Leeches and Thorns, and Loving Every Minute

Posted: November 22, 2013

We started our Directed Research projects two weeks ago and they have been the most exciting and exhausting weeks here. I am part of “The Treeple:” the Directed Research group involved with restoration ecology. For our fieldwork, we have gone to a site called Robson Creek to collect data on seedlings, ground cover, and canopy openness. The significance of the site has to do with it being selectively logged up until the 1960s. We are studying the effects of that logging treatment on seedling composition, tree composition, and overall forest structure.

The area we studied was smack down in the middle of dense rainforest, making it difficult to navigate and simply walk through. On top of this, we were searching for seedling plots marked by four corners of metal wire with orange marking tape attached to them. About half of the leaves on the ground were orange. Throughout the day we trudged through muddy creeks, steep ridges, and wait-a-whiles (a native plant that has long thin strands of vine that have hook-like thorns all along it that grab on to your clothing or skin).

One of the roughest parts of the day, however, was when I was with one of the other students, Emma Fulop, in a very muddy seedling plot. We discovered leech-topia. In case you didn’t know, terrestrial leeches thrive in the rainforest here. When we were in that particular plot, there must have been at least 40 leeches crawling around us. We measured those seedlings quickly.

After finishing up our plots, about 6 hours later, we were walking back when I had a realization.  Despite having a long and exhausting day, I loved every minute of it. We spent a few days out in the leech-infested forest of Danbulla National Park and I came away feeling accomplished and happy. Not only this fieldwork, but also this whole program has provided me with clarity on what I want to do in the future. I love being out in nature. Ecology is definitely the direction I want to take. For this realization I am grateful for the opportunity to be here and for all of my fellow students who have made this experience unforgettable.