This is the second of a series of guest posts from Research Technician, Alex Wick. Enjoy!
Each month the NERR’s water quality monitoring instruments, called sondes, that have been collecting data out in the estuary are exchanged with a clean sonde that has been calibrated at the NERR lab at the Romberg Tiburon Center. The sondes measure and record temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen concentration, turbidity, pH and depth of the water. These delicate measurements use precise calibrations that can be thrown off by things like algae growing on the sensors or an oyster deciding to make its home in a precarious spot. Hence the need for research technicians to exchange the sondes each month, and the chance for us to bask in a glorious field day!
Back at the First Mallard Slough water quality station, Anna climbs the ladder to get to the monitoring platform where she can access the top of the pipe that houses the NERR sonde. She carefully pulls the sonde up the pipe and then lowers it down to me in the boat. I receive the slimy instrument and exchange the power and telemetry cable over to the freshly calibrated instrument. “Ok, it’s all you.” Anna pulls the clean sonde up to the platform and double checks my work. After confirming the cables are secure, and that everything is snug and water tight, the sonde descends into the pipe where it will do its duty over the next month.
After an identical exchange back at Second Mallard, we are on our way back to the dock with two dirty sondes tucked safely where two clean ones used to be. Next month, we’ll come back and repeat the process, steadily doing our job as the sondes do theirs. Watching the marsh go by, Anna points out wild flowers and we remember we are some of the lucky few who get to see Suisun’s wild tidal marsh change throughout the seasons. Driving the boat onto the trailer, I can’t help but look ahead for the next field day and our chance to continue supporting the long term water quality monitoring at Rush Ranch. As I’m winching the boat down to the trailer, I recall our early start and can tell lunch time is rapidly approaching. “Hey Anna, do you think we have time to stop for a burrito!?” Field days are the best.