August 8, 2005
I'd been hearing awful tales about New Market ever since I arrived. Urban creeks flow through the city, collecting pollution and trash, and this particular creek was supposed to be bad even by their standards. It didn't smell too great (although to our surprise, we didn't see any "floaties"), and the water and even the mud had an oily sheen to it that spoke of hydrocarbon pollution. In the creek, we encountered tons of rubbish-bicycles, tires, an engine block, glass, plastic, buckets, food containers, etc.-and not surprisingly, walked through a lot of dead oysters. Even the marsh alongside the creek was filled with trash, which made walking a challenge. For the most part, though, the mud was not so soft, and that has become my gold standard for creeks. I only got stuck a few times and was able to get myself out-real progress! Guy has gotten very sensitive to the soft places and was mostly able to avoid them, which I really appreciated! Considerate Mark was with us again, and Lisa, an absolutely terrific grad student. Lisa is so enthusiastic about everything; she's really a good cohort. I think I was a lot like her when I was younger, but now am just so apprehensive about sinking in that it overshadows my sense of discovery. You certainly wouldn't want to cut yourself on an oyster in this polluted water, and I was super careful walking through the oyster shells.
We collected all of the water samples without incident, but before we reached the last reach to get those sediment samples, a storm rolled in. We never got rained on, but lightning was all around-and there you stand, ankle-deep in water and mud, next to a creek, and the tallest structures around!-so we headed for home. Tomorrow that last reach will have to be collected as well as seining, which means more equipment to lug around.
I got to help Anne process the water samples when we got back, measuring and vacuum filtering, and packaging the samples to be sent off for nutrient analysis. That was a lot of fun! I used to be a medical technologist, and this felt comfortable and familiar.
Cleaning up our gear, I realized how different the mud was at New Mmarket, really thick and sticky, like wet cement. Threw my clothes in the washer on the way home; I didn't even want that mess to touch my bathtub!