experiment, so she also helped me with the evening timepoint and we turned that crank as best we could. [Interesting tidbit: a large proportion of the crickets have some sort of mite hanging out under their wing covers. I need to photograph them.] We wrapped up by around 1 am. Teams went back out at 10 pm for a second search shift, but temperatures dropped substantially last night, so the crickets weren't all that active anymore.
It's tough out here, when all our best efforts just can't quite net the numbers we need for this kind of experiment. I sort of expected that, and figure we're learning a TON out here anyway, so I'm still optimistic we'll be able to get some good papers for our efforts, even if they aren't quite what we set out to do. We shall see.
I am still feeling grumbly about that rejected manuscript, although this morning as I revisit the comments I'm coming to terms with it all. Gotta get up, dust off my fragile, bruised ego, and keep going.
*Thought Tragedy of the Commons is scrottie's term for what happens when one person tries to hold onto their thoughts about what they're going to be doing next, by saying that thing out loud. When they do, they disrupt the peaceful thoughts of the other people around them, who often respond in turn by voicing all their own thoughts out loud. The net effect can be complete disintegration of one's internal monologue and will for doing things, especially if one is a rather sensitive introvert.